PA Official Doubts Agreements with Israel can be Cancelled
Abbas insists Palestinians will not bow to dictates, calls on Hamas to mend bridges
Nabil Amro, a former Palestinian minister of information, says it will be difficult to implement Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision, announced last Thursday, to cease honoring agreements signed with Israel.
“The motives behind the decision are very strong, as the PA is threatened with moral liquidation through successive Israeli measures,” Amro told The Media Line. “It’s more of a… message to Israel and the United States that an end to the Oslo agreement is possible… so they [will] move and do something about the situation.”
Abbas’s announcement, made on Thursday evening during a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, came in the wake of Israeli demolitions earlier in the week of apartment buildings under construction.
The buildings were in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem whose boundaries over the years had crept into an area of the West Bank that, according to the Oslo Accords, was supposed to be under full control of the PA. Israel says the structures had been built too close to its security barrier – which, because of the growth of the neighborhood, swings into the West Bank – and would have made it easy for terrorists to infiltrate.
Abbas said the PA would establish a committee to look into ways of implementing the decision to abrogate all agreements. He added that the Palestinian people “will not bow to dictates… specifically regarding Jerusalem” and said that “everything the Israeli occupation state does is illegal and wrong.”
Abbas also stressed during the Thursday evening meeting that the time had come to end the divisions between his Fatah party and Hamas, the armed Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas, as well as other Palestinian factions, applauded that call.
According to Palestinian Minister of Social Affairs Ahmed Majdalani, who is also a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, the PLO had previously decided that a decision could be made to stop honoring agreements with Israel, and that it was merely a matter to doing so at the appropriate time.
“The decision… was left for the Palestinian leadership to choose the right timing to implement it,” he told The Media Line.
He confirmed that several meetings had already taken place regarding the establishment of a committee to supervise the work of disengaging from the agreements.
“The committee is going to form an action plan within a defined time frame,” he said.
Nevertheless, Majdalani said implementation would be achieved at different levels, explaining that the PA would be responsible for certain aspects, and the PLO Executive Committee others.
He said the time had definitely come to end the agreements because Palestinian leaders felt they had exhausted all possibilities for dialogue with Israel.
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“We are facing a correlation between the Israeli and American positions,” he continued. “We are against forcing the single solution of [US President Donald Trump’s] ‘deal of the century’ on our people, which is [really nothing more than an] Israeli project.”
Numerous times in the past, PLO leaders have issued similar threats to break agreements. In January 2018, its Executive Committee announced that it would push to withdraw formal recognition of Israel and end Washington’s long-standing role as mediator of the peace process following its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital the month before.
At the time, it was decided to suspend all security coordination with Israel and break away from the economic dependence established by the Paris Economic Agreement. The Executive Committee also stated it would suspend its recognition of Israel until the Jewish state recognized a state of Palestine along the pre-1967 borders and declared an end to the transitional period stipulated in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The PA was formed as an interim governing body by the accords, signed by Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chief Yasser Arafat, and was meant to be dissolved after no more than five years as part of a final peace agreement.
Two-and-a-half decades later, the PLO is now threatening to do just that, which, in its view, would release the Palestinians from political obligations stipulated in agreements with Israel.
Gonen Ben-Itzhak, an Israeli analyst and former agent of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, told The Media Line that although the PA had made previous threats without following through, this time it was banking on its words having an impact on the upcoming Israeli election.
“The Palestinian threats can’t really affect the elections in Israel unless the PA does implement its decision on the ground in a way that would touch the security of Israeli citizens,” Ben-Itzhak said.
Ben-Itzhak believes that Abbas will emphasize the danger of cancelling the agreements, since Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu uses the issue of security as a trump card.
“It won’t be a smart move by the PA, especially since Netanyahu aims to destroy it,” Ben-Itzhak said.