What happened: Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has declared an end to agreements with the United States and Israel over the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.
- In a speech to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah last night, he said: “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 ones … the Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine, with all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and international humanitarian law.”
- Abbas added: “We hold the American administration fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people and we consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government in all its aggressive and unfair decisions and measures against our people.”
- A high-ranking Palestinian source told Kan Radio News that Abbas has instructed the commanders of the Palestinian security organisations to halt security coordination with Israel immediately. The source said that the two senior Palestinian officials who are routinely in contact with Israel, Hussein al-Sheikh and Commander of the General Intelligence Service Majed Faraj, have been instructed to sever contact with their Israeli counterparts. The Palestinian source said that Israeli officials tried to dissuade the PA from taking this measure.
- However, a senior PA security official told the Jerusalem Post that he was unaware of any instruction from the Palestinian leadership to halt security coordination with Israel. “We only heard from the Israeli media that security coordination has been stopped,” he said. “But so far we haven’t received any order from our political or security leaders.”
- At the swearing in ceremony of the new government on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that now is the time to annex the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, related to the Trump plan in his opening address, saying, “The plan will be advanced responsibly, in full coordination with the United States and maintaining all of the State of Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests.”
- Yesterday the Democratic presidential candidate and former American Vice President, Joe Biden, also warned that any annexation of territories would “choke off any hope for peace.”
Context: The new Israeli coalition agreement states that Israel can move annexation to a vote beginning on July 1, but notes the need to “engage in dialogue” with the international community “with the aim of preserving security and strategic interests including regional security, preserving existing peace agreements and working towards future peace agreements.”
- The US administration has recently signalled that annexation must be carried out in the framework of President Donald Trump’s peace initiative, which includes provisions for Palestinian independence.
- Despite the lack of progress on the diplomatic track, Israel and the PA have so far maintained security coordination in the West Bank, considered to be in both sides interest. But the PA cut ties with the Trump administration in December 2017 after the US declared it was moving its embassy to Jerusalem, which it did in May 2018.
- Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev explained earlier this month that, “the goal of the government, and of the American plan, is not to incorporate into Israel any area where there is a large Palestinian population… if there is to be the extension of Israeli law to parts of the West Bank, my presumption is that people living in those areas will be given the option of full Israeli citizenship, I think that’s only fair.”
- Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer tweeted yesterday, “Not only will there be no annexation in the West Bank, but Netanyahu is going to let all those now rallying against annexation believe that it was their ‘pressure’ which stopped it and feel good about themselves, so the current status quo which works well for him then continues.”
Looking ahead: Abbas has made similar threats several times in the past, so it remains to be seen if and how his latest comments will be implemented.
- Ahead of 1 July and any announcement on annexation, a joint US-Israel team is expected to complete its mapping process and make their recommendations. A senior US administration told Israeli media that 1 July “isn’t a sacred date” from the US perspective. Moreover, “The Israelis’ timetable isn’t firm from our perspective and this isn’t do-or-die for us.”