Palestinians Claim Israel Pressuring Them to Renew Security Ties

Abbas reduced PA's security coordination with Israel during the Temple Mount crisis. Now they claim Israel is making them pay a price

Abbas speaking during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 25, 2017.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

Palestinian officials say Israel has begun pressuring the Palestinian Authority over its decision to downgrade security ties with Israel. The officials fear the pressure will only grow in coming weeks as Israel moves to force the Palestinian Authority to renew coordination.

On Wednesday, Palestinian inspectors were surprised after their offices were raided in southern Hebron, near the town's old city. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to Haaretz, the office is new and includes only 30 people, some of which were in plain clothes. Their work focuses mostly on internal Palestinian issues, including cracking down on domestic violence and crime in actions which require coordination with Israel as it is in charge of the area.

According to witnesses, the Israeli forces detained some of the inspectors for a few hours, confiscated documents and shut down the office.

In Ramallah, news of the raid were seen as a message from Israel that as long is security coordination is not taking place, such steps will be taken.

Ramallah was also surprised to discover that Israel had shut down the Beit El checkpoint, known as the DCO and which serves as the main crossing used by Palestinian officials to enter Ramallah. According to a Palestinian official, there was no impetus or justification to closing the checkpoint.

The Israeli army however says that the checkpoint has been closed since Friday due to the unrest surrounding the Temple Mount crisis.

"We clearly understood this is a punitive measure, and it is likely we will see more of this incidents in the future, [with Israel] claiming it has to do with the lack of coordination," a Palestinian official told Haaretz.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are avoiding entering Israel, or even leaving the West Bank, to avoid coordinating their movements with Israel. They have even begun using small internal Palestinian roads to avoid Israeli checkpoints where they will be forced to interact with Israeli officials.

In Ramallah, some explain this behavior as not being just a response to Israel, but also as a message to Palestinians in wake of the events in Jerusalem. "The Palestinian public heard from its leadership about cutting communications and coordination with Israel and thus any move which could be perceived as working with Israel would be seen as a capitulation," a senior Palestinian security official said.

Tensions have been high between Israel and the Palestinians after a terror attack in Jerusalem prompted Israel to place metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount. The move sparked widespread protest across the West Bank and some of the Arab world, with Israel eventually backtracking. During the crises, Abbas announced he has cut all communications with Israel and, despite Israel's decision to return the situation at the flashpoint site to its prior state, ties have not been fully renewed or normalized.