GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a decision Dec. 25 demanding that the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, halt all forms of local political meetings and coordination with Palestinian officials. This decision was in response to the Dec. 23 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.
Palestinian officials viewed the decision — which did not include security coordination given its importance to both Palestinians and Israelis — as media hype to address Israeli public opinion. The Israeli opposition has leveled harsh criticism against Benjamin Netanyahu's government for the UN resolution.
On Dec. 30, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Liberman’s decision and rejected Israel’s method of dealing with the Palestinians. He stressed that security coordination between both sides will continue, considering it a common Israeli-Palestinian interest.
The UN resolution, which Palestinians described as historic, was adopted with 14 votes, while the United States abstained without vetoing the resolution. Netanyahu, however, said it was a “shameful” resolution and accused the Obama administration of standing behind it.
Wassel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, “It is in the Palestinians’ interest to end all forms of civil, political and security coordination with Israel and to hold [Israel] accountable for all of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”
Abu Yousef added that whatever the punitive measures against Palestinians are, Israel will not keep them from obtaining their rights via international institutions. He called on the PA to implement the March 5, 2015, PLO Central Council's decisions, including the decision to halt all forms of coordination, as well security coordination with Israel.
He pointed out that Israel cannot take more punitive measures against the Palestinian people than the measures they have already taken: confiscating land in the West Bank, building settlements and carrying out field executions against Palestinians. He explained that the next PA step is to stress the UN Security Council’s condemnation of settlements in the Peace Conference scheduled for Jan. 15 in Paris and to compel Israel to abide by it.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, described Liberman's decision as nothing but “hollow threats” that has no importance on the ground, given that Israel takes punitive measures against Palestinians on a daily basis.
Barghouti said, “If Israel wants to end civil coordination, then the PA must stop security coordination, implement the PLO Central Council’s decision to define ties with Israel and end all ties and coordination with Israel.”
He demanded that the PA not succumb to Israeli and US threats — especially US President-elect Donald Trump's threat that things will be different in the UN Security Council after Jan 20, promises to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and statements encouraging settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Kayed al-Ghul, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's political bureau, called on the PA to not allow the Israeli government to have the upper hand in civil or security coordination. He also demanded that the PA end all form of coordination with Israel, before the latter does.
Ghul demanded that the PA relieve itself from bilateral agreements, rebuild the unity-based internal Palestinian strategy in the face of Israel’s plans to undermine the Palestinian cause and ignore Trump’s threats of vetoing any anti-Israel resolution after Jan. 20.
The United States vetoed resolutions related to Palestinians 33 times from 1979 to 2014, most recently among these was the December 2014 draft UN Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state and ending Israeli occupation during 2017.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Walid al-Moudallal, a professor of political science at the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip, ruled out the possibility that Israel implements the decision to halt civil coordination with the PA, as it serves both Israeli and Palestinian interests. He believes this decision is designed to address the Israeli public, following the opposition’s criticism, to redeem the prestige of the Israeli government after the adoption of the UN resolution.
Moudallal said that it is ridiculous to believe that a resolution condemning settlements would deter Israel, given that the settlements issue has gone beyond international resolutions and condemnations and has reached a stage where it is hard to be overcome and dismantle the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He said that the resolution will likely confuse Israel at the political and diplomatic levels, but it would not do more than that.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, political analyst Mohamed Hawash also downplayed Israel’s punitive measures against the Palestinians. He ruled out the possibility that these measures could be harsher than the already imposed siege on the Gaza Strip since 2006, the confiscation of land in the West Bank and settlement expansion.
Hawash warned that Palestinians should not be concerned about Israel’s declared punitive measures. Rather, they should be concerned that Israel could ignore the international community in terms of the cessation of settlement activities, resumption of negotiations, the end of the occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.
Palestinians have correlated Israel’s decision to its satisfaction with Trump’s promises. The Trump administration could abolish the resolution after he takes office Jan 20. This is not to mention that Israel will not abide by the resolution.