Palestinians hint at end to security pact with Israel unless settlement construction stops

Ramallah

With Israeli-Palestinian relations deteriorating, a senior Palestinian official is warning that its security forces will stop helping the Israeli army to thwart attacks unless settlement construction in the occupied West Bank is halted.

“The Israelis are undermining all agreements and keeping only the security co-ordination to the maximum,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas and secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee.

“If they pursue the same policy through continuous settlement activity, and lately though destroying the peace process they are paving the way for the destruction of what remains of our relationship – the security co-ordination.”

The comments are symptomatic of how poisoned relations have become in recent weeks. Israel halted negotiationswith Palestine last month after Mr Abbas reached a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

But the peace process has been in critical condition since 29 March, when Israel failed to fulfil a commitment to release a group of Palestinian prisoners. That, and the expansion of settlements, prompted Mr Abbas to join 15 international conventions and treaties, something Israel considered to violate the peace process.

Hamas, whose members have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority as part of the co-ordination, has stepped up calls for the authority to end it as part of the reconciliation.

But Mr Abed Rabbo, in an interview with The Independent at his offices in Ramallah, said that co-ordination was a function of Israeli settlement and other policies, not the new chapter with Hamas.

He asked how it was possible to co-operate with the Israeli army when it was integral to the system of confiscating Palestinian land. “They are extending one hand to shake with us and with the other they are stabbing us,” he said.

Asked whether terminating the co-ordination would amount to tearing up the 1993 Oslo Agreement on self-rule, Mr Abed Rabbo said Israel had violated it so many times “there is nothing left to tear of the Oslo Agreement”.

Gadi Zohar, the head of the Council for Peace and Security, said he did not think Mr Abed Rabbo’s stance reflected the views of Mr Abbas. “From what I know Abu Mazen [MrAbbas] wants to continue the co-ordination,” Mr Zohar said.

An Israeli official, who requested anonymity, reacted sharply to Mr Abed Rabbo’s comments: “The peace process is based on the 1993 that letter Yasser Arafat sent to Yitzhak Rabin in which he promised to renounce terrorism and to solve outstanding issues by negotiation. If the Palestinian side abrogates those principles it will be putting the final nail in the coffin of the peace process.”

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