Israel’s outgoing military liaison to the Palestinians said Sunday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has worked well with Israel and should have been treated differently.
Abbas “is a partner. He has proven himself over a period of time that he is against violence,” Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories head Kamil Abu Rukun said in an interview with Kan news.
When asked whether Israel missed an opportunity with him, Abu Rukun said: “We should have behaved differently.”
The outgoing liaison also said that he believed the Palestinian Authority was well placed to rule the West Bank if there were ever to be an Israeli withdrawal from the territory.
“They have established themselves sufficiently that they can deal with things here on the ground,” he said.
When asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s onetime pledge to annex parts of the West Bank, which was shelved last year as part of the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates, Abu Rukun said he had been concerned that if the plan had gone ahead, there would have been a violent escalation that could have led to an institutional change among the Palestinians.
“I feared that the annexation would lead to escalation and violence and would cause a deep shock that would change the situation of the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
“There are more and more cracks in this story of two states for two peoples. You hear more and more people, especially from the younger generation, talking in terms of universal rights, but the ordinary citizen wants economy and security,” Abu Rukun said. “There are signs that we are galloping in the direction of one state — it is not unrealistic and it is gaining traction.”
“The population is currently concentrating on the economy and personal security. But I estimate that, over time, this will not be enough. You must connect it to a long-term view,” Abu Rukun said. “The people want us to provide them with an infrastructure for the economy.”
Abu Rukun also said that the current situation with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, whereby Qatar transfers money to the enclave, was continuing “like clockwork,” insisting that there was “almost no leakage” of the money to the terror group.
With Israel’s approval, Qatar since 2018 has periodically provided millions of dollars in cash to Gaza’s Hamas rulers to pay for fuel for the Strip’s power plant, to allow the group to pay its civil servants, and to provide aid to tens of thousands of impoverished families.
The interview came as the military liaison is set to end his tenure this month, and ahead of the Palestinian legislative elections set for next month, the first Palestinian polls in 15 years.
Palestinian election officials announced last week that 36 candidate lists had been approved to run in the vote, which precedes a presidential election called for July 31.
Abbas’s Fatah movement, which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is running, as is Hamas.
Fatah is facing challenges from dissident factions including the Freedom list, led by a nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa.
Freedom has been endorsed by Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israeli prison for terrorist offenses, and is a popular leader among many Palestinians.
Abbas’s former Gaza security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in Abu Dhabi, is also backing a list of challengers.
Former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad, an ex-World Bank official with a track record of fighting corruption, is supporting another.
Agencies contributed to this report.