Shortly after the signing of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Jerusalem Post ran a cartoon that depicted a critical aspect of those accords which has rarely been discussed much less acknowledged. In the cartoon, a smiling Yasser Arafat was sitting upright on a stretcher giving a “V” sign. The stretcher bearers were Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
Its message was clear: the Oslo agreement had come to the rescue of the PLO chairman whose reputation among his fellow Palestinians had sunk to the bottom of the barrel. The price they were to pay was dear: the legitimizing of Israel’s presence in 62% of the West Bank, what is commonly known as Area C and which Israel is quite likely to annex. Arafat’s representative at Oslo who negotiated the accords that effectively signed away West Bank land to Israel and ended the first intifada was Mahmoud Abbas.
Now, let’s jump ahead 21 years to the present where the support of West Bank Palestinians for Abbas, Arafat’s successor, has been even lower than it was for the late PLO chair and with good reason: By any definition one chooses, Abbas is a traitor, a collaborator with the enemy. His Palestinian Authority “Preventive Security” police force closely coordinates its activities with Israel’s security forces with the goal of suppressing resistance to Israel’s ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing while leaving Palestinians without a semblance of protection against Israeli raids on West Bank towns and refugee camps. For all intents and purposes, that goal has been achieved.
Inexplicably, this seems to have been forgotten in the flap over John Kerry’s off-the-record statement to the Trilateral Commission that Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid state if it did not come to an accommodation with the Palestinians–it has been that, de facto, since 1967—and the controversy over the recently announced attempt at reconciliation between Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas.
Moreover, in recent weeks, Abbas has promised that whatever the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the US-trained and financed PA police force will maintain its working relationship with its Israeli counterparts. The latest report was in Israel’s Yediot Ahronot on April 16 of a meeting hosted by Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters that day where he told representatives from Israel’s Labor and Meretz parties that “he is committed to the continuation of the security coordination with Israel, regardless of whether the ongoing peace talks are extended or indeed successful.”
Under the circumstances, is it unreasonable to suspect that the “failure” of the Israelis and Palestinians to arrive at even a framework for a “peace agreement” was not only pre-determined but that Israel wrote the dialogue for both sides? And, furthermore, might it not have been Netanyahu who encouraged Abbas to reach out to Hamas, further solidifying his government’s as well as Abbas’ status?
Ridiculous, scandalous assertions? Paranoia working overtime? Not at all. At least, the suggestion is no more outlandish than to have predicted, as some did, after the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993, that 20 years later, the only Palestinians carrying weapons would be doing so on Israel’s behalf.
Even the PA’s applications to join 15 UN agencies—not, including, of course, the International Criminal Court—can be explained as part of a plan to not only unite Israelis behind Netanyahu, but to rally support for Abbas in the West Bank and Gaza for “standing up to Israel.”
“With the [Fatah-Hamas] deal,” wrote Israeli alternative journalist Noam Sheizaf, “Netanyahu had a perfect alibi: after all, if Abbas is back to doing business with an organization that refuses to recognize Israel and believes in armed resistance, one cannot blame the Israeli government for abandoning the peace process.”
This is the same Abbas, it should be recalled, who sabotaged efforts to bring the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead before the UN Security Council; the same Abbas who has publicly rejected the Palestinian “right of return;” the same Abbas whose earlier willingness, and that of chief PA negotiator, Saeb Erekat, to acquiesce to Israel’s demands were exposed in documents turned over to Al Jazeera in 2011 by a Palestinian Edward Snowden, and the same Abbas who recently reaffirmed his opposition to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions directed against Israel itself. (The Al Jazeera revelations had forced an embarrassed Erekat to submit his resignation as PA’s negotiator, but like everything else in the Alice in Wonderland world within which this conflict seems to be discussed and debated, it was like it never happened.)
It is the security collaboration with Israel, however, that remains the greatest indictment against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and yet, apart from some all too rare outbursts of criticism from Palestinians in the diaspora and even fewer from Palestinian solidarity activists, mention of the subject has largely been restricted to praise for the unholy alliance from Israeli officials and their US agents.
The latest to weigh in is Elliot Abrams of Iran-Contra infamy and one of the original neocons. Abrams felt disposed to come to the defense of the Palestinian quislings when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, no doubt with an eye on getting some of Sheldon Adelson’s billions for a 2016 presidential run, submitted legislation in the Senate that would end all financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (and, with it, funding for its police force.)
