US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he hopes security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians will continue, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were no longer bound by its agreements with Jerusalem and Washington.
“We hope that the security arrangements will continue to be in place, that the work that’s done on the ground there to keep people in Israel and Palestinians safe will continue,” Pompeo said during a press conference at the State Department.
He added that he was “not exactly sure” how to interpret Abbas’s declaration that the PA was ending all agreements as Israel seeks to annex portions of the West Bank.
“But I regret that’s he decided to abrogate these agreements,” Pompeo said.
In a speech Tuesday in Ramallah, Abbas said his decision to sever all ties, including security coordination with Israel, was in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to move forward with annexing parts of the West Bank that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan envisions will be part of Israel.
The Palestinians, who have boycotted the Trump administration since the 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, have rejected the Trump peace proposal out of hand.
“We ask the Israelis and the Palestinians that that would be the basis for negotiations between them. The Israelis have accepted that, the Palestinians have continued to refuse to simply just sit down and enter into negotiations based on President Trump’s Vision for Peace there,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo, who visited Israel last week, demurred when asked if the Trump administration has been in contact with the PA, but said the Palestinians would benefit from the peace plan.
Under the coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, the new government can move forward with applying Israeli sovereignty over settlements and the Jordan Valley as soon as July 1.
As of Wednesday, it remained unclear whether Abbas’s declaration would be implemented or have any practical effect.
Tareq Baconi of the International Crisis Group think tank said the Palestinian leadership had provided little clarity about what ending security coordination would mean.
“The impact isn’t just freedom of movement, it is everything, even where food supply lines come from,” he said. “It can’t be dismantled overnight.”
In reality, he said, Abbas was seeking to build pressure on Israel to tone down annexation plans.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed.
“We have been here before, many times. Abbas has yet to follow through, emptying such threats of any potential deterrence,” he said.
“Yet, as annexation looms his declaration should nonetheless be interpreted as one last desperate shot across the bow.”
Netanyahu has been emboldened by the Trump plan to push ahead with annexing swathes of the West Bank, despite wide concerns in the rest of the world — including neighboring Jordan, a US ally that has made peace with the Jewish state.
But Trump’s challenger in November’s presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden, on Tuesday declared his opposition to annexation, saying it would undermine hopes for peace.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace deal with Israel, warned last week annexation would put it on course for a “conflict” with his country.
Former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, Oded Eran, said Israel was wary of jeopardizing relations with the king.
Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partner Gantz is far less keen on annexation than the prime minister and could also hold it back, Eran said.
Britain, Germany, Russia and other European governments have also come out in firm opposition to the annexation plans.