Despite threat, Abbas indicates security ties with Israel, US still intact

Palestinian leader says a ‘full boycott’ still an option ‘if the Americans continue with this project,’ after warning he’d cut all relations in response to Trump peace plan

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks after a meeting of the Palestinian leadership, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 22, 2020. (AP Photo/ Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks after a meeting of the Palestinian leadership, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 22, 2020. (AP Photo/ Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to hint Monday that security ties with Israel and the United States were still intact, despite having earlier announced their cessation in response to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

On Saturday, Abbas had said he was cutting all relations — including security ties — with Israel and the US over the initiative, which was released last week and has been angrily rejected by Palestinians.

A cut in security ties could jeopardize the relative calm in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

But on Monday, Abbas appeared to step back from that statement, implying he had not yet severed ties but still could.

“If the Americans continue with this project, the boycott is there (as an option), a full boycott,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Israeli-Palestinian security coordination ranges from information-sharing about terrorist cells in the West Bank to coordination between police forces. Palestinian forces have also received training from the United States and other Western countries.

Palestinian policemen participate in a training session at their headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron on January 30, 2019. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Abbas cut political relations with the Trump administration in December 2017 after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“There is one channel left and this channel should be cut off,” Abbas added, seemingly referring to security coordination.

He pledged that his government would continue to provide Palestinians with key services, including health and education.

Abbas has made threats to cut security ties with Israel multiple times, without following through.

His Monday comments came a day after a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel the PA has not halted security coordination with Israel, but ties between the two sides are tense.

“Until now, the coordination is ongoing, but relations are extremely tense,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Breaking with past US administrations, Trump’s plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

The Palestinian official suggested that the PA would indeed seriously consider ending its security and other ties with Israel, if the latter annexes parts of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poses for a picture with his cabinet ministers in front of a monument after a weekly cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley, September 15, 2019. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)

Immediately after Trump announced the plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he intended to bring a proposal to annex parts of the West Bank to a vote on Sunday, but that ultimately did not happen.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin later said there were still several bureaucratic hurdles to leap, including “bringing the proposal before the attorney general and letting him consider the matter.”

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, weighed in last Wednesday and indicated that the US did not want Israel to annex territory in the West Bank in the near future.

Trump’s plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has triggered protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as in other parts of the region.

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, a pan-Islamic body that represents more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, rejected the plan Monday, while the Arab League did the same at a meeting in Cairo over the weekend.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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