Palestinian Authority withdraws forces as end to Israel coordination begins

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 22, 2020

In clearest sign that coordination with Israel is over, Palestinians end contacts with CIA and withdraw forces from Abu Dis.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has begun implementing its announcement to end all agreements and understandings with Israel and the United States, including those on security, as a result of Israel’s intent to annex parts of the West Bank.

The Arab48 news website quoted Israeli sources as saying that Palestinian security forces withdrew from the town of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, on Friday morning.

The Times of Israel also said on Friday that Israeli sources had confirmed that the PA had stopped all facets of coordination with Israel in the past 24 hours.

On Thursday, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the Palestinians had suspended contacts with the CIA following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement on Tuesday to end the agreements.

On cooperation with the CIA, Erekat told reporters in a video call: “It stopped as of the end of the [Palestinian] president’s speech.”

Intelligence cooperation with the CIA continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting US President Donald Trump’s plans regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2017, with the sides working together in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the PA is based.

On Friday, former Israeli commander General Gadi Shamni told Israeli Army Radio: “The cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is essential for thwarting terrorism, and without it there is a risk of escalation of armed operations and frictions, which could deteriorate into an escalation.”

Shamni said he expected that the Israeli occupation forces and the Shabak (Israel’s domestic intelligence agency) incursions into areas A, “which the Palestinians took care of in the past will increase, because attempts to carry out armed operations will increase,” and pointed out that “there is no mediator between us.”

According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the West Bank is divided into three areas: Area A (18% of the West Bank), under Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civil control; Area B (21% of the West Bank), where the PA has civilian rule but security remains controlled by Israel; and Area C (61% of the West Bank), which is under full Israeli civil and military control and includes the highly strategic Jordan Valley.

PA security chiefs briefed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday swore in a new unity government with former rival Benny Gantz.

Under the coalition agreement from July the government can discuss annexing parts of the West Bank.

Abbas said on Tuesday that the Palestinian government was “absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones”.

Speaking after the emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, the 85-year-old leader said Israeli annexation of any parts of the occupied West Bank would ruin chances for a two-state solution.

On Thursday, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held a meeting with the heads of the Palestinian security forces at his office in Ramallah, where he discussed measures to immediately end all agreements and contacts with Israel.

“Israel’s annexation of any parts of the West Bank constitutes an existential threat to the Palestinian national project and an end to the two-state solution,” the Palestine News Agency quoted Shtayyeh as saying.

“Israel has breached international law and violated all the agreements signed with us, whether the political, security, economic, and legal agreements. From now on, we will no longer abide by these agreements.”

Abbas had made multiple previous threats to end security cooperation with Israel without ultimately following through.

Jordan warning

Jordan threatened on Thursday to review its relationship with Israel if the plans to annex parts of the West Bank went ahead.

“We will not accept unilateral Israeli moves to annex Palestinian lands and we would be forced to review all aspects of our relations with Israel,” Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz told Jordan’s official Petra news agency.

Razzaz accused Israel of taking advantage of the world being “distracted” by the coronavirus crisis to implement “unilateral moves on the ground”.

His remarks came days after Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned that if Israel “really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”.

King Abdullah told German magazine Der Spiegel: “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options.”

Other countries have also condemned the annexation plans, including much of the European Union, which has warned it could affect Israel’s ties with the bloc.

Area A represents 18% of the West Bank and is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, both security and administrative.

As for area B, it represents 21% of the West Bank and is subject to Palestinian civil administration and Israeli security administration.

Area C forms 61% of the area of the West Bank and is under Israeli security and administrative control, which requires the approval of the Israeli authorities on any Palestinian projects or measures in it.