The Palestinian leadership has not agreed to resume security coordination and halt its diplomatic offensive against Israel in return for a temporary suspension of Israeli practices, including authorization of new settlement homes and the razing of Palestinian homes, a senior Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post.
He spoke amidst reporters that the United States was looking for such a swap in concessions by way of restoring calm in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which has been rising and is expected to increase in April when Muslims observe Ramadan and Jews celebrate the Passover holiday.
The PA is not looking for a quick fix, or a delay, but rather seems an end to settlement activity.
PA official to Post: No changes to Palestinian plans
The official told The Jerusalem Post that there was “no change” in the Palestinian decision to end the security coordination and approach international forums with requests to provide protection to the Palestinians and file “war crime” charges against some Israelis.
The official said that “all settlements are illegal and were built in violation of international law, and that’s why any cessation of settlement construction should be permanent, not temporary."
Israel, he added, should "completely and permanently stop all its practices and measures against the Palestinian people."
According to the official, PA President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed during his recent meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan the need for Israel to “immediately halt all settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
“Our stance is clear and firm,” the official told the Post. “The Israeli policy of settlement construction and expansion aims to destroy the two-state solution, a vision the Biden administration says it remains committed to.”
The official acknowledged that the Biden administration has been exerting pressure on the Palestinian leadership to backtrack on the decision to end the security coordination and stop the diplomatic blitz against Israel at the United Nations and other international forums.
“The pressure should be directed against the extremist right-wing government of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, not the Palestinians who are the victims of Israel’s daily crimes,” said the official. “We won’t accept any deal that allows the Israeli government to continue its dangerous policies. If the Americans want to prevent the violence and bloodshed, they should go to Netanyahu and his friends, [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [Finance Minister Bezalel] Smotrich.”
The Ramallah official insisted that the Palestinian leadership was also serious about the decision to end the security coordination with Israel. He pointed out that earlier this week Abbas told the commanders of the PA security forces that the decision to halt the security coordination remains in place, “but that does not mean that these forces would abandon their duty to enforce law and order in areas under their control.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that the Palestinian Authority security forces were not doing their part to restore calm when he held security consultations with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and met with soldiers from the Duvdevan unit, in the IDF Central Command area.
“We would be pleased if the Palestinian Authority would do its share but we see that it is not. In most cases, it is not confronting those who need to be confronted. It is unclear how long this [the suspension of security ties] will continue but we certainly cannot rely on it [the PA],” Netanyahu said.
“In any future, scenario there is no alternative to our security control on the ground. When we talk about security control on the ground, we mean going into the area,” he explained.
Netanyahu told soldiers from the Dovdovan unit that he was counting on them to maintain order.
“You are the vanguard of the security capability of the State of Israel in Judea and Samaria,,” he said.
Since last March the IDF has engaged in Operation Breaking the Wave, in which it enters Palestinian cities and towns on almost a nightly basis to route out terrorists. Last Monday night and early Tuesday morning it arrests nine suspects in the West Bank.
In clashes broke out between IDF soldiers and Palestinians in Nablus, with the Palestinian News Agency Wafa reported the death of a 17-year old from that event.
The IDF confirmed that it had shot and wounded a Palestinian, after stones, Molotov cocktails and burning tires were thrown at its forces.
Last Thursday Burns said the violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem reminded him of the Second Intifada.
“A lot of what we are seeing today has an unhappy resemblance to some of those realities we saw” 20 years ago, he recalled during a talk he gave at Georgetown University after visiting Israeli and the Palestinian territories.
“We would be pleased if the Palestinian Authority would do its share but we see that it is not. In most cases, it is not confronting those who need to be confronted. It is unclear how long this [the suspension of security ties] will continue but we certainly cannot rely on it [the PA].”Benjamin Netanyahu
During that period he had been the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and he recalled those years during his talk, and mentioned his recent visit.
The US, he said, is working as closely as it can with the Israeli and the Palestinian security services “to prevent the kind of explosions of violence that we have seen in recent weeks,” Burns said.
Last week Blinken visited Cairo, Jerusalem and Ramallah to speak with top officials. Part of the conversations involved talks about ways to decrease tensions. Netanyahu also traveled to Amman late last month to see King Abdullah, who then meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
Blinken also left two high-level officials on the ground Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and the State Department’s special representative for Palestinian affairs Hady Amr to work with Israelis and Palestinians to de-escalate the situation.
But the proposal to suspend approvals for new settlement building and to halt unilateral measures was rejected by both Likud politicians and far-right parties in the coalition.
Israel “must not bend to the demands of foreign countries, even when it comes to friends,” MK Dan Illouz (Likud) said. “Israel and only Israel will decide on its policy. A temporary halt at this time will only encourage the wave of terrorism.”
The Religious Zionist Party said that there won’t be a building freeze in Judea and Samaria nor will Arabs seize control of open spaces in Area C through illegal building.
National Missions Minister Orit Struck (RZP) said that a nationalistic government doesn’t freeze settlements in the Land of Israel and doesn’t abandon the territory to Palestinians.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir similarly spoke against the freeze, pledging to enforce the law against illegal Arab buildings like those in east Jerusalem.
He had been set to move against one such building of 12 units that is home to close to 100 people in Wadi Qadum, but was stopped from doing so by Netanyahu, according to Israeli media.
Opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid said that the US hadn’t demanded a construction freeze, but rather had sought more standard steps than they typically request.
Smotrich and Ben-Gvir spoke of a freeze that never existed just so they could emphasize that they have emphatically refused, Lapid explained.
“Such is life on TikTok,” he said.