Analysis |

Abbas Isn't Fooling Anyone With the Crude Lie of a Palestinian 'Victory' in Renewing Israel Ties

It was totally expected that the Palestinian president would reboot security coordination at one stage or another, but his Fatah party is lying to itself – and its people – on how it got there

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a virtual meeting with Palestinian factions over the Israel-UAE deal to normalize ties, in Ramallah, September 3, 2020.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a virtual meeting with Palestinian factions over the Israel-UAE deal to normalize ties, in Ramallah, September 3, 2020.Credit: Alaa Badarneh/Pool via Reuters
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

On Tuesday afternoon, a short time after the first Palestinian announcement of the renewal of security cooperation with the Israeli army and Shin Bet, an undisciplined Fatah member wrote on his Facebook page: “I’m afraid that they will announce that the restarting of coordination is a victory over the occupation, and will turn this day into a national holiday.” He wrote cynically, of course, but showed that he knows his leadership very well.

A few hours later Hussein al-Sheikh, the minister for civil affairs in the Palestinian Authority and a senior figure in Fatah, was interviewed on local television – he was the one who gave the good news of the renewal of coordination. He said this was “an exceptional victory for the steadfastness (of the people) and greatness of the president of the people, Mahmoud Abbas.”

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He explained: This was the first time during the period of the Netanyahu government that an Israeli official – the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, promised that Israel was committed to the agreements.

On Palestinian social media, they rushed to make fun of the “victory.” “Is it possible that I was infected (with the coronavirus) and am unable to taste this victory?” asked someone and raked in other witty responses. A Facebook page named “Not Our Reality” (Mush Waq'ana) posted a short video with a song, based on the generic tune of a popular Bedouin singer from the Nuseirat refugee camp – and which recently became a big hit in Jordan during its election campaign. The clip, with its own words, was presented as a “gift to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority on the day of its great victory in restoring the security coordination.” The clip uses as a metaphor real photos from August 28, 2018, of a Palestinian who was forced to change a flat tire on a military vehicle that was stuck west of Ramallah, and whose soldiers were not able to do it themselves. “How many Israeli soldiers does it take to fix a flat tire?” The analogy is of course the Palestinian security forces that serve the Israeli occupier. The clip was provided as a gift “on the second remembrance day of the fixing-the-flat-tire operation.”

It was totally expected that Abbas would order the renewal of the security coordination at one stage or another. The cycles of anger at Israel and security forces and repression – followed by the renewal of the open links with them – are another survival tactic or presentation of the appearance of the visionary national leadership.

Palestinians demonstrate near the Israeli settlement of Psagot against the visit by Mike Pompeo to the settlement in the West Bank, November 18, 2020.
Palestinians demonstrate near the Israeli settlement of Psagot against the visit by Mike Pompeo to the settlement in the West Bank, November 18, 2020.Credit: Abbas Momani/AFP

Like the repetitive talk about elections or the reconciliation with Hamas, those cycles create an artificial, deceptive discourse about change, renewal, progress, steadfastness, etc. which tries to blur the entrenchment of the reality of the isolated Palestinian enclaves, which Israel designed over the years, and the inability today of the Palestinians, with their present leadership and lack of strategy, to change it. These fits of anger, with the heavy price the Palestinian public is always required to pay, and then the “making up” that brings relief for some of the public, and then repeats endlessly, create a false representation of activity by the Palestinian leadership, when it is in fact a desperate spinning of the wheels stuck in place.

Even during the period of the direct occupation, before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian economy and earning power of Palestinian residents of the territories were subordinated to Israel’s dictates and policies. But today, for the economy and earning power to continue to tread water at their minimum level, the Palestinian Authority must pay Israel in the currency of the hated security coordination.

The problem now is not in the renewal of security coordination or renewal of the civil coordination that will enable the payment of salaries on time and in full. The problem is the crude lie about “victory” that senior Fatah leaders are trying to sell their public. This lie is an insult to common sense and an expression of contempt for the public.

The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, wrote in response to the October 7 letter from Hussein al-Sheikh. The Gazan news website Samaa published the letter. It says: “Regarding your letter of October 7, 2020, Israel has previously stated that the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements continue to form the applicable legal framework governing the conduct of the parties. On financial and other matters.

“Therefore, in accordance with these agreements, Israel continues to collect taxes for the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, it was the Palestinian Authority which decided not to receive these collected funds from Israel,” wrote Abu Rukun.

Israel's coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, at an event in Jerusalem, May 1, 2018.
Israel's coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, at an event in Jerusalem, May 1, 2018.Credit: Emil Salman

It could be that the mention of the funds that were not transferred is intended for the go-betweens of the latest reconciliation – Norway, the cradle of the Oslo Accords and the representative of the donor nations that are worried about the deteriorating economic situation of the Palestinians. But can Abbas and al-Sheikh really, after 25 years, bless the agreements that Abu Rukun views as the “legal framework?”

On Tuesday morning, before the renewal of the security coordination was announced, the staff of the Civil Administration (which is subordinate to COGAT) was very active in the northern Jordan Valley: They demolished a shack for agricultural use on the village of Khirbet Atuf, continued on to the village of Furush Bayt Dajan and demolished an agricultural water reservoir, from there to Khirbet Umm al-Jamal, where they dismantled a wooden hut built by social activists, and from there straight to the village of Al-Farisiya, where they dismantled and confiscated a mobile home where a family of three lived and demolished a bathroom structure and water tank. These demolitions and confiscations in the Jordan Valley have become a daily matter, and are intended to prevent Palestinians from continuing to live there and to expand the nearby settlements. According to COGAT, these activities are legal, and also according to the agreements, because in COGAT’s right-wing interpretation of the agreements, Area C is Israeli territory.

The agreements, which al-Sheikh blessed, are like clay in Israel’s hands. And Israel, as a military and economic power, uses them as the legal framework to dictate terms of surrender to the Palestinians. It is not shameful to be the weak and cheated party, but it is a shame and a serious political mistake to deceive your people and yourself.

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