Following a request by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Palestinian leadership has postponed its discussions on a response to the death of Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died of a heart attack after a confrontation with Israel Defense Forces troops last Wednesday.
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Kerry’s request was considered “American pressure,” a senior Palestinian official involved in the leadership meetings told Haaretz. But he added that there had never been any intention on the part of the Palestinians to carry out its threats to suspend or halt security cooperation with Israel.
The postponement of any decision is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ ongoing tactics, which involve waiting for the United States to act and find an acceptable solution to the conflict, said the official.
The Palestinian leadership met last Wednesday evening to discuss the response to the death of Abu Ein, who died after a protest was blocked by the IDF in Yurmus Aya, near Ramallah.
Israeli medical sources said the primary cause of death was a heart attack caused by stress, but Palestinian officials said Abu Ein had died from being struck and inhaling tear gas.
It was announced after the meeting that the discussion about an official response would be postponed until Friday.
But none of the proposals raised on Wednesday were new, and have been brought up time and again over the past few months, said the Palestinian official. For example, signing on international covenants such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or a UN Security Council Resolution on setting a date for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Talk of suspending security cooperation with Israel had also been raised in the past, he said.
The declarations on suspending security cooperation were intended first and foremost to rein in the anger within the Fatah movement, and stemmed from internal needs within the Palestinian leadership.
“A few of the people who spoke in the media in favor of suspending security coordination speak completely differently in closed meetings and are asking to act with restraint and caution,” the official said.
“The Israelis know that very well, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said more or less that these were empty threats.
“These are threats that have stopped being threatening. The Palestinian Authority cannot end the security coordination because of the many economic and personal interests – not only security ones – that rely on it,” he added.
In recent months, the Palestinian security services have conducted many arrests among members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – many among the students at the various universities in the West Bank.
Some were released after a few days, others are summoned daily to one of the Palestinian security organizations and released in the evening, without even being questioned.
Over the weekend, the PA arrested 21 Hamas members in Hebron.
A Hamas member said the arrests were meant to silence any other viewpoint.
“Between the Israeli detentions and the PA campaign to silence [dissent], it is impossible to speak today about the existence of the Hamas organization in the West Bank,” he said.
However, the PA claims the reason for the arrests was holding weapons or the financing of banned activities.
Many of the arrests were meant to deter or intimidate, but others are based on information concerning weapons and transfers of money whose purpose is unknown, the senior Palestinian official told Haaretz.
“These are arrests that it was possible to carry out without security coordination with Israel, but with the security coordination it is easier,” he said.
Some 1,000 Hamas supporters in Hebron planned to hold a march and rally on Friday, to mark 27 years since the organization’s foundation.
IDF soldiers destroyed the stage and confiscated banners and flags, and then dispersed the gathering with tear gas and rubber-covered bullets, which injured at least two, according to Palestinian reports.
Hamas sources said the PA placed roadblocks in the streets leading to the rally and arrested activists who were on their way to the demonstration.
Media outlets close to the PA reported widely yesterday about the dozen demonstrations that the IDF dispersed Friday, and the dozens of Palestinians injured by tear gas and a few who were wounded by bullets.
But the Palestinian media also played down reports on the use of force to disperse the Hamas gathering.
Even if the Palestinian and Israeli security forces did not act with prior coordination, the dispersal of the Hamas gathering, the arrests and the silencing of the media reflect their mutual interest in silencing the group.
Ya’alon spoke dismissively on Friday evening about the Palestinian officials’ threats to end the security coordination.
“The security coordination is more important to the [Palestinian] Authority than it is to us,” he said in an interview with Channel 2. “We will get by without security coordination. These are empty threats.”