The presenter on Palestine's Ajyal Radio asked me: "What are Israel's options for dealing with the President Mahmoud Abbas' convoy? Will it be intercepted when it heads for Jordan or will it move between the Palestinian cities?" It seems that the presenter's question was based on the Israeli reports of a discussion within the Israeli government in this regard, in response to the PA's decision to absolve itself from the agreements reached with Israel and to stop security coordination with it.
My answer: Israel has all the options available to deal with the president, his authority, his agencies and his civil administration. It is the dominant occupying power, and it can suffocate and paralyse the PA. It did so not too long ago, with the late President Yasser Arafat, not only besieging him in his office in Al-Muqata compound, but also demolishing it over the heads of those inside. They ended with carrying out one of the most despicable assassinations that targeted the Palestinian leader himself.
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Israel can prevent the president from leaving his home to his office, or returning and nothing will deter it if it decides to repeat the crime committed by Sharon, the godfather of the ruling right-wing crew today in Israel. However, Israel sees no reason to do so and has no immediate interest in doing so. President Abbas is not Yasser Arafat, nor is the PA today the PA of yesterday. Israel still needs the PA, at the very least for the immediate future, as under its cover, with or without security coordination, it is carrying out the largest settlement expansion operations. Moreover, under its cover, the largest West Bank annexation operations will take place, with minimal local, regional and international reactions.
Israel has begun to punish the PA and is playing the civil coordination card in exchange for the security coordination card that the PA is using and waving, saying that it resorted to it recently. Without civil coordination with the occupation, it will be almost impossible for the PA to continue to carry out its functions and Israel will be able to intensify its pressure to open channels of communication with citizens and their local leaders in towns, cities and villages, without the need for the PA.
The Palestinian security services have been asked to avoid contact with the Israeli army and to stay in their barracks and posts, as they were not originally prepared for such a job. Their job is to preserve "public order" and "fight terrorism", but we do not know what terrorism they are talking about, as the West Bank seems to be free of Daesh, Al-Qaeda and its branches. In any case, any serious confrontation between these forces and the occupation will ultimately end these forces formally and effectively.
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These agencies, their leaders, and senior PA officials cannot move within the West Bank or abroad without security coordination. The civilian coordination that Israel is hinting at stopping in return includes almost everything, from transferring the tax revenues that make up 60 per cent of the PA's budget to the travel of an elderly family to Makkah to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. This must mean that the most fundamental question is what options does the PA have if civilian coordination stops, not what options Israel has if the security coordination stops.
The PA says that it formed a crisis cell to research and study its options. This decision comes very late. These options should have been determined and moved to implementation years ago, not just a few days or weeks ago. This is because many of these options seem to require years of effort and preparation to fill in the gaps that mainly result from Israel's disregard for the agreements reached and the PA absolving itself from them recently.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 3 June 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.