Abbas defends security cooperation with Israel 'for now'
In today’s politically expedient age, it has become rare to see a leader defend one of his own.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, went on air this week, attempting to deflect the avalanche of angry protests directed at the Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj.
Faraj and a chief Palestinian negotiator were featured in a long article published in an American military publication.
The New York-based Defence News quoted Faraj as saying that the Palestinian security averted nearly 200 attacks against Israelis and arrested 100 Palestinians that were about to attack Israelis.
The statements drew angry responses, especially from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement.
Faraj was attacked even by a number of PLO leaders for his public justification of security cooperation with Israel at a time of continued Israeli summary executions of young Palestinian protesters.
But the Palestinian president would not have any of that. He spoke out publicly in defence of his intelligence chief and took full credit for the policy that Faraj articulated.
He is carrying out my policy, Abbas said, as he defended the actions against would-be Palestinian attackers.
“Yes, security coordination is on until now,” he said.
Abbas explained that his motives are to protect his country.
He said he supported popular protests, but that Palestinians will not be drawn into a military battle because someone wants to use military weapons against the very powerful Israelis.
The Palestinian leader’s position has not been reciprocated, or even recognised, by the rightwing government in Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly attacks Abbas, blaming him and the Palestinian media for the “lone wolf” knife attacks on Jewish settlers and Israeli occupation forces.
In most cases, the Israelis respond by shooting to death the Palestinian assailants, even when their lives are not in danger.
Perhaps the key phrase in Abbas’ most recent statement is his emphasis that security coordination continues “until now”.
It is not clear when this security coordination will end as has been expected since the Palestinian Central Council’s decision to suspend the Oslo Accords on March 5, 2015.
Abbas, who is expected to meet with the Israeli prime minister in Paris later this month, is perhaps planning to accompany the continued security coordination with some real steps to be taken in Palestine.
Abbas will reportedly place clear, tangible requests to the Israelis in order to continue the security coordination.
Some of the expected requests include suspension of settlement activity, release of the agreed-to fourth batch of imprisoned Palestinians, an end to Israeli army incursions into Area A and permission to develop Palestinian lands classified as Area C.
From the Palestinian leader’s point of view, the Oslo Accords, which brought the obligation of security coordination to the Palestinians, also include plenty of obligations on the Israeli side.
It is impossible for Israel to continue to enjoy relatively free rein in and control of the occupied territories and benefit from a robust Palestinian security cooperation without addressing the Palestinians’ political needs.
There is clearly a limit to how far the Palestinians can go in protecting the Israelis.
The head of the Palestinian intelligence service received the brunt of the attacks this week because of his defence of security coordination, even though he justified it by saying that it aims at protecting the lives of Palestinian youths who would die in a battle that does not have a national consensus behind it.
Abbas, who is the real target of the attacks, did well in defending his intelligence chief and taking credit for the current policy.
But it is not clear how long Palestinians will be patient with their leaders, who are providing what appears to be a free service to their occupiers.
A one-way policy without reciprocation will surely not succeed.
The absence of a unified strategy for liberation requires a consensus on methods of resistance.
Support for popular struggle will go nowhere unless non-violent struggle, both inside and outside Palestine, is agreed to and becomes part of the national struggle.
What seems to exist presently is little more than a chaotic, incoherent policy that has no clear support or unified position behind it.