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Monday, June 6, 2016
MEMRI: PLO Executive Committee's Decision To End Security Coordination With Israel Sparks Debate Within The Organization

June 6, 2016 Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.1254
PLO Executive Committee's Decision To End Security Coordination With Israel
Sparks Debate Within The Organization
By: B. Shanee*


The contacts with Israel, and especially the security coordination with it,
are the topic of an ongoing internal debate within Palestinian political
circles and among the Palestinian public. Calls for ending the security
coordination and severing the ties with Israel are heard from time to time
from officials in the various Palestinian factions within the PLO.

The debate on the security coordination reached a turning point on March 3,
2015, when the PLO Central Council resolved to "end all forms of security
coordination with the Israeli occupation authorities," on the grounds that
Israel was not complying with agreements it had signed with the
Palestinians.[1] Following this decision by the Central Council, calls were
heard to implement it in practice, including from prominent Fatah members
such as Marwan Al-Barghouti, 'Abbas Zaki and Tawfiq Al-Tirawi. However,
Fatah movement chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas, who is also president of the
Palestinian Authority (PA) and chairman of the PLO Executive Committee,
refrained from taking any action to stop the security coordination, and even
clarified that it continues as usual.[2] As the largest faction in the PLO,
it is Fatah that determines the policy of the movement as a whole. Hence, in
the absence of any action to implement the Central Council's decision by
either the Fatah leadership or the PA (which is Palestinian executive
authority), the Central Council's decision remained effectively meaningless.

Recently, the PLO Executive Committee also announced that it decided, in its
May 4, 2016 session, "to immediately begin implementing the Palestinian
Central Council's decisions regarding limiting the political, economic and
security relations with the occupation authorities [i.e., Israel]," and this
due to "Israel's disregard of signed agreements and its insistence on
destroying the two-state solution."[3]

The PLO Executive Committee's decision apparently reflects a change in
Fatah's policy that was decided upon in a meeting of the Fatah Central
Committee on May 2, 2016. According to Fatah official Saeb Erekat, who is
also the PLO secretary-general, in this meeting the Fatah Central Committee
decided to advise the PLO Executive Committee to implement the PLO Central
Council's decision from March 2015 by ordering to end the economic and
security ties with Israel. Erekat explained that the Fatah Central
Committee's decision was a response to measures recently taken by Israel
that threatened the vision of an independent Palestinian state – including
Israel's rejection in April of the French initiative for convening an
international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; Israel's
refusal to refrain from entering Area A territories, an well as reported
initiatives by Israeli politicians to apply Israeli law in some Area C

Mahmoud 'Abbas, who has so far pursued a policy of continuing the security
coordination, refrained from commenting on the Executive Committee's
decision, except in a speech on the occasion of Nakba Day, in which he
implied that the decision would be implemented if Israel failed to comply
with signed agreements. He said that the Palestinian leadership would
continue "to implement the directives of the PLO Executive Committee to
limit relations with Israel in accordance with [Israel's] degree of
commitment to the signed agreements."[4] Another PA official that commented
on the decision was the head of the Palestinian national accord government,
Rami Al-Hamdallah, who said on May 16, 2016 that "the PLO's decision
requires establishing mechanisms for implementing it in practice, and
therefore the security coordination with Israel still continues."[5]

The Executive Committee's decision to limit the relations with Israel
sparked a heated debate in Palestinian society, with many figures calling to
implement the decision and others speaking against it. An unusually harsh
response came from the former mayor of Nablus, Fatah member Ghassan
Al-Shak'a, who is himself a member of the PLO Executive Committee. He argued
that it is neither possible nor desirable to sever the economic and security
relations with Israel, since such a move would adversely affect the lives of
the Palestinian people. Palestinian National Council (PNC) member Faisal Abu
Khadra, and another Palestinian official who declined to identify himself,
likewise criticized the decision, saying it was unrealistic. Talal 'Okal, a
columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote that even the Palestinians do not
believe that the decision can be implemented, and therefore Israel certainly
can't be expected to believe it.

This criticism of the decision, and especially Al-Shak'a's statements,
sparked counter-criticism from people who called to implement the decision
and rebuked Al-Sha'ka for his position and the PA for refraining from
actualizing it.

