Israeli officials reportedly say secret coordination with PA likely to continue

Security ties expected to carry on via clandestine channels, senior staffers believe; Palestinians tell Israel they will not allow outbreak of violence, report says

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)
Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling in the village of Beitunia in the central West Bank on April 6, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

Senior Israeli officials said Friday that security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was expected to continue clandestinely, despite the PA’s vow earlier this week to end cooperation over the new Israeli government’s plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

The officials said the Palestinians told Israel they were not prepared to completely “smash” the security coordination and would not allow an outbreak of violent incidents, the Ynet news site reported.

Channel 13 said that the PA had sent messages to Israel saying that despite ending the cooperation, it would not allow terror attacks against Israelis or a mass popular uprising.

Israel’s security establishment, however, fears that the Hamas terror group will exploit the escalating tensions to step up its activities in the West Bank, Ynet reported.

Top Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, who oversees the terror group’s West Bank activities, said Thursday night that the organization “welcomes [Abbas’s] decision to stop security coordination,” and added that he hoped “this time it will be serious.”

He claimed that “the return of the resistance to the West Bank is very possible and closer than what people imagine.”

“We stand at the gates of… the outbreak of a new uprising,” he said.

Palestinian security forces guard at the entrance to the West Bank city of Nablus on March 23, 2020, as part of measures to contain the coronavirus. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Palestinian security forces were retreating from areas near East Jerusalem Friday, multiple reports indicated, citing Palestinian officials.

According to Kan news, the gesture was largely symbolic — a few officers moving out of the East Jerusalem satellite towns of Azzariyah, Abu Dis, Biddu and Beit Ichsa, after getting special permission from Israel to be there as part of the effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Channel 13 reported Friday that the suspect in an attempted shooting attack against Israeli motorists in the West Bank earlier this week was a Palestinian police officer. The involvement of a Palestinian Authority officer was a worrying development, noting that it had been a long time since a PA policeman was involved in a terror attack. However, Israeli forces did kill two Palestinian officers in a raid in January, apparently by mistake.

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

The severing of the agreements came after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday 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.

For years, Abbas has made similar threats on numerous occasions to end security ties with Israel and dissolve the PA, but never followed through.

Israeli defense officials have warned of a potential outbreak of violence in response to plans by the government to unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank, as well because of the coronavirus-related economic woes of the Palestinian Authority.

Illustrative. Israeli soldiers take part in operations in the West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

Also Thursday, a senior Palestinian official announced the PA’s security services will stop sharing information with the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The PA government cut all other ties with the Trump administration in 2017, accusing the US president of pro-Israel bias for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who previously served as CIA chief, said Wednesday he hoped security cooperation would continue.

The decision to also end security ties with the US was in protest of the administration’s endorsing of Israeli annexation in parts of the West Bank within the framework of its peace plan.

Those areas include Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley — a key strategic area that makes up around a third of the West Bank.

Palestinians say the US plan ends prospects for a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to go through with annexation has led to condemnations from a growing list on countries, including Arab states such as Jordan and European nations like France and Germany.

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