Palestine Pulse

Will PA follow through with pledges to change agreements with Israel?

Article Summary
The Palestinian National Council recently took a series of decisions that Palestinian analysts say will affect relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In the final statement of its regular session, issued May 4, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) instructed the Executive Committee of the PLO to suspend recognition of Israel until the latter recognizes the State of Palestine along the borders of June 4, 1967, revokes the East Jerusalem annexation decision and stops its settlement activity.

While the PNC stressed that the relationship between the Palestinians and Israel is based on conflict, it called for the need to implement the decisions the PLO Central Committee took in its last two sessions of 2015 and 2018 in order to stop all forms of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and put an end to Palestinian economic dependence on Israel, which has been entrenched by the Paris Protocol of 1994, all the while boycotting Israeli products.

In its statement, the PNC also highlighted the need for the PLO Executive Committee and the Palestinian state institutions to start implementing the PNC and Central Committee decisions, and announced that the transitional period and obligations stipulated by the agreements signed in Oslo in 1993, Cairo in 1994 and Washington in 1995 are no longer valid.

These agreements were deemed to be no longer valid because of Israel's noncompliance and violation thereof by building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and seizing Palestinian territories.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that since its first session May 4, the new Executive Committee has been examining the content of the PNC statement; he said Palestinian expert committees will be set up to address the dimensions of the re-evaluation of political, security and economic relations with Israel.

He said the PLO had no other choice but to re-evaluate the relationship with Israel and terminate the signed agreements, and said this year's PNC decisions along with the PLO Central Committee decisions in 2015 and 2018 will be implemented in the near future.

Some agreements between Israel and the PA are only valid for a specific period of time. For example, the Paris Economic Agreement, signed in 1994, was only valid for five years, but the PA and Israel continued to implement it based on mutual consensus. However, they both retain the right to withdraw from it.

Abu Youssef said the Palestinian leadership is well aware of the impact its decisions will have on the relationship with Israel, and added that the Palestinian leadership will take political and diplomatic steps to clarify to the world the Palestinian stance on those agreements.

However, these Palestinian decisions are not new. The PLO Central Committee adopted the same decisions in 2015 and 2018, but they were never implemented on the ground, and the executive institutions of the PA never explained the reason behind their nonimplementation, which led the PA to face strong Palestinian criticism.

A Palestinian official close to President Mahmoud Abbas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “During his meeting with the new members of the Executive Committee, the president asked for the setting of timetables to implement the PNC decisions, especially those related to the re-evaluation of the relationship with Israel in order for these [decisions] to be discussed at the next meeting before the end of next June.”

The official said that Abbas told many allies and friendly countries that he is looking for a new transitional formula to substitute for the previous transitional period, which is no longer valid because the United States and Israel have been taking actions related to the final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The source did not name those countries.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported May 3 that Israel voiced concerns over the prospect that security coordination between Israel and the PA will be stopped. The newspaper said Israel is encouraging several Western countries, primarily the United States, to support and empower the PA security apparatuses in order to avoid the security vacuum that could plague both Israel and the PA in the event security coordination is stopped between the two, knowing that Hamas could be the ultimate winner in such a case.

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Al-Monitor that the PNC decisions should be supported by action, saying many decisions that were previously taken have yet to be implemented.

Barghouthi said the PNC was forced to take the recent decisions in light of the dangers threatening the Palestinian cause and attempts to liquidate the cause by both Israel and the United States. These attempts include US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the US Embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14 and leaks about the "deal of the century." And the list goes on.

Talal Awkal, a political analyst and writer at the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor that he expects the PNC decisions to be implemented, despite the slow pace of the process. He said  PA policy relies on pressure and threats and will go so far as to carry out threats in the absence of a response from the concerned parties.

He said the Palestinian leadership did not resort to these decisions until it realized the seriousness of the threat facing the Palestinian cause. He said any price that results from those decisions will be less harmful to the Palestinian cause than silence and idleness.

Abdel Sattar Kassem, a political science professor at An-Najah University, told Al-Monitor that he neither expects the PLO institutions nor the government to implement the decisions. “The PA was founded to achieve security and stability in the areas it controls and prevent any hostilities against Israel on the part of Palestinian organizations. If it stops carrying out those tasks, then it would be easy for Israel to dispense with it,” he said.

Kassem expects the Palestinian leadership to continue to issue political positions that find an echo in the media but that fail to eventually be implemented. He said the PA and the Palestinian organizations’ positions are pitiful and cannot confront US and Israeli steps aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause.

The re-evaluation of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians may face major obstacles, especially for the Palestinian side, whose economy is totally reliant on the Israeli economy. Also, the PA fears that if it terminates its interim agreements with Israel, the PA would lose political support around the world.

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Ahmad Abu Amer is a Palestinian writer and journalist who has worked for a number of local and international media outlets. He is co-author of a book on the Gaza blockade for the Turkish Anadolu Agency. He holds a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Gaza.

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