The following are translated excerpts from some of the critical responses to
the Executive Committee's decision, and from some of the counter-criticism
published in the Palestinian media in response to Al-Shaq'a's statements.

Criticism Of PLO Executive Committee's Decision: It Is "Neither Feasible Nor

Former Nablus Mayor Ghassan Al-Shak'a: The Security Coordination Serves The
Palestinian Interest

As stated, the Executive Committee's decision sparked unusually harsh
criticism from former Nablus mayor and Executive Committee member Ghassan
Al-Shak'a. He said that the Central Council's decision had been taken by
members who were out of touch with the day-to-day reality in the Palestinian
territories and who had acted out of emotion. He explained that the
Palestinian economy is completely dependent on Israel and that the security
coordination with Israel serves Palestinian interests. Hence, he said, it is
neither feasible nor desirable to sever the economic and security relations
with Israel. Al-Shaq'a added that, since the negotiations between the
Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have failed, dialogue should start at
the level of the people and only later expand to involve the leaders.

Al-Shaq'a's statements were published on local news websites, such as the
Nablus city website Nablus Live, as well as on the Kofia Press website,
which is associated with 'Abbas's rival, former Fatah official Muhammad

Al-Shaq'a was quoted as saying: "The decision taken by the Palestinian
Central Council in its latest session [on March 2015], namely that relations
with Israel must be severed, was an emotional decision, since most of the
Central Council members came from abroad, from Chile, Romania, Australia,
America and other countries, and their view of the Palestinian issue is more
emotional than it is practical and realistic – unlike [the view taken by]
us, the members [who live] inside Palestine... [True,] the job of the PLO
Executive Committee is to implement the Central Council's decision, and not
to reject it, accept it or vote on it, but in our last session we
[nevertheless] expressed our reservations regarding it and our opinion about

"[I maintain that] we kid ourselves when we say we are able to boycott
Israel or sever our relations with it, especially in the two domains of
security and economy, which are fundamental to the lives of the Palestinian
people and the residents of the occupied West Bank... [If we sever these
relations] how can we bring fuel and flour [into our territories] and how
can we keep the power running, etc.? Israel controls us on land, in the sea
and in the air. If we decided, hypothetically, to sever our economic
relations with Israel and cancel the Paris Protocol on economic [relations],
could we actually live without them? That is the question we must put to
those who demand day and night to end the economic and security coordination
and to sever the relations with Israel...

"When Israel wants to enter a village, city or refugee camp, it does not
care whether they are in area A, B or C, because we have no sovereignty over
the land, with or without security coordination. Security coordination
serves our interest. If the PA wants to launch a security campaign to
enforce law and order, as it did in Nablus when it brought in 1,500 security
officers [from all over the West Bank] – would it be able to do this without
security coordination with Israel? Of course not. [Furthermore,] there are
1,000 individuals wanted [by Israel] who are [held] in bases of the
[Palestinian] security apparatuses throughout the West Bank. If we suspend
the security coordination, Israel will surely arrest them immediately, and
that will be to the detriment of our young people...

"In deciding to sever relations with Israel, we in the Central Council and
the Executive Committee went too far, because as a leadership, government
and authority we are unable to implement such decisions at this stage.
[Implementing them] will harm our people, their [daily] lives and their
interests, and we do not want to make things even harder for them [than they
already are]...

"The alternative is negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis that
will begin at the bottom, at the level of the people, [and only later
involve] the leadership. The other kind of negotiations [i.e., negotiations
between the leaderships] failed in the past because the people did not
believe in them... I am against bilateral meetings and negotiations [between
the leaders] because they will ultimately fail..."[6]

Palestinian Official, PNC Member: The Decision To End Security Coordination
Is Unfeasible

Criticism of the PLO Executive Committee's decision was also expressed by
other elements. A Palestinian official who declined to identify himself told
the London-based Al-Hayat daily, "The PA is incapable, at this stage, of
stopping the security coordination with Israel." He assessed that the scope
of the security coordination would be reduced, but that it would not be
stopped altogether.[7]

