Instead of attending another security meeting with Israel, the PA should bolster resistance against it – Middle East Monitor
The English word goes, “once bitten, twice shy”. A more damning Arabic saying roughly translates to “the mind of a person who wants something (failed again) is surely ruined”. Both relate to the Palestinian Authority (PA) which decided to participate in the follow-up Aqaba security meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh which is to take place on Sunday. The meeting brings together again the PA, Israel, USA, Jordan and Egypt.
It is important to mention that the purpose of the Aqaba and Sharm meetings is purely security, with no political solution or return to negotiations on the agenda. To be more precise, it is about how the PA can improve its security performance, not for the Palestinians, but for Israel and its settlers.
100 Palestinians were killed at the beginning of the year due to Israeli military operations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They include women, children and the elderly. Israelis have also died in attacks that even Israel has admitted are ‘individual’ Palestinians, not linked to factions.
The PA announced that it was ending security cooperation with Israel following the massacre in Jenin by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in which nine Palestinians were assassinated by occupation forces. The representative of the Palestinian Authority, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said after the Israeli operation that “security coordination with the occupation government no longer exists until now.”
The announcement drew immediate rejection from Israel’s staunchest ally, the US. “We don’t think this is the right step to take at this moment,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told reporters in a telephone briefing, though she stopped short of condemning the Palestinian deaths. She said: “Far from stepping back on security coordination, we believe it is important that the parties maintain, and if anything, deepen security coordination.” A very strange notion where the US wants occupied people to deepen security cooperation with their occupier.
Palestinians met the PA’s announcement with the usual skepticism that security cooperation could be reduced but not canceled.
The United States apparently set up the Aqaba meeting to ensure that security cooperation was stepped up, to the disbelief of the Palestinians and their supporters. Why are Palestinian officials sitting and shaking hands with the occupied state?
READ: PA abides by the terms of Aqaba and Israel continues its crimes
At the end of the meeting, the US State Department issued an eight-point communique, which essentially referred to a commitment from ‘both sides’ to “de-escalation on the ground and prevention of further violence.” As a great achievement at the meeting.
The communique referred to “the importance of upholding the historical status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem in word and practice.”
The third main result was that both sides confirmed their “willingness and joint commitment to work immediately to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months. This includes Israel’s commitment to halt discussions on any new settlement units for 4 months and to halt the authorization of any outposts for 6 months.”
As the Aqaba meeting was still ongoing, Israeli leaders dismissed the agreed points. Israeli Security Minister and Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir gave the clearest rejection saying “what was in Jordan (if it was), will remain in Jordan”. Although the Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich claimed that he had no knowledge of the context of the Aqaba discussion. He declared: “There will be no freeze on construction and development in the settlement, not even for one day.”
Anyone who thought that the former Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu would be careful not to interfere with the Americans and would be more restrained, got his answer as Netanyahu declared that there would be no construction freeze over the Green Line. “Construction and regulation in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] it will continue according to the original planning and construction schedule, without any changes. There is and will be no freezing.”
The statements of three members of Israel’s extremist government did not go down well with the Americans. A senior security official said Washington was “embarrassed” by the ministers’ remarks.
The Aqaba communique was stillborn. Israel continued to attack Palestinian cities and assassinate Palestinians, often blocking the access of medical staff to the injured. In addition, settler violence continued under the protection of the occupation forces.
The growing tension in the OPT moved from Jenin and Nablus, which bore the brunt of Israel’s increasing violence, to the town of Huwara, near Nablus. A Palestinian gunman attacked and killed two Israeli settlers. It was later described by many as a pogrom in which approximately 300 illegal settlers and the IDF attacked the Palestinians in the occupied town. They terrorized families and burned houses, businesses and vehicles.
A sense of dread could be felt when sharing images from Huwara on social media. The devastation and trauma felt in the town was unlike anything seen before. It was the duty of the Israeli Minister Smotrich not to try to calm the situation but to call for the “destruction” of the Palestinian village. Many western countries condemned the call. The US State Department said the call “constituted incitement to violence and must be publicly disowned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Netanyahu did not answer the call. Although Smotrich, rather than apologizing to the Palestinians for his remarks, he eventually issued an apology to the IDF, claiming that he did not understand that the remarks, which provoked a strong protest by many Israeli Air Force pilots, would be interpreted as “military order. “.
Far from the pacifiers on the ground, a lone Palestinian gunman attacked and wounded three Israelis in Tel Aviv and Israeli forces attacked Palestinians in Jinan, killing four Palestinians including a child, Mohammed Omar Mohammed Awadin.
After trying to reach deals and understandings and even peace talks with Israel from Oslo, which happened 30 years ago, and considering the current extremist Israeli government and the almost daily raids and killings in the OPT, Hussein El-Sheikh wondered, will the general secretary of the PLO, and Majed Faraj, the head of Palestinian Security, go to Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday? It is a meeting where the only item on the table will be how the PA, through its security forces and security cooperation with the occupier, will ensure calm for Israelis during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli violence has increased in the past two Ramadans, particularly in Jerusalem.
Obviously, this is not a meeting on the road to end the occupation. Don’t Al-Sheikh and Faraj learn from their bitter experience of talking to their occupier and protector? The Palestinians cannot imagine shaking hands with their killers, but both will. What are they hoping to achieve?
They would be more in tune with their people if they boycotted the Sharm meeting, if they worked on public opposition to the occupation and on protecting the Palestinians against the violence of illegal settlers.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.