Ending security arrangements will harm the PA as much as Israel

The cooperation between Israel and the PA benefits the Palestinians as much as Israel, by keeping a lid on Hamas' activity outside of Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020 (photo credit: ALAA BADARNEH/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020
First, a simple truth.
If the Palestinian Authority does cut off all security cooperation with Israel to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated intent to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements – as PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday evening that it has already done – then that definitely is a bad turn of events.
One could argue that this security cooperation is one of the greatest benefits Israel got out of the Oslo accords, and something of enormous help in keeping a lid on West Bank terror.
But no one should fool themselves: As much as this cooperation benefits Israel, it also benefits the Palestinian Authority, since the terrorism that is being contained is largely Hamas terror. And Hamas terror is as much of a threat – if not more – to Abbas’s control and to the Palestinian Authority as it is to Israel.
How can that be? Simple – look what happened in the Gaza Strip. In 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from there, Hamas violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority and took control of the coastal enclave. Remember those grisly images of Hamas throwing a member of the elite Palestinian Presidential Guard from the rooftop of the tallest building in Gaza? Were it not for security cooperation with Israel, Hamas would be threatening Fatah in the West Bank as well.
True, the security cooperation saves Israeli lives, but it also saves Palestinian lives and helps Abbas and his colleagues remain in power.
How does it save Palestinian lives? Because if violence flares up again in the West Bank – if there is another wave of terrorism – it will not only be Israelis killed in attacks. In the event of a third intifada, as some Palestinians are threatening, Israel will defend itself, just as it has done in the past. And in that defense, Palestinian lives will be lost.
So if Abbas does indeed tear up all agreements with Israel and the Americans, it is not only Israeli interests that will be harmed, but his and Palestinian interests as well. But that is a huge “if.”
Which brings us to a second truth. Abbas has threatened to cut off security ties with Israel, or declared that he has already done so, on untold occasions in the past.
He did so most recently in February. US President Donald Trump had just rolled out his “Deal of the Century,” which green-lighted Israel extending sovereignty to the settlements and the Jordan Valley as part of a package that also included the establishment of a de-militarized Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank. Abbas said he was going to cut off those ties. He didn’t.
And in July 2017, during the crisis that erupted after Israel placed metal detectors on the Temple Mount following the murder of two Border Police officers there, he said that the Palestinians already did away with the security coordination. They hadn’t.
Why not? Because the cooperation, regular meetings and phone calls between IDF officers and Palestinian security officials serves Abbas as well.
Jordan’s King Abdullah also benefits from this security cooperation. In recent months, Abdullah has been as loud as Abbas in his protest against any Israeli annexation move, obviously worried that such a move could set the West Bank on fire – and that those flames could easily spread to the east bank of the Jordan and burn him as well.
Which is why the king, as he warns Israel against annexation moves, would be wise in also warning Abbas that ending security cooperation is not the way to oppose such moves. Regardless of whether or not Israel annexes any of the territory, another round of violence on the West Bank will not do anybody any good.
It won’t deter Israel – which if it decides to annex, will be doing so while being well aware that the move could lead to violence. It won’t help the Palestinian Authority, which could be overtaken by Hamas as a result of the violence. And it could further shake Abdullah’s regime, already under intense pressure from the Islamists within, from Iran via Iraq to its east, and from the influx of Syrian refugees to the north.
The Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation benefits all. To scupper it would be folly.