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Analysis

PA won’t deploy forces in Gaza unless Israel presents peace plan

Palestinian source says Abbas wants to see diplomatic progress before acting as buffer between Hamas and Israel; Kerry warns PA against unilateral moves at UN

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian security forces inspect security headquarters destroyed during fighting between Hamas and Israel on the border between Egypt and Gaza in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on August 31, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian security forces inspect security headquarters destroyed during fighting between Hamas and Israel on the border between Egypt and Gaza in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on August 31, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority has no intention to deploy forces in the Gaza Strip if there is not also a clear diplomatic end-game peace initiative between Jerusalem and Ramallah on the horizon, a senior Palestinian source said Wednesday.

But the source also said the US had threatened the PA with sanctions if it takes unilateral moves toward joining international organizations.

There have recently been several conversations between Israeli and Palestinian officials with the hopes of restarting talks, the source said, but in all of them it was apparent that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not have in mind a new diplomatic plan or a map of a future Palestinian state.

In a speech on August 20, Netanyahu spoke of a “new diplomatic horizon” in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict and expressed hope that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would take part.

Abbas has increasingly voiced a demand that Israel produce a map showing just where it believe the borders of a Palestinian state should be, as a starting point for further negotiations.

“Israel needs to sit with us and write a diplomatic plan that links Gaza and the West Bank, that forms a diplomatic horizon and a peace agreement,” the Palestinian source told The Times of Israel. “The PA doesn’t aim to send forces to the Gaza Strip or to deploy them there as a buffer force between Israel and Hamas without such a plan. We would reach a situation in which Hamas and Israel will alternately attack us. The PA has no intention to take a role in Gaza, or to police Gaza, without a diplomatic horizon.”

The source also stressed that in the PA there has been a firm decision to not get involved in Gaza without a clear agreement from Hamas that all the weapons that are currently in the Gaza Strip become “one weapon under one authority” — that is, that Hamas concede authority to Abbas’s PA.

He also warned that if there is no diplomatic breakthrough soon, within the next six to twelve months, security cooperation between Israel and the PA in the West Bank would stop.

US: Don’t go it alone

The official also revealed that during a conversation last week between US Secretary of State John Kerry and a Palestinian delegation that included top negotiators Saeb Erekat and Majed Faraj, Kerry explicitly threatened the PA that the US would take harsh steps against it if the Palestinians decided to seek membership in international organizations such as the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians were warned that efforts to get a UN Security Council decision to adopt Abbas’s diplomatic plan for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state would fail.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wave before a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 4, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/file)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wave before a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 4, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/file)

“Kerry said that if we go to the UN Security Council, the US government would veto it,” the official said. “He also stressed that there would be serious repercussions to a unilateral approach on our part to the international organizations, such as halting economic support. He asked to delay the decisions and requested to meet with Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting” to take place later this month in New York.

The source said that according to Kerry, Israel’s diplomatic position in the wake of the Gaza conflict has “become even harder. It is delaying even more on security issues.”

Kerry suggested that if security problems were to be resolved, then progress could be made in other areas, the source said. Netanyahu has said several times in recent weeks that the challenge posed by Hamas in Gaza underlined the potentially far greater security risks for Israel of relinquishing security authority in the West Bank.

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