In his May 1 Pressure Points column on the Council of Foreign Relations website, Abrams notes that “Senator Rand Paul has tried to attain some pro-Israel credentials by introducing S. 2265, the Stand with Israel Act of 2014. The bill would cut off every cent of aid to the Palestinian Authority unless various conditions were met,” which Abrams goes on to explain is not a good idea.
“Why is this not smart legislation?” he asks. “Among other things, it is not smart because it would force a cut-off of any U.S. assistance to the Palestinian security forces.”
Since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Abrams writes, “the United States has made a major effort to professionalize those forces. American generals have led efforts to train them, at bases in Jordan, and they have worked with American security and intelligence officials.”
He then cites, approvingly, a 2010 assessment from the International Crisis Group:
With certain exceptions outlined above, the General Intelligence Service (Shin Bet) provides its Palestinian counterparts with lists of wanted militants, whom Palestinians subsequently arrest. (Emphasis added). IDF and Israeli intelligence officials take the view that, in this regard, “coordination has never been as extensive”, with “coordination better in all respects”. Moreover, in past years Palestinian security forces were divided and internally ill-coordinated, leading Israel to work with only some of them; today, given a more centralized Palestinian apparatus, Israeli coordinates across the entire PA spectrum. A senior IDF official went so far as to describe the joint work as “beyond our expectations.”
Acknowledging the Al-Jazeera revelations of Israel-PA collaboration in 2011, Abrams points out that the coordinating body for aid donors to the Palestinian Authority noted that “despite the stymied political process and the tense relationship between the government and the Palestinian Authority, in 2011, some 764 joint security meetings were held, a 5% increase over the year before.” In 2013, Abrams noted, retired Gen. Shlomo Brom of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, acknowledged, “This is the best security cooperation we’ve had in years.”
Abrams might have also remarked that, according to Brom, “The Palestinian security forces are much more professional than in the past and they are not political.” That would be taken as a compliment in most cases but this is not one of them.
In an op-ed in the Hebrew version of Yediot Ahronot, April 16, retired Brigadier General Ephraim Sneh also spoke favorably of the PA’s work on Israel’s behalf. “The political leaders both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority refuse to acknowledge this publicly for their own internal reasons,” he wrote. “But in private discussions the heads of the Israel security praise the cooperation with Palestinian security.”
In 2009, Wikileaks released a number of cables that opened to public view the close ties between Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority. One, from the State Department, said that the Israeli prime minister wanted to “strengthen” the PA during his term in office. Another cable, also in 2009, (the last year of Abbas’ term as president) explained why.
According to Israeli defense ministry official Amos Gilad, “Israeli-PA security and economic cooperation in the West Bank continues to improve as Jenin and Nablus flourish, and [he] described Palestinian security forces as the ‘good guys’”
Another cable expressed Gilad’s concern about Abbas’ long term future in working for Israel’s interests while others exposed the close security cooperation and intelligence sharing between the PA and Israel which the PA officials wanted to keep secret. It would appear they have had nothing to worry about.
Despite the Wikileaks revelations, and those, in 2011, by Al Jazeera, no Palestinian officials have paid any price for their collaboration with the enemy. By comparison, imagine for a moment, what the reaction would have been in Northern Ireland if the IRA had taken to guarding the streets of Belfast and Derry for Her Majesty’s occupation forces.
Incredibly, Abbas is expected to meet Hamas’s political bureau chair, Khaled Mishaal, at the palace of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad, in Doha on May 11. Those supporting the more elusive than ever goal of justice for Palestine should hope that the prospect of ending the Israel-PA “security marriage” will have a prominent place on Mishaal’s agenda. They may even wonder why he is meeting with Abbas, in the first place.
On April 10, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoun called on Abbas to “take advantage of Netanyahu’s decision and end all aspects of security coordination with the Israeli regime.”
According to the report, Barhoun underlined a statement that Abbas should let resistance “deter the Israeli occupation and defend our people, our land, and our holy places.” Given Abbas’ track record and an earlier promise that “there will be no third intifada,” that plea seems little more than words and signifies not only Hamas’ weakness and the desperation of the people of Gaza but that the situation facing Palestinians today may be compared to what it was after the Nakba in 1948. There is nothing to celebrate.