+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Is Abbas serious about freezing security coordination with Israel?

Will Palestinian security forces open fire on Israeli soldiers who raid Palestinian cities? Is the PA still going to hand over the names of wanted Palestinians? Or is it all a bluff?

By Menachem Klein

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gives a speech during a meeting of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 21, 2017, during which he announced freezing contacts with Israel over new security measures at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. (Flash90)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gives a speech during a meeting of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 21, 2017, during which he announced freezing contacts with Israel. (Flash90)

At a time when there is no peace process and Israel continues building settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel is gnawing away at public support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The current crisis over Al-Aqsa Mosque has brought things to a boiling point, such that Abbas simply cannot allow himself to continue the security coordination — or at least had to announce that he is suspending it it.

Let us assume for a moment that Abbas’s announcement was cynical, and was driven by his lack of support among the Palestinian public, and that in reality the security coordination is continuing unabated. That would align with Abbas’s modus operandi of doing everything he can to prevent the type anarchy that reigned during the Second Intifada, for which Palestinian society paid a heavy price.

If it was indeed insincere, such a proclamation by Abbas could be dangerous: he risks being seen as a fraud and untrustworthy. For Abbas, this is one of the main things that differentiates him from his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. In the eyes of his supporters in the PA and outside it, as well as among the Israeli security establishment and the West, Abbas is seen as an honest figure. Arafat, on the other hand, was viewed as manipulative. A complete loss of trust in Abbas could also carry a high price for Palestinian society. He could lose the support of a third of the Palestinian public, which according to recent polls, still supports him.

Members of the Palestinian security forces graduate from a training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)

Members of the Palestinian security forces graduate from a training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)

Thus Abbas’ announcement seems sincere. However, it is yet unclear how it will be implemented. Are Palestinian security forces going to open fire on Israeli soldiers who enter those Palestinian cities under full PA control? Will the Palestinian security apparatus continue — as it does today — handing over names of wanted Palestinians to Israel, including those whom the PA is afraid of arresting? How can Abbas ensure that Hamas and his arch-rival Mohammad Dahlan — who recently formed an alliance with the Islamist movement in Gaza — don’t exploit this moment to undermine his regime. He would seem particularly vulnerable at a moment like this, when he has neither security coordination with Israel nor reconciliation with Hamas.

It is more likely that Abbas’ message is a cry for help. His hope is that before the situation reaches full-blown anarchy, Arab mediators are able to get Israel to remove the metal detectors at the entrance to Al-Aqsa compound, either temporarily or permanently. The Palestinian president is hoping that the current crisis will lead Israel to back down. If he is correct, Abbas will gain support among Palestinians. By the time the real significance of Abbas’s declaration becomes clear, a solution to the crisis will have been found.

Beyond the possibility that the Palestinian president is taking advantage of this opportunity for political profit, there are a few things to keep in mind. Abbas has responded harshly to previous rounds of violence surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. His condemnations of Israel’s actions were harsh yet not cynical. Furthermore, like Abbas, the broader Palestinian public is not ready to make peace with Israel’s unilateral security changes at the site. In other words, there could very likely be some overlap between Abbas’s political interests and his sincere response to Israel’s blow to Muslim control over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

Menachem Klein is a professor of political science at Bar Ilan University. He was an advisor to the Israeli negotiating team during the 2000 peace talks, and is one of he leading members of the Geneva Initiative. His book, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron, was selected by The New Republic as one of 2014’s ‘best books for understanding our complicated world.’

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. i_like_ike52

      The reason for Palestinians ‘frustration’ is NOT ‘the lack of progress in the peace process’. The biggest outbreaks of violence since the Oslo Agreements occurred at the peak of intensive negotiations between the sides. Violence is an integral part of the Palestinian fight against Israel and it always has been. Violence goes hand in hand with Palestinian negotiations with Israel. In any event, recall Arafat telling Bill Clinton at Camp David that he would be assassinated if the agreed to a compromise peace with Israel which would involve Palestinian concessions such as giving up the demand for an unlimited ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees.
      Looking back at the history of the Arab-Israel conflict, we see that every war or outbreak of violence has ended up with the Arab/Palestinian side being worse off than before. Each new wave had the young signing up, and not remembering the previous disaster their ancestors brought on them, and then saying the previous generation got it wrong, or was badly led, but this time they know what to do, until they falter as well.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joseph E. Saad

        Lets see all of the violence is always the Palestinians right? The Israelis with their ever expanding military and technology (1948 forward) never does anything wrong always the other side right?

        As a Palestinian I am the first to admit we were/are wrong in our thinking. The point should never have been to build a fake fictitious state but simply to demand one thing: EQUAL RIGHTS IRRESPECTIVE OF RACE OR RELIGION TO ALL THE PEOPLES COMPRISING WHAT WAS ONCE PALESTINE NOW OCCUPIED BY ISRAEL OR THE HOLY LAND OR WHATEVER. THIS SHOULD BE DONE IN A NON VIOLENT GHANDI TYPE Of RESISTANCE. THE WORLD WOULD HAVE TO LISTEN IF ALL PALESTINIANS WORLWIDE DEMANDED A DAY OF ACTION, EVEN IF ISRAEL RESPONDS MILITARILY; IF NON VIOLENCE COULD BE MAINTAINED THE WORLD WOULD HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. AFTER ALL THE WORLD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TRAGEDY ALREADY.

        There is plenty of blame to go around, no one side is innocent in this never ending horror show, there has been too much suffering and loss of life over the generations. It has to stop, we do not have the right to condemn another generation on both sides to more of the same. It is immoral and not right.

        I am all in favor of getting rid of all of it Hamas, The Palestinian Authority (stupid name for a government), all of it tear it down, get rid of it. Start new under UN auspices (start with civil, education, health, judicial, etc. matters) Let Israel (as she has so capably shown in the past) take care of the borders of what once was Palestine now Israel, the Holy land etc. whatever. Maybe one day Palestinians will aid in that defense, if given equal rights.

        In any case it is quite clear that the Arab world, the current Palestinian leadership has failed and in the case of the latter has to go, they are of no use. I am a Palestinian saying this, start new, give us one honest fair chance, you will find no better ally.

        I know there are many people (some even happen to be Jewish and Israeli) who simply want what I want and to those I reach out my hand and say let us start new, and fresh. We want the same things peace and prosperity for our families.!

        God bless, Peace, Shalom, and Salami!

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “The biggest outbreaks of violence since the Oslo Agreements occurred at the peak of intensive negotiations between the sides.”

        Baloney. You are playing fast and loose, both with with timelines and with what you mean by “intensive negotiations” versus refusal to seriously negotiate.

        Why do we only listen to violence?
        By Noam Sheizaf |Published March 11, 2016
        https://972mag.com/why-do-we-only-listen-to-violence/117773/

        Reply to Comment

The stories that matter.
The missing context.
All in one weekly email.

Subscribe to +972's newsletter