After 20 years, Israel may let PA use helicopters – report

Since the onset of the Second Intifada, Israel has not allowed the PA to use helicopters due to concerns over weapons smuggling and other security risks.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

The Israeli defense establishment may permit the Palestinian Authority to purchase new helicopters for the first time since 2001, according to a report from Israeli daily Haaretz.

Since the onset of the Second Intifada, Israel has not allowed the PA to use helicopters due to concerns over weapons smuggling and other security risks.

But as wildly unpopular PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ grip on power weaken, due in part to the Palestinian public’s embrace of terror groups such as Hamas and the new Lion’s Den terror group, Israel may grant concessions to the body in order to strengthen the PA’s control.

Boosting Abbas’ standing among the Palestinian public is a strategic move for Israel, as the majority of Palestinians in a recent poll said they would prefer to be governed by Hamas.

According to the Haaretz report, two helicopters for use by Abbas and other PA senior officials will be purchased using funds donated from Gulf countries.

The helicopters are expected to be stationed in Jordan, and the PA will need advance clearance from the Israeli authorities in order to use Israeli airspace, including in Judea and Samaria.

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Approving the request for the helicopters ahead of the November 1 election will likely not occur, due to the optics of appearing to submit to Palestinian demands, but the report indicates that the approval may occur shortly afterwards.

The helicopters will be used for diplomatic purposes, such as transporting Abbas and other high-ranking members of government to neighboring countries like Jordan for visits.

Abbas, an octogenarian rumored to be in failing health, has seen his popularity plunge in recent years.

In June 2021, an Israeli government official told Axios that the U.S. had raised the alarm regarding the PA losing legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public, and said the institution’s loss of control could pose serious security issues for Israel.

“I have never seen the Palestinian Authority in a worse situation,” Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, reportedly told the Israeli official. Speaking about the economic and political crisis the PA is currently facing, he likened the situation to a “a dry forest waiting to catch on fire.”