PLO Decides to Halt Security Coordination with Israel

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An Israeli soldier walks down stairs in front of a graffiti scrawled by Zionist settlers on the wall of a Palestinian home on March 5, 2015 in al-Mughayir, east of Ramallah in the northern West Bank. The graffiti in Hebrew is a sentence from the Book of Esther in which Jews ruled over their enemies. AFP/Abbas Momani

Published Friday, March 6, 2015

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank said on Thursday they would halt the security coordination with Israel, which was credited by some as helping keep order in the territory and preventing anti-Israel attacks, while others said it served Israeli interests by aiding and abetting oppression of Palestinians.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s central council (PCC), whose votes are usually binding on the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), said it made the decision because Israel had breached bilateral agreements, including by withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA.

The PLO said its executive committee would meet to implement the decision taken by the central council which held a two-day meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, without giving a date.

A spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who must make the official decision to sever security ties with Israel, was not available and it was unclear whether the PCC decision would go immediately into effect.

But Central committee member Mustafa Barghouthi said its decisions were binding on the PA "because it was the PLO which created it (the Authority) and which signed the Oslo accords."

The decision spells "the end of the Oslo period, which Israel destroyed", he told AFP.

Bassem al-Saleh, a PCC member, told Reuters the council's decision would be put into effect.

"This is a decision that was taken and the PLO executive committee will follow up on the implementation," he said.

An Israeli security official, asked about the decision, told Reuters there had been no changes in security cooperation.

Israel said in January it was freezing $127 million of monthly Palestinian tax revenue in protest against Abbas' decision to apply for membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and pursue war crime charges against Israel.

The Palestinian Authority had also submitted a UN Security Council resolution in December — which was voted down — calling for an end to Israel's occupation of the West Bank within two years.

The tax money covers around two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority budget and is used to pay tens of thousands of public sector employees, threatening the Palestinian political body’s very existence.

A statement issued by the 110-member PCC read: "Security coordination in all its forms with the authority of the Israeli occupation will be stopped in the light of its (Israel's) non-compliance with the agreements signed between the two sides."

It said Israel "should shoulder all its responsibilities toward the Palestinian people in the occupied state of Palestine as an occupation authority according to international law."

If the PA itself is scrapped, Israel would have to take responsibility for 4.5 million Palestinians.

The agreement on security coordination dates from the Oslo peace accords of 1993. Palestinian security forces have since required Israeli permission to send patrols into the large swathes of the West Bank under full Israeli control to preserve law and order.

The Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which is the de facto power in the Gaza Strip, praised the PLO’s decision.

"Many of the decisions taken by the PLO Central Committee are good and constitute a step in the right direction, and Hamas is receiving them positively," leading group member Moussa Abu Marzouq said in a statement late Thursday.

US-backed talks between the Palestinians and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government collapsed in April after nine months of fruitless meetings and Israeli failure uphold promises to halt illegal settlement building and release a batch of prisoners.

Relations have since further deteriorated, after a devastating Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip this summer which killed 2,310 Palestinians. Palestinians have since made moves to join international organizations and obtain justice in the international arena, a plan which has been slammed by Israel and its biggest ally, the United States.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state — a move never recognized by the international community.

(Reuters, AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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