In that speech, Abbas said that the PA would punish those responsible for abducting the three Israeli settlers because, as he put it, this abduction was designed to destroy the Palestinians. He said that security cooperation and coordination with Israel offers the Palestinians protection, and that the Palestinians simply cannot resist Israel militarily or by any other means.
In a similar vein, a statement issued by the Palestinian presidency condemned all acts of violence, including the abduction of the Israeli trio. It was as if the occupation with all its crimes occurred only after the three disappeared at unknown hands, as if the entire Palestinian people had not been abducted en masse for over 66 years.
The Palestinians must choose a new course to follow, especially as Israel appears determined to continue down the road of occupation, settlement building, detentions, daily harassment, blockades, and murders. Thousands of Palestinians are languishing in Israeli jails, while the Israeli army has murdered at least 90 of them since the last round of peace talks resumed. Moreover, the Israelis have refused to honor their commitment to release a fourth batch of Palestinian detainees, despite the fact that the Palestinian leadership honored its part of the bargain by agreeing to resume talks according to Israel's terms, and froze its efforts to refer its case to the UN for nine months.
The abduction of the three Israelis was an expected consequence of the lack of a unified leadership and a joint political program. It was also a result of the failed peace talks despite the many concessions made by the Palestinian side, and despite the fact that Israel turned the PA into an ‘authority without authority,’ as Abbas himself and his chief negotiator stated. All this calls for the adoption of new Palestinian policies and the abandonment of those policies that led to the current state of affairs.
How can security coordination protect the Palestinian people, given that successive Israeli governments have systematically undermined the 1993 Oslo agreement? Israeli politicians know that they can squeeze any concessions they want out of the Palestinians without giving anything in return. In fact, Israel has turned the PA into a security agent, and has effectively taken over Areas A (which are supposed to be under PA control) since 2002. Security cooperation should have ceased then at least.
Post-Oslo security coordination may have been justified if it were indeed possible for Palestinian statehood to be achieved through bilateral negotiations. The tradeoff was clear: the PA provides Israel with security coordination, as well as political and economic commitments in exchange for a state at the end of a period of transition. Israel was supposed to carry out three separate redeployments involving 90 percent of territories occupied in 1967 before final status talks begin – three years after Oslo was signed. The period of transition was supposed to have ended in May 1999. Yet here we are in 2014, with the PA not even enjoying the powers it enjoyed when first established back in September 1994.
This requires a radical rethink of Palestinian policy rather than stubbornly treading the same old road. Instead of describing it as sacrosanct, security cooperation, it must be totally abandoned, particularly since Israel turned the PA into a mere security agent collaborating with the occupation.
Now that the talks have collapsed, Israel is exploiting the abduction/kidnapping/disappearance of the three settlers to justify imposing new unilateral measures in the West Bank in order to undermine any initiative not to its liking. Israel is trying to entice Fateh into abandoning the reconciliation process with Hamas by promising it leadership of all the Palestinians – this at a time when its recent measures targeted Fateh as well as Hamas. Should the PA lose its credibility, legitimacy and ability to represent the Palestinian people, one can be sure that Israel would be the first to abandon it to its fate.
This has already begun. Only the other day, demonstrators attacked a police station in Ramallah in protest against the PA’s security cooperation with Israel, The Palestinian police could do nothing to confront the demonstrators, as they knew that Israel was rampaging throughout the West Bank, arresting scores of Palestinians, including police officers. Protests are gathering pace against security cooperation, on the streets as well as through social media, as President Abbas himself admitted.
The PA must abandon security cooperation with Israel at once in order to force the Israelis to stop their aggression. If Israel discovers that it would lose more out of attacking the Palestinian territories than it would gain out of security cooperation or the collapse of the PA, there is no doubt it would rein back its troops and rethink its aggressive policies.
In this context, I am not calling for abandoning civil cooperation that aims to facilitate the day to day lives of ordinary Palestinians, but the Palestinian commitment to ‘renounce terror and violence,’ which means confronting armed resistance and arresting those engaging in it. The PA must stop this cooperation before it is too late, otherwise a new uprising will surely erupt against it. The PA cannot rely on its army of security forces to protect itself, because they are Palestinian and they would undoubtedly take the side of the people.
It is a fact that the policy of security cooperation is not the responsibility of the security forces but that of the political leadership. Maintaining this policy while Israel is conducting large-scale incursions in the Palestinian territories will inevitably pit the Palestinian security forces against their own people, who see with their own eyes that cooperation does not protect them from Israeli aggression, but on the contrary only encourages the Israelis to continue that aggression and insult the Palestinian President – so much so that one Israeli commentator was moved to write, ‘No leader – not a Muslim from the West Bank, nor a Lutheran from Sweden or a Jew from Jerusalem – can stand such continued humiliation.’ Abbas must heed the calls of his people to stop security cooperation; otherwise, they might well take matters into their own hands and attack PA offices and installations.
This is not a call for armed resistance, only as a reminder to those who forgot – or chose to forget – that resistance is a right and duty of occupied peoples everywhere that is enshrined in international law. The national interest dictates that the PA deals with resistance in all its forms responsibly, such that it is controlled by a common strategy and a unified leadership. Resistance is a patriotic activity that affects everyone, and therefore should not be left in the hands of a certain faction whatever its credentials or record.
We expected the new reconciliation government to focus its efforts on issues of substance, such as consolidating Palestinian steadfastness, rebuilding the PLO and security services away from factionalism, breaking the blockade on Gaza, reopening the Rafah crossing, integrating Hamas employees, dealing with all effects of the split, and achieve equality and justice.
Instead, the government postponed dealing with all those issues, and focused instead on promoting the largely symbolic bilateral reconciliation and on holding future elections, which it sees as a means to settle the domestic conflict instead of as a tool to serve the Palestinian cause.