Palestinian National Council member Faisal Abu Khadra, who writes for the
Al-Quds daily, called the Executive Committee's decision unrealistic, said
it shouldn't be implemented, and called for going back to the outlines of
the Oslo Accords. He said: "With all due respect for the Central Committee's
decision to end security coordination, it is a complete mistake, because the
Palestinian police strength does not compare to that of the occupying army –
and, furthermore, ending the security coordination would mean ending the
Oslo Accords, which constitute the only agreement that recognized the PLO.
This [agreement] is an accomplishment that cannot be denied, and Israel
longs for the implementation of this decision [stopping security
coordination] so that it can cancel the Oslo Accords. In light of the
Palestinian schism, the Arab schism, and the Arab Spring that destroyed
everything that was built over seven decades, we have no choice but to
implement the Oslo Accords..."[8]

Columnist For PA Daily: The Executive Committee's Decision Is Inappropriate
In Light Of The Difficult Situation Of The Palestinian People

Talal 'Okal, a columnist for the PA Al-Ayyam daily, also criticized the
Executive Committee's decision, stating that it was inappropriate in light
of the difficult situation of the Palestinians, and adding that Israel
cannot be expected to believe in the decision because the Palestinians
themselves do not believe in it. He wrote: "Personally, I don't know how it
is possible to make decisions that are so important and grave while the
Palestinian situation continues as it is. As far as I'm concerned, despite
the danger in the PA's continuing to act in accordance with what is set out
for it in the Oslo Accords, I don't think that a change in this situation
[i.e. ending security coordination with Israel] will be right, in light of
the tragic and difficult situation of the Palestinians today...

"The question is, how is it possible for the Palestinian leadership to
escalate the conflict [by means of stopping the security coordination] while
the Palestinian fortress is weak, fragile, and conflicted at home, and the
schism within it is harming it so severely?

"Whoever decides to escalate the conflict must [first] restore national
unity and national decision-making unity; he must rebuild the Palestinian
leadership institutions, from the PLO to the PA, and must regain the trust
in Palestinian society, that is always suffering from being ignored and
marginalized. Whoever decides to escalate the conflict must allow the power
of the intifada to be realized, as a popular, peaceful intifada against the
occupation, and must do so within an inclusive national strategy agreed upon
by the entire national [public]...

"The truth is that if we, the national Palestinians, do not believe [in the
PLO Executive Committee's decision], then how can we expect the occupation
to believe what it hears, while [on the ground] it sees things that
contradict [this]?"[9]

Reactions To Al-Shak'a's Statements By PA Elements And Palestinian Public

As noted, criticism of the PLO Executive Committee's decision, and
particularly the statements of Ghassan Al-Shak'a, sparked counter-reactions
from the Palestinian media and public. In the media, this came from three
main elements: a) supporters of 'Abbas and the PA who defended the decision
as a political choice by the Palestinian leadership; b) Palestinian elements
identified with Fatah who advocate stopping security coordination with
Israel and were overjoyed at the Executive Committee's decision; and c)
Hamas elements, which also want an end to security coordination and which
seized on Al-Shak'a's statements as an opportunity to criticize PA policy.

Additionally, Al-Shak'a statements about the Executive Committee decision
were met with mixed responses across social media. For example, the Facebook
page of the Nablus local news website (Facebook.com/NablusCity) published
comments taking issue with his statements. While many Palestinian readers
supported Al-Shak'a, saying that he had made "realistic statements that are
far from imaginary" and are "logical and convincing," many others objected
to what he had said and attacked him personally, posting comments such as
"Negotiations always lead to a dead end. We need a real and honorable
intifada. The homeland needs sacrifice."[10]

Columnist For PA Daily: The Executive Committee's Decision Was A Bold Step,
Criticism Of It Is Objection For Its Own Sake

