Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

ANNEXATION OF PALESTINE

Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinian Authority cannot stand by any security agreements with Israel and US

President says authority is absolved of agreements

For years, ripping up security agreements between Palestine and Israel has been President Mahmoud Abbas's last resort. Then on Tuesday night, the 84-year-old leader declared an end to all deals with Israel and the United States as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government looked to go ahead with the annexation of much of the land that would make up a viable Palestinian state.

The Oslo Accords and other agreements in the 1990s created the Palestinian Authority and govern its political, economic and security relationships with Israel.

"The Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine are no longer committed to all signed agreements and understandings with the Israeli government and the American government, including the security commitments," Mr Abbas said.

He said that Israel would now have to "uphold responsibilities before the international community as the occupying power".

He said those responsibilities included "all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949".

While he gave few details of what this meant in practice, the security agreement with Israel in the occupied West Bank is crucial to Israel as it seeks to prevent Hamas gaining a foothold outside of the blockaded Gaza Strip. The deal has also helped Mr Abbas's Fatah party stave off the encroachment of rival Hamas.

Mahmoud Aloul, vice-president of Fatah, said that implementation of the decisions would be finalised in the coming days but "as of last night all communications with the Israeli side, including security cooperation, were stopped".

After three elections in the last year, Israel's new government was sworn in on Sunday and is again headed by the indicted Mr Netanyahu despite him heading to court to face accusations of corruption and graft.

Under the coalition agreement that Mr Netanyahu made with his rival Benny Gantz, the government can start to discuss annexing parts of the West Bank from July.

Mr Abbas, as well as other Palestinian, Arab and European officials, have said that would sound the death knell for a two-state solution and a peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflict. The White House of US President Donald Trump, however, appeared willing to recognise the move.

Most of the international community is opposed to annexation, which many fear would make it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. A two-state solution based on the 1967 lines is still widely seen as the only way of resolving the decades-long conflict.

US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday became the latest high-profile figure to oppose Mr Netanyahu's plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to the settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, which makes up around 30 per cent of the West Bank.

The Palestinian leader also announced that he would step up the campaign to join international organisations as a member state, in defiance of the US. There was no immediate reaction from Israel or the United States.

Israel captured the occupied West Bank, along with occupied East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want all three territories for their state, but the Trump plan would leave them with scattered clusters of enclaves surrounded by Israel.

Israeli forces are deployed across the West Bank and frequently carry out arrest raids in Palestinian cities and towns. They typically coordinate these operations with Palestinian security forces to prevent any clashes.

Palestinian security forces, as well as senior officials travelling in armed convoys, must also coordinate with Israel in order to move around the West Bank or to enter and exit the territory by the crossing with neighbouring Jordan, which is under Israeli control.

Security co-ordination broke down during the 2000-05 intifada, or Palestinian uprising. But Mr Abbas has always been opposed to violence, and Palestinian forces are likely to continue to act against any armed groups, even without formal coordination with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority governs and provides basic services to heavily populated areas of the occupied West Bank. Dismantling it would risk chaos and leave tens of thousands of civil servants unemployed. But by referring to the "State of Palestine," Mr Abbas appeared to leave room for it to continue in its present form under a different, and contested, name.

Still, the agreements with Israel govern nearly all its basic functions, including the issuing of passports and other official documents. Israel also collects taxes and customs duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, its main source of revenue.

Earlier in May, the UAE in an emergency Arab League meeting condemned Israel's plan to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank where its illegal settlements had been built.

The annexation plan was "a dangerous development that would undermine international efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict", the UAE said in a statement carried by state news agency Wam.

Israel's action was "unacceptable, violates international law and impedes the peace process", it said.

Updated: June 10, 2020 04:15 PM

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