Security Ties With Israel Won't Last Forever, Abbas Spokesperson Says

Senior Palestinian officials say they're considering halting security coordination with Israel if it takes step to unilaterally annex West Bank ■ 'No difference between Netanyahu and Gantz, it's like Coke and Pepsi'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Feb. 11, 2020.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The existing security ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority won't last forever, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday, stressing that the PA is investing great effort to battle terror in the West Bank.

Speaking to Israeli journalists in Ramallah, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that the PA doesn't intend to interfere in Israel's general election on March 2, but merely seeks a real partner for peace.

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"The PA merely seeks a partner who is interested to reach a sustainable honest peace treaty, like Peres or Rabin," he said, referring to slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late President Shimon Peres.

He then added that if Israel agreed to forming a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the PA would be ready to sign a peace agreement within two weeks.

Ashraf Ajami, the former Palestinian Authority's Minister for Prisoners Affairs, said that Palestinians have unanimously expressed their opposition to the diplomatic portion of President Donald Trump's Mideast peace plan, unveiled in January.

Israel "has to realize that the Palestinians are the ones it has to live with at the end of the day, not with Sudan and Oman," Ajami said, hinting at recent reports about a possible normalization of ties between Israel and Sudan.  

"The 'deal of the century' has created a deep disappointment among the Palestinian public, the magnitude of which I've never seen before. We see it as a true danger to the existence of the Palestinian nation," Ajami said, adding that although the Palestinian street is simmering because of the plan, the public is still waiting to see whether Israel will annex West Bank territories.

He added that the Palestinians are not interested in being a tool in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election campaign, and therefore are not siding with anyone running in the election.

Speaking in the Munich Security Conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh reiterated Ajami's sentiments, saying that "As we see it, Netanyahu and Gantz are the same; they are like Coke and Pepsi."

In addition, Ajami said that the Palestinian leadership no longer has diplomatic ties with the White House, and that the contacts between the two countries exist only in a security-related capacity, via the Central Intelligence Agency.

Moreover, he added that if Israel takes steps to unilaterally annex West Bank territories, the PA would halt the security coordination it currently has with Jerusalem, and wouldn't follow through on agreements signed with Israel.  

Also touching on Trump's peace deal, senior Palestinian official Elias Zananiri said that even Trump called the peace initiative only "a vision," adding that the "'deal of the century' is behind us."

Zananiri added that the Americans are somewhat backtracking from the provisions mentioned in the plan. "They have opened a window [to deliberations] but in my opinion the current situation doesn't allow holding a dialogue with the Trump administration and Israel's transitional government, we'll see what happens after the election."

In addition, Zananiri said that that the U.S. administration "must amend some of what he considered the wrongs committed against the Palestinians, including moving the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, cutting financial aid to the PA and closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

"Trump is not the end of the road. We, Israelis and Palestinians, will continue living here long after Trump," Zananiri said.

For his part, Mahmoud al-Habbash, another senior adviser to the Palestinian president, said: "The Palestinian issue has existed for 100 years and it is not dependent on the Netanyahu government or Trump, but they are making it more difficult to achieve peace in the near future."

With regard to the prospect of a further normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab countries, Habbash said: "Netanyahu is lying and misleading you: There is no normalization of relations with Arab states. We are not angry with Arab countries."

Habbash noted the Arab League's rejection of the Trump peace plan, which he said was stated "with a clear voice," and said that other Muslim countries also support the Palestinians.

Representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain – all members of the Arab League – were present when details of the Trump plan were presented at the White House. But the three countries later joined other Arab League member in rejecting the plan.

President Abbas appeared earlier this month before the United Nations Security Council, where he said Trump's plan seeks to "put an end to the question of Palestine."

Habbash said the aim of the Palestinian's appeal to the Security Council was to express opposition to the Trump plan and that objective was achieved. The Trump plan is endangering a two-state solution to the conflict, he added.

"If we feel the need to again turn to the international institutions, including the UN Security Council, we will do so again," Habbash said.