Expectations Mixed over Renewed PA Coordination with Israel
Observations range from derailed attempts at reconciliation with Hamas to a ‘return to a kind of normalization’
The Palestinian Authority has resumed security coordination with Israel, six months after severing these ties over Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh made the announcement on Tuesday night after the PA received an official letter from Israel stating its commitment to all past signed agreements.
According to Sheikh, the message, from Kamil Abu Rukun, coordinator of Israeli government activities in the Palestinian territories, said: “Israel has previously stated that the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements continue to form the applicable legal framework governing the conduct of the parties on financial and other matters.”
The letter added: “Therefore, in accordance with these agreements, Israel continues to collect taxes for the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, it was the PA that decided not to receive these allocated funds from Israel.”
Aside from what was written, the letter was notable in a different way, the civil affairs minister noted.
“This is the first written message that the Palestinian leadership has received from the Israeli government during the era of [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu, in which it affirmed its commitment to the agreements signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization,” Sheikh stated.
This is the first written message that the Palestinian leadership has received from the Israeli government during the era of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which it affirmed its commitment to the agreements signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization
“The ‘deal of the century’ and annexation plans are no longer on the table,” he continued, referencing the Trump Administration’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account)
When reached by The Media Line, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office had no comment. Nevertheless, Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement that he was “pleased” by the Palestinian decision.
“Weeks of efforts have borne fruit,” he said, adding: “Coordination is a shared interest, beneficial to the security of Israel’s citizens, and critical to the welfare and economic well-being of the Palestinians.”
Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science and cultural studies at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told The Media Line that several variables had led to the resumption of security coordination.
First and foremost, he says, was the end to talk of annexation. Second was “the issue of the ‘deal of the century,’ which Israel and the US had intentions to implement. But maybe this [peace] deal is out of the question, at least for now.”
Khatib notes that the decision to resume coordination will affect the Palestinian people on a daily level.
The halt to security coordination, he said, damaged the Palestinian economy “whether because of salary cuts or not receiving tax funds [collected on behalf of the PA by] the Israeli side, or the difficulties linked to other procedural aspects, such as not registering newborns, medical transfers and other related issues.”
He noted that the refusal by the PA to accept the tax monies – which cover some 60% of the Palestinian budget – left it unable to pay government salaries in full.
Domestically, the PA’s decision garnered widespread condemnation, whether on the street or among the various political factions.
Nasser Khdour, a Palestinian political analyst and activist, told The Media Line that the PA may have regained some regional and international support, but it was coming at the expense of repairing ties with Hamas, the Islamist ruler of the Gaza Strip.
“[US President-elect Joe] Biden gives the Palestinian leadership an excuse to return to the normal role it was created for: negotiations with Israel,” Khdour said. “Resuming coordination with Israel is an opportunity for the PA to break [away from] the reconciliation talks with Hamas.”
Resuming coordination with Israel is an opportunity for the PA to break away from the reconciliation talks with Hamas
The latest round of talks between the Fatah Party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, which expelled the PA from the Gaza Strip well over a decade ago, began in Cairo on Sunday.
Khdour adds that the decision to resume coordination with Israel should have surprised no one, the bottom line being the PA’s economic survival.
“The Palestinian government is facing a critical financial crisis due to a cut in external donations and COVID-19,” he explained.
Several Palestinian officials refused to comment on the decision when contacted by The Media Line.
Lior Akerman, an Israeli political analyst and retired senior officer in the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, believes nothing significant has changed on the ground.
“The change mainly concerns the Palestinian leadership,” he told The Media Line.
The change mainly concerns the Palestinian leadership
Akerman says the PA’s status in the Middle East is on the decline in light of the recent normalization deals that Israel signed with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps bearing this out are reports that the PA is ready to return its ambassadors to both of those countries.
What’s more, he sees the Trump Administration’s peace proposal as remaining on the table.
“The ‘deal of the century’ is still relevant, in my opinion, from a practical point of view,” he said, “and I think the new [US] administration will do wisely if it uses parts of it.”
With regard to annexation, Akerman explained that it appears the Israeli government understands that at this moment, the matter is impractical.
“Therefore,” he continued, “the combination of a new government in the US [and] the understanding that both sides will fail to achieve all they seek has led to an agreement to return to a kind of normalization.”
The combination of a new government in the US and the understanding that both sides will fail to achieve all they seek has led to an agreement to return to a kind of normalization