President Mahmoud Abbas has provided a significant contribution to the stability of the Palestinian Authority and its relationship with Israel, a senior security source said on Thursday.
The high-ranking source, who is highly familiar with Israel’s security activities in the Palestinian territories, described Abbas as “a person with a clear agenda, consistent and coherent, and when I translate that into practical steps, it is good for us.”
“I think he is a stabilizing factor. Violence for him is a redline. I truly believe that he does not want violence. He opposes an intifada, he is against shooting attacks on roads [in Judea and Samaria],” the source said.
While internal political needs and constraints mean Abbas will not often condemn acts of violence, the source said, “What’s more important is what Abbas declares. I do not know many other Arab leaders who said that security coordination [with Israel] is holy. That’s an accurate quote by Abbas, from around three months ago.”
Looking at the situation from Abbas’s eyes, the source continued, “Negotiations [with Israel] are stuck, the Arab world is in a problem, and Hamas is a problem.
Abbas says he has no choice – violence is not his path, he has no negotiations, and the Arab world is not an option. The only things left are... turning to international institutions, seeking recognition... various lawsuits [against Israel].”
“They will challenge the State of Israel as much as they can through UN institutions, international recognition, and the International Criminal Court,” he said of the Palestinians.
Despite the relative stability on the ground, the PA leadership is unhappy about Israeli steps to ease conditions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, as it undercuts the leadership’s attempt to organize nonviolent rallies and demonstrations against Israel, he said.
PA leaders have accused Israel of finding “a technique to talk to the population, not through us. There is no agreement here, and although life here goes on as normal, it does not suit them [the Palestinian leadership].
The Palestinian public does not rally around the PA’s calls,” he explained.
The source described wandering around Ramallah two weeks ago, where he drank coffee and ate at a local restaurant. “I see a street that resembles Rothschild Avenue [in Tel Aviv] in terms of the quantity of people and what they are doing. I see traffic jams at the city square... this makes it difficult to bring people out into the streets.”
“The status quo is comfortable for the population, but not for the leadership. The leadership wants to say that, at the end of the day, it did something different, it established a state, an agreement, something,” he continued.
“The PA’s leadership had problems with our approach. [But] the Palestinian public likes it a lot,” the source said.
Nevertheless, cooperation between Israel and the PA remains very good, he stated.
“In 2014, 538 Israelis who accidentally strayed into Area A were returned to Israel by the PA’s forces,” he said.
With the Iran agreement now complete, the international system is transitioning “from involvement to intervention” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this will result in new pressure to kick-start the diplomatic process, the source noted.
“You can see this in the various initiatives and growth in discussions on whether the Palestinians are a state,” he said.
A key question is what any new road map would offer when it comes to settlements, he added.
Zooming out, the source noted the regional conflict raging between Sunnis and Shi’ites, as well as the global jihad that is “knocking on the country’s doors. We already see the first buds of this phenomenon in Judea and Samaria.”
In poor areas, in places where young men have relatives in prison, and in “refugee camps where there are no photos of Abbas, but there are photos of the last casualties,” the first signs of Islamic State are appearing, he warned.
“This worries PA security forces a lot.
They are working against this, like us, and intensively.” Arrests, he added, are being made.
While Hamas in Gaza is continuing to rearm and recover from last summer’s conflict with Israel, it remains isolated and in a state of conflict with Fatah. Hamas continues to try and remotely set up terror cells in Judea and Samaria, though its efforts have been thwarted by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
“Against this background, we are always looking for the technique to maintain the situation,” the source said.
“Many military and civilian activities are under way to maintain a sane situation and normal fabric of life,” he added.
He noted a decrease in the number of remotely orchestrated terrorist West Bank cells set up by Hamas in Turkey, Qatar, Gaza and Jordan, efforts that include the transfer of weapons, finances and support by “spiritual guides.”
“This is not the central thing” in the West Bank, according to the source. “What has grown here recently are local cells that organize themselves, on their own. They purchase arms, a vehicle, and rely on the Internet to acquire weapons-assembly skills and bomb-making knowledge.”
“In the end, they launch an attack, usually on a low level, using improvised weapons.
They usually carry out an attack and stop,” the source said.
This year, Hamas attempted to set up infrastructure in Nablus and Ramallah.
It has found more sophisticated ways to transfer funds, train people abroad, and return them to the field, according to the source.
The source pointed to a drop in shooting attacks, knivings, bomb attacks and vehicular attacks in the first half of 2015.
Rock throwing on civilian traffic also dropped this year, which has so far seen 133 incidents.
“The reality in Middle East, as perceived by Palestinians, means that it [confronting Israeli security forces] is not the first thing they want to do when they get up in the morning,” he said.