Despite cut in ties, PA officials said to meet with IDF for security talks

Ramallah reportedly worried its ability to govern could be harmed by flare-up if Israel annexes parts of West Bank; COGAT: Palestinian workers will be able to cross on daily basis

Palestinian security forces man a road block at the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 19, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Palestinian security forces man a road block at the entrance to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 19, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Senior Palestinian officials reportedly met with IDF officers this week to discuss security arrangements, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority recently publicly announced that it had cut off all ties with Israel and was no longer bound by agreements with it.

According to a report by the Walla news site, the meetings took place at the instigation of the PA out of concern that a flare-up of violence on the ground could harm its ability to govern.

PA President Mahmound Abbas announced May 19 that the Palestinians were no longer bound by agreements with Israel and the US, citing the new government’s plan to move forward with annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley as early as July 1.

In addition to security cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces, civil ties between Israel and the PA were also cut.

However, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh later said the PA would prevent widespread chaos and public disorder in the West Bank despite Ramallah’s decision to end security coordination with Israel.

Israeli defense officials have warned of a potential outbreak of violence in response to the annexation plans and possibly stoked as well by the coronavirus-related economic woes of the Palestinian Authority.

According to the Walla report, the IDF is concerned that an outbreak of violence could lead to a surge of lone-wolf terrorist attacks.

While Israeli security officials have confirmed the PA has ended security cooperation, Channel 13 reported earlier this week that Ramallah had sent messages to Israel saying it would not allow terror attacks against Israelis or a mass popular uprising.

Meanwhile, amid the annexation plans, the US issued a security alert Thursday advising its citizens to execute extra caution when traveling to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, anticipating potential violence.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem advised US citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”

“US citizens should carefully consider risks to their personal safety and security when considering visits to sites and events that are potential targets,” it added.

The alert barred US government personnel from “engaging in personal travel to the West Bank, with the exception of the portions of Route 1, Route 443 and Route 90 that traverse the West Bank.” It also said they were prohibited from traveling to Gaza.

A paramedic from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health disinfects Palestinian laborers to help contain the coronavirus, as they exit an Israeli army checkpoint after returning from work in Israel, near the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, April 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The Walla report said the Palestinians and Israelis also discussed the return of some 100,000 laborers who were working inside Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinian workers, who constitute one of the major sources of revenue for the Palestinian economy have for the most part been out of work because of the coronavirus lockdown for the past two months.

Palestinian workers will be allowed to enter and return to the West Bank in the same day without having to quarantine in Israel, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stated later Thursday.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, tens of thousands of Palestinian workers have been under lockdown, and unable to enter Israel. The restrictions were lifted temporarily in early May to permit up to 40,000 workers through, on the condition that they remained in Israel for at least three weeks. The checkpoints were then closed again.

In an announcement posted on their Arabic-language Facebook page, COGAT said that on Sunday these restrictions would be lifted. Students and merchants — among others — will be permitted to enter as well.

“Persons entering Israel will be under no obligation to remain for a long period,” COGAT said. “Similar to the prior status quo, workers will be permitted to move in and out of Israel on a daily basis.”

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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