On March 5, the PLO Central Committee, considered the most important PLO body in the absence of the non-operational Palestinian National Council (PNC), decided to end security coordination with Israel.
Before the committee met, officials close to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also warned of a decision to dismantle the PA. These threats, however, have disappeared as if they had never been made.
Although Palestinian and Arab media had a field day with the decision to halt security coordination with Israel, not a day passed before Abbas’ associates started explaining that this was merely a “recommendation” that would require a decision by the PLO Executive Committee and a presidential edict signed by Abbas.
In any case, they explained, the decision will not be implemented in the days remaining before the March 17 Israeli elections.
PLO sources said the PA would wait to see who wins the elections before deciding whether to carry out the decision.
Three months ago, Israel froze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinians because of their approaches to the UN Security Council and to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
The tax revenues are estimated to total $127 million a month, and the PA uses them to pay salaries to some 180,000 office workers.
The United States exerted direct and indirect pressure on Abbas to exercise restraint and not take any irregular steps before the Israeli elections.
On February 23, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in keeping with a request by the U.S. administration, summoned Abbas to Riyadh and implored him to honor Washington’s wishes.
It is now clear that Abbas’ threats are empty; they were an attempt to pressure Israel to free the frozen tax revenues. The PLO Central Committee’s decision was also aimed at containing popular rage over the freezing of the revenues and at showing that the PA is not prepared to submit passively to the Israeli sanction.
In reality, Abbas knows that ending security coordination with Israel will harm the Palestinians most of all. Just a few months ago, Israel rescued Abbas’ rule when the Israel Security Agency (Shabak) apprehended an extensive Hamas network in Judea and Samaria that had planned to destabilize the PA with a series of attacks.
The security coordination is an inseparable part of the Oslo agreement signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993. Although the PA has violated numerous clauses of the agreement, so far it is refraining from violating this particular clause.
Fatah sources claim that the large-scale exercise conducted by the IDF in Judea and Samaria a few days before the PLO Central Committee met in Ramallah was meant to signal to the Palestinians that Israel will not hesitate to reconquer all of the West Bank if it needs to do so.
An escalation of the conflict between Israel and the PA has been deferred for now. Nevertheless, the Palestinians have not withdrawn their application to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague.