The Palestinian Authority has ordered intelligence forces in at least two West Bank cities to hide many of their files in preparation for possible violence if Israel goes ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.
The report noted the last time the PA took such a step was in September 2000 ahead of the outbreak of the Second Intifada, or uprising, which lasted several years and saw thousands of terror attacks and the IDF eventually reassert its overall security control throughout the West Bank.
According to the report, countless hard copy documents are being taken out of the offices to an unspecified hiding place. The TV cited Palestinian sources as saying the move was an attempt to prepare for a potential escalation following the annexation.
According to the coalition deal signed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel may apply Israeli law starting July 1 to all West Bank settlements, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.
The PA last month said it was cutting ties and ending security cooperation with Israel in protest.
In recent days the PA has increasingly warned that it could take drastic action to upend the status quo in the West Bank should Israel go ahead with the plans, including revoking recognition of Israel’s right to exit and declaring a state.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Tuesday that the PA, which preemptively rejected the Trump plan, had submitted a “counter-proposal” to the Middle East peace Quartet — the US, Russia, EU and UN — providing for a demilitarized Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
On Saturday, Shtayyeh said annexation could return all the parties to the situation that preceded the 1993 Oslo Accords, when Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat recognized Israel’s right to exist.
“In the event of annexation, withdrawing our recognition of Israel will be on the table,” Shtayyeh said.
The PA is also considering serious budget and welfare cuts, hoping the move to limit civil services to the Palestinian population and putting the onus on Israel, will force Israel to retreat from the annexation plan.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official and close adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told The New York Times on Monday that the government in Ramallah would not continue to provide civil services if annexation moves forward.
Al-Sheikh said the PA was also withholding the $105 million it sends to the Gaza Strip each month, much of which is also used to pay the salaries of public sector employees. All of these steps, al-Sheikh indicated, were part of a strategy to exert pressure on Israel and force it to back down from annexation.
“Either they backtrack on annexation and things go back to how they were, or they follow through with annexation and they go back to being the occupying power in the whole West Bank,” al-Sheikh said. “I will not accept that my role is a service provider. I’m not a municipality or a charity.”
The PA has already begun curbing its cooperation with Israel, which includes facilitation of permits for Palestinians to receive medical treatment at Israel’s better equipped facilities or to enter Israel for other reasons, al-Sheikh said.