Palestinians Notified CIA About Stopping Security Coordination With Israel, Senior Official Says

Palestinians security forces that were placed to enforce coronavirus restrictions begin withdrawal from Area B, sources say ■ Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority rejects coronavirus aid shipment from UAE that landed in Israel

Jack Khoury
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat attend the opening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat attend the opening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, March 31, 2019.Credit: Fethi Belaid/AP
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority has notified the Central Intelligence Agency it is halting security coordination with Israel and the United States, according to Saeb Erekat, the chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

In light of Israel's intent to annex parts of the West Bank, Erekat said that the PA has delivered a message to Israel that it is no longer obligated by security agreements, and notified other international agencies.

Speaking with foreign correnspondents, Erekat said that in the past Palestinians avoided such steps despite their threats due to pressure from the international community, and noted that "all this waiting turned out to be a mistake."

On Thursday, the heads of the Palestinian security forces met to discuss the matter, and a Palestinian official told Haaretz that a message was communicated to the Israeli side on their decision.

Additionaly, sources at the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories confirmed to Haaretz that a message was indeed sent to Israel on halting security coordination, which also involves the sharing of intelligence between the PA and the Israeli military. 

Officials in the PA now estimate that Israel will respond to the move and take steps to increase pressure on the authority to withdraw its decision.

Following the meeting, Palestinian sources have told Haaretz that Palestinian security forces began withdrawing Thursday evening from Area B of the West Bank, after being posted there in coordination with Israel in order to enforce coronavirus restrictions among the territory’s Palestinian population.

According to these sources, Israel was notified of the forces’ withdrawal. The forces returned into Areas A of the West Bank, which are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, while Areas B and C are under Israeli military control, as stipulated by the 1995 Oslo Accords. 

Intelligence cooperation with the CIA continued despite the demise of diplomatic relations between the the PA and the White House, about which Erekat said: "Since the US announcement on Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the US administration has taken 43 decisions against Palestinians. So why should I sit with them?"

"We are not closing the door, we are asking the international community to help convene an international conference to relaunch negotiations based on international law and a two- state solution," he said, adding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has addressed this directly with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gueterres.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the PA would not accept coronavirus aid sent by the United Arab Emirates, which arrived in a special plane that landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday.

Shtayyeh told correspondents on Wednesday that the arrival of this plane had not been coordinated with the Palestinians, including the Palestinian Ambassador in the Emirates, and that the PA knew nothing about this plane.

Palestinian Health Minister May al-Kaila also addressed the unusual aid shipment, noting that the Palestinian Authority knows nothing about it.

The shipment will instead go to Gaza, which now faces fears of a renewed coronavirus outbreak after 29 new cases were diagnosed on Thursday in Palestinians returning to the Strip through the Erez and Rafah crossings.

The PA has a tense relationship with the UAE, particularly for its sponsorship of exiled politician Mohammed Dahlan, who was convicted in abstentia of mass corruption. Furthermore, the PA wants to avoid a situation in which humanitarian aid for Palestinians would serve as a guise for the establishing of a direct flying route between the UAE and Israel.

Abbas announced Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority will end all agreements and understandings signed with Israel and the United States, including security agreements.

The announcement was met with skepticism, as such declarations had been made numerous times before but not implemented. However, a senior official in the Palestinian security services said in conversation with Haaretz that the threat sounds much more serious this time.

He said that although the PA can break off all contact and coordination regarding security issues, Israel can in turn stop its coordination in other areas, including civilian ones, and that this could critically harm the PA, which is already dealing with a serious economic crisis, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh said that the decision to break away from agreements with Israel, was to be implemented immediately, and was not a tactical decision or an idle threat.