In his column in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 'Omar Al-Ghoul, who was an
advisor to former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, justified the
Executive Committee decision, saying that the criticism of it was unfounded.
He said that all the Israeli government operations and statements by its
ministers indicated that "the Israeli leadership is not interested at all in
opening any window to the option of a political arrangement. Therefore, the
[Palestinian] leadership, headed by President 'Abbas, must implement the
Executive Committee's decision, and limit political, economic, and security
relations with the Israeli state [which] reneges [on agreements]. True,
every Palestinian knows in advance that this decision will bring the
opposite result [that is, negative consequences] to the Palestinian people,
particularly since the coordination has not been limited only to security
coordination but includes all aspects of Palestinian life. [But it was the
actions of Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu and his extremist ruling
coalition... that brought the Palestinian leadership to take this bold step.
Yes, [this decision is] bold, because of the dangerous and difficult
consequences that it will have, that will harm all the Palestinians no
matter what their political, social, economic, religious, and cultural
status. But this step is [also] bold because it will hurt the Israeli side,
that never for a moment thought that the Palestinian leadership would dare
to take it.

"The Palestinian leadership will express its skill with its ability to
creatively implement [the decision concerning] ending the coordination in a
way that will, to the greatest extent possible, not harm the interests of
the people... Those who doubt the leadership's decision are not doing so for
any grounded reason, but are objecting for the sake of objecting.
Unfortunately, some of those who are raising doubts [i.e. Al-Shak'a, who was
head of the PLO international relations department during the Oslo
negotiations] were part of the negotiating team at Oslo. Nevertheless, the
leadership must continue to adhere to, and to reexamine, the supreme
national interests of the people, and must throw the ball into the court of
Netanyahu and its backers."[11]

Former Arafat Advisor: "We Oppose The Dissemination Of A Culture Of
Defeatism Instead Of The Culture Of Resistance"

In contrast to Al-Ghoul's moderate criticism, Hanan 'Awad, a member of the
PNC and former advisor to Yasser Arafat, launched a scathing attack on
Al-Shak'a's statements. Addressing Al-Shak'a, 'Awad pointed out that his
statements were disseminating defeatism and weakness, and reflected the
Palestinian leadership's deception, since this leadership was not really
taking steps to oppose the occupation and gain independence for the

With regard to Al-Shak'a's argument that PLO representatives abroad were
making emotional, irrational decisions, 'Awad answered: "The Palestinian
people within [Palestine] and abroad is one, and bears the spirit of the
[Palestinian] cause and struggle. The Palestinians who live abroad are
originally from Palestine. It is they who have lost their homes, and been
forced to emigrate, and it is they who are waiting to [actualize] their
right of return... The emotional and conscience aspect [of the decision] is
the main basis of the practical aspect, because the national identity
comprises raging emotions that connect the Palestinian to his national land
and culture, and they are the collective conscience of the masses.

"With regard to the security aspect and our need for security coordination
with Israel..., we want to continue the achievements of the president, so
that [we will be able to] declare a state and mobilize international support
for this move. By means of this achievement, the Palestinian state will have
full control over its borders, crossings, air[space], and sea, and the
occupier will have no right to invade its territory."

She continued: "Your declarations, [Shak'a], regarding protection of the
wanted men contradict your initial statement that Israel can invade any
territory and arrest and kill as it wishes, as it does every day... We know
that our battle against the occupation is not easy. We oppose the
dissemination of the culture of defeatism instead of the culture of
resistance, in all its forms...

"What popular negotiations do you want [there to be] after 22 years of a war
of elimination, horror, targeted killings, arrests, and expulsion? This, as
the Israeli government, which has the support of its people, turns to
extremism and to putting down roots in our land. How [can] we call for more
submission and normalization [with Israel] while the global boycott movement
has managed to influence the countries of the world to boycott Israel
politically, socially, and economically?

"Thank you. Thank you. We have been deceived."[12]

*B. Shanee is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 6, 2015.

[2] Al-jazeera.net, January 24, 2016.

[3] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 5, 2016.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 15, 2016.

[5] Paltoday.ps, May 16, 2016.

[6] Kofiapress.net, May 8, 2016.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), May 15, 2016.

[8] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 15, 2016.

[9] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 9, 2016.

[10] Facebook.com/NablusCity, May 8, 2016.

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadia (PA), May 9, 2016.

[12] Pulpit.alwatanvoice.com, May 10, 2016.

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Materials may only be cited with proper attribution.

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