The president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has threatened that Palestine will no longer be committed to all security agreements it has signed with Israel and America. The shocking announcement came just two days after the unveiling of Israel’s new government following a deal between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
Abbas: Agreements With Israel and USA ‘Are Absolved as of Today’
“The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine are 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 one,” Abbas said.
Abbas’s was protesting against the impending annexation of the West Bank under a plan drafted by US President Donald Trump’s administration. Just before his swearing in, Netanyahu had announced his intention of extending Israel sovereignty over settlements on the West Bank terming it a “glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.”
What Agreements Does Palestine Have With Israel?
Palestine has signed several agreements with Israel. These include the Oslo Accords, Hebron Agreement and Wye River Memorandum. These agreements have established the security parameters, cooperation frameworks and the civilian and security administrative divisions between Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The Oslo Accords were a set of two agreements signed by the late Yasser Arafat, former leader of Palestine Liberation Organisation and late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. They were signed in Washington, DC in 1993 and in Egypt in 1995. The accords led to the PLO recognizing the State of Israel in return of Palestinians having some increased control over the occupied territories.
While the Oslo Accords have largely been credited with quelling extreme hostilities that had earlier existed between the Palestinians and the Israelis, long lasting peace is yet to be achieved.
The Key Importance of the Hebron Agreement
The Hebron Agreement was signed on January 17, 1997. The signatories were General Dan Shamron representing Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saeb Erekat representing Yasser Arafat. The protocol provided for the deployment of IDF troops in Hebron, the only major West Bank city not fully transferred to the Palestinians.
Under the protocol, Hebron was divided into Area H-1 and Area-H-2. The Palestine Police assumed responsibilities in Area H-1 while Israel retained powers and responsibilities for internal security and public order in Area H-2.
In summary, the Hebron Agreement provided the security, coordination, measures and arrangements to implement the Oslo II Accord of 1995 that sought to reduce points of friction between Israel and Palestine by giving broadening Palestinian self-government in the West Bank, while at the same time protecting Israel’s vital interests, particularly security interests.
The Wye River Memorandum
The Wye River Memorandum was signed in October of 1998 by Netanyahu representing Israel and Arafat representing the Palestinian Authority. Its aim was to facilitate the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of West Bank and the resumption of the implementation of the Oslo II Accord.
Although in the past Abbas had made several statements threatening to pull out of the agreements, he never made good his threats. However, there is a strong likelihood that this time he might take some steps to undermine the agreements.
‘Security Coordination With Israel is No More’
To prove this, the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shttayyeh early this week directed the cabinet to start implementing Abbas’s announcement.
“Security cooperation with the United States is no more. Security coordination with Israel is no more. We are going to maintain public order and the rule of law alone,” Shttayyeh said
The Israelis, Palestinian Authority and America have always shared intelligence information to counter terrorist activities by radical Palestinian groups. Without such cooperation, Israel will be vulnerable to groups such as the Hamas who have constantly fired rockets into its territory.
The friction between Palestinian and Israeli forces is also bound to increase as both sides stop to cooperate in providing security in the disputed areas.
Fear of Increased Violence and Clashes
Citing Israel military sources, this week one Israel media company confirmed that the cooperation has indeed stopped. Israeli officials speaking to the UK Independent confirmed this saying they feared the halting of cooperation could lead to increased violence and clashes between soldiers from both sides.
But there are also others who feel that Abbas is only issuing threats to put pressure on Israel and won’t take any extreme step that could jeopardize his image and also negatively impact Palestine.
“Political statements of this magnitude could be very useful if they fulfil a domestic or international function deemed in the national interest of the issuing party,” said Khalil Jahsan Executive Director Arab Center Washington.
According to him anything short of that could be quite damaging and self defeating to the Palestinian Authority. “Issuing tough statements is vastly easier than implementing the plans outlined in them,” Jahsan said.
The main question is whether Palestinian Authority would be prepared to deal with Israeli retaliation such as refusal to recognize the Palestinian Authority Government which came into existence following the signing of Oslo Accords.
In the opinion of Jonathan Kuttab, a non-resident Fellow at the Arab Center Washington, “The Palestinian Authority is intricately tied to Israel in numerous ways.” Therefore dissolving the agreements is in effect dissolving itself since its very existence is based on those agreements, according to Kuttab’s analysis.
Another impediment to Palestinian Authority disengaging itself from the agreements is its dependence on Israel to meet some of its obligations . As stipulated in the Paris Protocol of 1994, Israel collects taxes on its behalf of Palestine in West Bank and Gaza.
According to Reuters the tax transfers makes up about 50% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget. Last year alone Israel handed around $430 million to the Authority. This money is needed to pay wages and to provide basic services, raising major questions about what happens if there is an interruption to the flow of these funds.