Palestinian Leaders Vote to Suspend Security Coordination With Israel

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Mahmoud Abbas addresses the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, March 4, 2015.Credit: AFP

The PLO’s Central Council decided on Thursday night to suspend security coordination with Israel. However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as head of the PLO's Executive Committee, is not expected to implement this decision anytime soon.

After two days of deliberations, the council opted to halt the security coordination because of what it termed “Israel’s systematic and ongoing noncompliance with its obligations under signed agreements, including its daily military raids throughout the State of Palestine.”

Instead of implementing the decision immediately, however, Abbas is expected to try to use the threat of its implementation to push the United States and the European Union to pressure Israel to halt construction in the settlements and release Palestinian prisoners as conditions for restarting diplomatic negotiations. In his speech to the council on Wednesday, Abbas said explicitly that he would be willing to resume negotiations if those two conditions were fulfilled.

The council’s decision to suspend security coordination indicates that its members are seeking to keep the PLO, and themselves, relevant among the Palestinian public by taking aggressive positions in response to what they view as Israel’s peace rejectionism.

The council also decided on Thursday to “boycott all Israeli products and not only those coming from Israeli settlements,” because “Israel must pay the price for its refusal to assume its responsibilities under international law.” But PA economists know the boycott doesn’t really hurt Israel’s economy; its significance is primarily symbolic.

The council is a substitute for the much larger Palestine National Council, a pan-Palestinian body that hasn’t met in years because of both its size and geopolitical circumstances. The PA’s Legislative Council has also been paralyzed for years, and as a result, the Central Council has been meeting more frequently in recent years. But even though various views are voiced in the council, the real decisions remain in Abbas’ hands.

Though some of the council’s decisions, like the boycott and suspending security coordination, were theoretically actionable, it’s not clear how they will actually be implemented. And other decisions were purely declarative, like the one stating that “Israel, the occupying power in Palestine, must assume all its responsibilities in accordance with its obligations underinternational law.”

Another resolution stressed the need to “strengthen” reconciliation between the rival Fatah and Hamas parties in order to speed reconstruction of the Gaza Strip following last summer’s war between Hamas and Israel, while still another called for holding both presidential and parliamentary elections “as soon as possible.” 

Finally, the council resolved that “The Palestinian National Authority was the outcome of the national struggle of the Palestinian people to move from occupation to independence. Its institutions should be maintained and must not be dissolved.” This resolution was a response to those Palestinians who see the PA as a form of treason and demand its dissolution.

In his speech on Wednesday, Abbas mocked those who define the Oslo Accords as treasonous, noting that the PA, its various institutions and even the Hamas government in Gaza all stem from those accords. 

Amira Hass tweets at @hass_haaretz

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