Palestinians won't halt security ties with Israel, US - Ramallah officials

'There will be no reconciliation with Hamas in the near future'

PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.  (photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.
The Palestinian Authority has no intention of halting security coordination with Israel and the US or moving closer to Hamas in protest against US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace, according to European Union officials and Western diplomats who talked to senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah in the past few days.
On Saturday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced during a speech before an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo that he has informed Israel and the US that the Palestinians would cut all ties with them, including security relations.
On Tuesday, Abbas repeated the threat to end security coordination with Israel and the US during a rare visit to the Ramallah-based headquarters of the PA General Intelligence Service, headed by Maj.-Gen. Majed Faraj.
Palestinians have described Abbas’s recent statements as “vague,” noting that he has not formally announced a decision to halt security ties with Israel and the US.
But while Abbas has been ambiguous, some senior PA political and security officials in Ramallah have been speaking with clarity about the issue.
Abbas, the Palestinians said, believes the most effective way to counter the Trump plan is by stepping up the Palestinians’ diplomatic offensive in the international arena, including the United Nations. Abbas hopes the offensive will isolate the Trump administration and Israel and ultimately force them to accept his proposal for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East, where Washington would not be permitted to play a major role.
On Tuesday, Abbas met in his office with the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev, and discussed latest developments in the region in the aftermath of the unveiling of the Trump plan. Abbas reportedly urged the Russian envoy to work toward achieving the two-state solution “on the basis of the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Abbas’s meeting with the Russian envoy came in the context of the Palestinian leadership’s diplomatic campaign to rally worldwide support for its rejection of the Trump deal.
Also Tuesday, the PA leadership welcomed a statement by EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell rejecting the Trump plan. Borrell said in a statement that it departs from internationally agreed upon parameters and warned that Israeli steps to annex any part of the West Bank could not pass unchallenged.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki welcomed the EU statement, dubbing it a “defeat for the Trump administration.”
A Ramallah-based Western diplomat who held private meetings with senior PA figures in the past few days said the messages he heard were different than those expressed in public.
“Actually, I’m encouraged because I was assured that the PA security forces won’t stop working with Israel despite the headlines suggesting otherwise,” the diplomat told The Jerusalem Post. “What’s also encouraging is that every single Palestinian official I met with emphasized that the PA won’t allow a new intifada in the West Bank. They told me they are totally opposed to terrorism.”
The diplomat said when he asked the Ramallah officials about Abbas’s latest threat, he was told: “Don’t worry, the president [Abbas] needs to calm the people. That’s why he has to appear as if he’s standing up against Israel and the US and taking serious measures in response to the Trump plan. It’s all talk.”
Another Ramallah-based Western diplomat said he was told last weekend by three senior PA political and security officials that “nothing has changed since the announcement of the Trump plan.”
“The three officials assured me that the PA has no plans to stop working with the Israelis and Americans in the security field,” the diplomat told the Post. “They also told me that Abbas has instructed the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank to do their utmost to prevent violent attacks by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers.”
The diplomat said he and other Westerners working and living in Ramallah were “very satisfied” with the PA leadership’s efforts to prevent an outbreak of large-scale protests in the West Bank. “Without the efforts of the Palestinian security services, the situation would have been worse,” he added.
The diplomats and three EU officials who spoke to PA figures in Ramallah told the Post they were also assured there would be no real rapprochement between the PA and Hamas in the near future.
Last week, Abbas invited Hamas representatives in the West Bank to attend an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss ways of “foiling” Trump’s plan and achieving Palestinian “national unity.”
Abbas also received a phone call from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in yet another sign of a thaw in relations between the two sides.
Abbas reportedly agreed to a Hamas offer to send a senior delegation of PLO and Fatah officials to the Gaza Strip in the coming days as part of a plan to devise a “unified Palestinian strategy” against the Trump plan.
On Tuesday, however, it seemed that the reports about an imminent “reconciliation” between Abbas and Hamas were premature. Hamas officials claimed the PA leadership in the West Bank unexpectedly called off the visit without offering an explanation.
“We’ve been told not to take seriously the talk about a possible reconciliation between the PA and Hamas,” one EU official told the Post. “Palestinian officials told us that it’s important for Abbas to always talk about national unity because that’s what the Palestinian street likes to hear. But they assured us that this talk does not mean we will see an end to the dispute between Abbas and Hamas anytime in the near future.”
Another EU official quoted a senior Abbas adviser as saying during a private meeting earlier this week: “We don’t trust Hamas. They want to undermine the PA and not work with it. The only way for real unity is for Hamas to disarm and relinquish control of the Strip. I don’t see that happening in the coming days or weeks.”
The Western diplomats and EU officials, who spoke separately to the Post, agreed there was a “big gap” between the PA leadership’s public positions and what its representatives are saying in private encounters. They said they made it clear to their Palestinian interlocutors that the Palestinians should make every possible effort to maintain claim and security in the West Bank.