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By ending security coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority is shooting itself in the foot

By Yoni Ben Menachem
web posted February 6, 2023

The Palestinian Authority (PA) recently announced the end of security coordination with Israel, but Israel can maintain its security even without the assistance of the PA.

The Israel Security Agency does an excellent job and relies only on itself. The cessation of security coordination will worsen the situation on the ground for Palestinians and severely damage PA rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken arrived in Israel last week to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, attempting to calm tensions and put an end to the recent violence.

One of the main issues that the Blinken discussed will be the Palestinian Authority’s announcement of the cessation of security coordination with Israel.

Abbas chose to announce his decision in a vague way that would allow him to subtly retract. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Roudeineh, announced that security coordination no longer exists as of now but refrained from explicitly stating that the PA had stopped it.

In practice, PA officials claim that regular meetings between IDF officers and Palestinian security forces officers have been stopped, but both sides understand that it is only a matter of time until contacts resume, as soon as the situation calms down.

The PA is trying to claim to the Palestinian street that the cessation of security coordination is the Achilles’ heel of the Israeli security establishment and that if it ceases coordination, Israeli security will be seriously harmed. However, this is not the case.

It is true that security coordination with the Palestinian Authority helps Israel in its war against terrorism in Judea and Samaria. However, since the Oslo Accords and until today, Israel relies only on itself in this area. We have already seen the “revolving door” policy of Yasser Arafat, who arrested terrorists and immediately released them. In this regard, Abbas is not like Arafat, but Israeli governments have since learned to trust only Israeli intelligence.

The Israel Security Agency does an excellent job in the war on terrorism regardless of the security coordination with the PA. Therefore, the PA will lose more than Israel if it stops the security coordination. The PA maintains the security coordination mainly to ensure the continuation of Abbas’ rule.

The PA is very dependent on Israel in the field of security regarding the movements of PA Chairman Abbas inside and outside of Judea and Samaria. All senior PA officials hold VIP certificates that allow them to pass through IDF checkpoints and enter Israel and also to travel abroad.

The Palestinian police cannot change the location and deployment of its forces in Judea and Samaria without coordination with the IDF. Tens of thousands of workers from the territories working in Israel cannot enter without the approval of the Israel Security Agency. Palestinian families cannot receive medical treatment in hospitals in Israel without the approval of the Israeli security establishment. The PA also cannot bring food and goods into its territory without Israeli security approval.

The complete cessation of security coordination on the part of the PA could lead to the deterioration of the security situation in Judea and Samaria and strengthen the power of Hamas. It is very doubtful if Abbas is interested in this outcome; he would be undermining his rule with his own hands.

Senior Fatah officials estimate that Abbas will slow down the security coordination and lower its level to create the appearance that he is carrying out the decisions of the Palestinian leadership but will not stop it completely. Fatah officials are already criticizing Abbas because his move was hasty and will cause irreparable damage to the Palestinian Authority.

A senior member of the Fatah leadership, Tawfik al-Tirawi, the former head of Palestinian General Intelligence who coordinated security activity with the Israel Security Agency, warned as early as February 2022 that the cessation of security coordination with Israel would lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

From 2005 until today, the Israel Security Agency has saved Abbas at least twice from assassination attempts by Hamas and exposed Hamas plans to overthrow the PA through a series of attacks.

Abbas is playing with fire in his decision to stop security coordination with Israel. It could ignite a conflagration in the West Bank that would explode out of control and bring a new disaster to the Palestinians, as was the case in the Second Intifada when Yasser Arafat chose the path of terror after the failure of the Camp David summit.

The assessment in Israel’s security establishment is that Abbas is trying to warn Israel, the U.S., and Egypt that the security situation has become fragile because of Israel’s policies and that they are responsible for what happens on the ground.

Abbas is trying to improve his position on the Palestinian street. Palestinian public opinion polls show that 70 percent want him to retire immediately from the political arena.

In the meantime, the Palestinian public does not believe the Palestinian Authority’s statements. The Palestinian street is largely convinced that the cessation of security coordination is a show by the Palestinian Authority, which continues to secretly coordinate with the Israeli security establishment. ESR

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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