Abbas 'Ending Agreements' With U.S., Israel Over Annexation Leaves Palestinians Skeptical

The Palestinian president has made such declarations before, and a security source says an end to coordination with Israel would paralyze the Palestinian Authority

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,wearing a protective mask during the coronavirus crisis, leaving a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, May 19, 2020.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,wearing a protective mask during the coronavirus crisis, leaving a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, May 19, 2020.Credit: Alaa Badarneh / Pool / AFP
Jack Khoury

Palestinians have proved apathetic to President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration Tuesday that the Palestine Liberation Organization saw itself released from its commitments to the United States and Israel – he has made announcements like that before.

Abbas made his statement during a live broadcast of a Palestinian leadership meeting. Some of the officials present complained that Abbas’ position had not been discussed at the meeting or explained to the participants.

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The newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported that Abbas refused to take questions or listen to comments on his declaration. According to the paper, one official left the meeting after a security guard ordered him to keep quiet.

Fatah officials, including a former Palestinian UN ambassador, Nasser al-Qudwa, asked for details but got no response.

A Fatah official told Haaretz it’s not clear “if all contact and coordination with Israel really stops now and we give back the keys, or if it was a declaration of the official Palestinian position and there hasn’t yet been a decision to bury the agreements.”

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The chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative party, Mustafa Barghouti, was at the meeting.

“I and others demanded answers and a much more determined position based on three principles: declaring the agreements null and void, canceling recognition of Israel and security coordination, and convening all the Palestinian factions to forge a unified strategy against Israel, because you can’t just threaten without setting a clear policy,” Barghouti said.

Fatah activists told Haaretz they had not received instructions indicating that the policy toward Israel was changing.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians, too, are continuing their battle against the coronavirus. Before Tuesday’s meeting, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that from Friday, the eve of Eid al-Fitr, a lockdown would be imposed on Palestinian cities, and all stores would be closed except for bakeries and pharmacies until after the holiday.

A Palestinian security source said a clearer picture would then be available on whether security cooperation was continuing.

He noted that contacts with Israel are conducted via the Palestinian intelligence chief, Majed Faraj, who also maintains contact with the United States, and Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, who is responsible for contacts with Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories and the Finance Ministry.

The source said it wasn’t reasonable for the Palestinian Authority to stop coordinating with Israel because this would essentially paralyze the PA as well.

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