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Palestinian Authority resumes security cooperation with Israel

The Palestinian Authority (PA) will resume civil and security cooperation with Israel, 7 months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas severed ties over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s currently suspended plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinians argued last May that the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed land, which it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, would make a Two-State solution impossible.

PA Civil Affairs Chief Hussein al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter that “Against the background of the contacts made by President [Abbas] regarding Israel’s commitment to the agreements signed with us, and based on the written official messages we received, which prove Israel’s commitment to this, relations with Israel will be renewed as were.”

Israel welcomed the development, which is reportedly the culmination of messages advocating the resumption of ties conveyed via the European Union from Israel’s Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz , as well covert discussions over the past several weeks by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun with the Palestinians, including al-Sheikh and other senior officials, in an effort to resolve the latest dispute.

Since severing ties last May, Ramallah has refused to accept some ₪ 3 billion Shequels ($890 million) in tax transfers that Jerusalem has collected on its behalf from levies on Palestinian imports brought in through Israeli ports; a move that resulted in pay cuts for tens of thousands of Palestinian government officials. The PA also spurned Israel’s offer of help to curb the coronavirus.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said during a Zoom video conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations that the decision to resume contact with Israel was based in part on confronting the health crisis.

Coordination is needed to help curb spread of the disease, Shtayyeh said, in light of the Jewish population of  hundreds of thousands and the tens of thousands of Palestinian workers who enter Israel for work on a daily basis. “Our life is so interconnected between us and the Israelis, and there is no way that we can fight viruses by ourselves only,” he stressed.

“One thing that certainly helped the Palestinians (reach their decision) was (Joe) Biden’s election (as U.S. president), which gave them … an excuse to climb down from the tree,” one Israeli official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

It remains unclear whether the PA will resume any contact with the Trump administration, which Palestinians cut off due to what they claimed was a policy biased towards Israel.

Netanyahu’s suspension of his West Bank annexation proposal as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in recent months also helped smooth the path forward to renewed ties with the Palestinians.

The Islamist Hamas terror group that controls Gaza slammed the PA’s decision to revive ties with Israel as a “stab against efforts to achieve a real national partnership.”

Abbas Fatah faction, which rules the West Bank, has been holding reconciliation talks with its bitter Hamas rival in Egypt.

Gaza City demanded that Ramallah immediately reverse its agreement, and accused it of having “thrown aside all its values and national principles, and the result of the historical meeting between Hamas and Fatah’s leadership.”

“The only thing that will liberate our lands, defend our rights and expel the occupation is true national solidarity,” insisted Hamas.