CBNNews.com - TEL AVIV, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced a transfer of armored vehicles and "equipment" to Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces Wednesday.
The announcement came a few days before the weekend arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expected in the region Saturday.
Barak briefed the press on the latest Israeli efforts to bolster the PA government before hosting PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in his Tel Aviv home.
"The list of steps we intend to take to make life easier for the Palestinians, without relinquishing our overriding security responsibility, is important in moving the negotiations forward and maintaining a positive atmosphere," Barak told the media.
A recent Palestinian poll showed Hamas slightly ahead of Fatah as the people's choice to head the government.
Earlier Wednesday, Army Radio announced that Israel is giving Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition, rubber bullets and night vision equipment to Palestinian police forces.
Netanyahu: 'It is foolish'
Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu claims that transferring arms to the Palestinians is "foolish."
Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Netanyahu said, "The idea that we'll give guns, armored vehicles and ammunition to the Palestinian Authority as it exists today -- and that these weapons will even protect us -- is not only mistaken, it is foolish."
"These weapons will be turned against IDF soldiers far sooner than we think. This is exactly what happened in the Gaza Strip," he said.
When Hamas gunmen defeated Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip last June, they confiscated quantities of U.S.- and Israeli-supplied rifles, ammunition and other military equipment.
"The idea to hand our security over to the Palestinian Authority has failed in the past in Gaza, and it will fail in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]," Netanyahu said.
"The weaponry that is currently in Hamas' hands came in part from our caches. We need to prevent a similar thing from happening in Judea and Samaria," he said.
Meanwhile, an Israeli official said Wednesday the PA shouldn't discount Israel's gestures.
"These overtures are extremely significant," he said. "One must take into account they are being done while rockets are still being fired on innocent civilians in the south," he said.
Sources: Haaretz, YNet news