Israel and Palestine resume their relations under the auspices of the UN
Last Wednesday the dialogues of the oldest conflict in the Middle East resumed after six months of paralysis. Finally, Palestine accepted the initiative to resume bilateral cooperation with Israel in the framework of the Oslo Accords. These meetings, according to statements by the United Nations, can be the basis for a return to peace negotiations.
Yesterday, two senior officials from Israel and the Palestinian National Authority met in Ramallah (occupied area in the West Bank). The UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, stressed the importance of the two parties respecting the established framework of relations and pointed out that, although this is insufficient to respond to the aspirations of the Palestinians, it offers a “basic pillar” without the one that it is impossible to think of returning to the dialogue table.
The PNA will resume coordination with Israel after having interrupted it last May at all levels in protest at the Israeli government’s plans to annex part of the occupied West Bank, while Israel confirmed that it will respect those mechanisms. The Israeli annexation plan was put on hold following the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates through the Abraham Accords this September.
Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheik yesterday tweeted about the meetings held with Israel. “Today I had a meeting with the Israeli side, during which it was emphasized that the bilateral agreements that have been signed govern this relationship,” referring to the meetings where multiple agreements were signed, including those in Oslo in 1993.
According to Al-Sheik, it was agreed to transfer all that was financially owed to the ANP and “organize another meeting soon.” According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Al-Sheik also met with the general and head of the Unit for the Coordination of Activities of the Israeli Government in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT), Kamil Abu Rukoun. But from the organization, consulted by AFP, no comments have been made about these meetings.
Coordination activities between the Palestinian Authority and the Hebrew state resumed on Tuesday after receiving “written and verbal commitments from the Israelis,” Al-Sheik said. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh later indicated that they were resuming “contact with the Israelis on financial, political and health issues.”
What did the 1993 Oslo Accords consist of?
The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 by Mahmoud Abbas, of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres. These agreements, in principle, established a period of five years to negotiate a permanent agreement.
During this period, it would be the Israeli Government that would be responsible for “foreign affairs, national defense and borders.” In this regard, Israel would remain responsible for security at the international borders and crossing points with Egypt and Jordan. Furthermore, Israel would also retain responsibility for security in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
These measures are not to the liking of the Palestinian people, which is why the Oslo Accords contemplated an interim Palestinian self-government: the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The idea was to transfer to them the powers and responsibilities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The competencies transferred to the ANP in certain areas consisted of education, culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation, tourism, and the establishment of a Palestinian Police.
Resuming talks does not mean an early political solution
Since the last coordination with Israel six months ago, the Palestinian Authority no longer receives transfers of taxes (particularly customs) collected by Israel on behalf of this institution. Deprived of this income, the ANP has had to cut the salaries of its officials at a time when the economy is slowing down due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in May justified the end of security coordination activities to protest against the Israeli project to annex parts of the West Bank, a territory occupied by the Israeli army since 1967.
The resumption of coordination between Israelis and Palestinians will mean that both authorities cooperate again in crucial areas such as security and could also help resolve the conflict at the financial level, which has resulted in the PNA ceasing to receive the taxes that Israel collected on his behalf under the Oslo Peace Accords.
Mladenov, UN special envoy, highlighted the importance of the return of cooperation in the current context of the health crisis due to the coronavirus, which is of particular concern in Gaza, given that the strip is very unprepared for a possible large increase in cases.
“Already affected by severe restrictions on movement and access, cycles of violent escalation and years of humanitarian and socio-economic calamity, the two million Palestinians living on the edge of Gaza would face catastrophic consequences with a major outbreak,” the envoy stressed.
In his presentation to the Security Council, Mladenov also expressed his concern about the Israeli public tender for the construction of more than a thousand houses in the Givat Hamatos colony in East Jerusalem, and about the recent demolitions of Palestinian buildings in areas of the occupied West Bank.
Pompeo visits the West Bank, shaking the opinion of the PLO and Hamas
Thursday’s meeting came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Israel and the West Bank, where he visited a Jewish colony, the first such visit by a US foreign minister.
The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules de facto in Gaza, today described the visit of Pompeo as “harassment” of the Palestinians. This “is an extension of Pompeo’s constant aggressive behavior against the Palestinian people, and is a clear signal to advance the process of the gradual annexation of the West Bank,” declared Hazem Qasem, spokesman for the movement, considered a terrorist group by the European Union, Israel. and the United States, among others.
Today’s events, Qasem added, “confirm that the normalization agreements signed by Pompeo with various Arab regimes are the result of a disinformation campaign”, and the fact that “some parties argue that the agreements come in the context of stopping the Annexation is nothing more than a marketing illusion. ‘
By this he was referring specifically to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, since with the announcement of its establishment of relations with Israel, Abu Dhabi argued that with this step it paralyzed the Israeli intention to annex parts of the West Bank, as allowed by the plan to peace presented by Donald Trump earlier this year.
Israel for its part assured that the annexation plans were only temporarily suspended, but that they were still (and still) on the table.
Hanan Ashrawi, a spokesman for the PLO and a member of its Executive Committee, said in a statement that “Israel is exploiting this transitional period to approve large and strategic settlement expansions and for other destructive steps” and called for “immediate” international action to stop it. .
He also condemned the “desperate efforts of the Trump administration to give the Israeli settler regime more political rewards.” Pompeo today became the first US secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank during an official trip, breaking with the protocol that prevented doing so by not considering the colonies sovereign Israeli territory.
Until now, US government representatives only visited the West Bank as part of visits to Palestinian, not Israeli, authorities. With this trip to the Psagot colony, Pompeo has tried to boost the recognition of the colonies as legitimate Israeli territory, something that no country in the international community assumes, which considers the West Bank occupied Palestinian territory.