Shin Bet head reportedly met with Abbas on Hamas coup

Palestinian leader said to warn that if borders of Palestinian state aren’t outlined soon, he’ll end security coordination, dismantle PA

Former Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen. (Flash90)
Former Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen. (Flash90)

Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month to update him on the foiled Hamas plot to overthrow the West Bank Fatah leadership, Israel Radio reported Monday, citing Lebanese media.

In addition, Abbas threatened to end Palestinian security coordination with Israel in the West Bank, and dismantle the PA if future borders of a Palestinian state are not outlined in the near future. While Abbas initially told this to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during ceasefire negotiations in Qatar, he also conveyed the message to the Shin Bet chief, the report said.

The report was said to have been confirmed by Palestinian sources.

It was the second covert meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders reported recently, as last week unconfirmed reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas met secretly in Amman, Jordan, ahead of an agreed ceasefire to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On August 18, the Shin Bet said it had thwarted a Hamas plan to topple Abbas and start a third intifada.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The national security agency said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.

The Shin Bet said terror cells were set up in dozens of Palestinian West Bank towns and villages — including in and around Jenin, Nablus, East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron.

Abbas ordered a probe into the coup plot shortly after the revelation, and said it represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future,” the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

With regard to the reported threats of ending PA cooperation with Israel, Abbas has repeatedly called for Israel to restart peace negotiations based on the 1967 borders. On Sunday, Abbas told a Fatah conference in Ramallah that if Israel did not agree to negotiate over a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he would join international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, without having come to an agreement with Israel.

“Is the Palestinian nation so trivial in our eyes?” he asked.

Abbas also repeated his criticism of Hamas for refusing to accept a ceasefire in Gaza, causing the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.

On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that Palestine was now eligible to join the Rome Statute and file war crimes charges against Israel.

Abbas has made various statements in the past week about new initiatives and the consequences if they fail. During an interview with Egyptian television, Abbas said he would soon propose an unconventional diplomatic resolution to the Palestinian conflict, one that is likely to make the US unhappy.

He said the plan would be presented to US Secretary of State John Kerry during an upcoming visit to the region, and added that Kerry was unlikely to accept it, according to a Haaretz translation. Palestinian sources close to Abbas told Haaretz that the plan would involve handing over responsibility for a resolution to the conflict to international forces.

During another interview with Palestinian TV, Abbas said he intends to demand that Israel and the US outline specific borders for a Palestinian state. If Israel does not respond, “we have what to do,” he said in an apparent veiled threat to take Palestinian demands to the international community.

Netanyahu rejected negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 lines when Kerry launched his unsuccessful effort at peace talks last year. In recent weeks, the prime minister has said the conflict with Hamas underlines his concern with the need to maintain security control of the West Bank to ensure that the area not turn into another Gaza.

JTA contributed to this report.

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