It was “high time” to take steps to separate the Palestinian economy from that of Israel, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Mohammed Mustafa, told The Media Line.
“The ultimate objective for us Palestinians, both on the political and economic tracks, is to achieve political and economic independence from Israel,” Mustafa said.
Palestinian officials say they will present a resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for an end to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this week even though it is not clear whether they have enough votes for it to pass. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that if the resolution fails in the UN, the PA will “cut ties” with Israel.
West Bank-Jordan border (Photo: AP)
Abbas did not give details, but he was apparently referring to the security cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli security services which Israel credits with stopping dozens of potential violent attacks. But it could also mean dissolving the Palestinian Authority as an entity, which would leave Israel responsible for municipal services in the West Bank including education.
The plan the Palestinian Authority will present to the UN sets a time limit of 2017 for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. In addition, it calls for a peace deal to be reached within one year with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, a demand Israel has always vehemently refused.
“We therefore believe that it’s high time for taking steps in this direction,” Mustafa said.
“If it (the UN bid) fails, we will no longer deal with the Israeli government, which will then be forced to assume its responsibilities as an occupier,” Abbas said.
But a Palestinian manager working in the National Economy Ministry told The Media Line that his employees are worried about the consequences of a failed UN bid.
“There will be chaos followed by a PA financial crisis. That’s for sure,” predicted the official, who is not designated to talk to media about economic ties between Palestinians and Israelis.
The official went on to say that the PA uses customs taxes that Israel collects on its behalf to pay a significant portion of the salaries of civil servants and if the PA cuts ties with Israel, Israel could withhold this money, as it has repeatedly done in the past.
Despite this, PLO official Wasel Abu Yousef says Abbas spoke on behalf of all Palestinians who have been calling for an end to PA-Israeli cooperation.
The economy ministry manager said the Palestinian economy “coexists” with Israel and cannot survive without it because it is dependent upon Israel’s electricity, water and many consumer goods.
Palestinian security forces (Photo: AP)
But Mustafa said that since 1994, when the protocol on economic relations between Israel and the PLO was agreed to in Paris, “the Palestinian national economy was strangled as the protocol granted Israel control over several key aspects of the Palestinian economy, including trade and fiscal issues,” which, he said, has had serious consequences.
“This has led to limited economic growth, high unemployment and dependence on foreign aid,” he said.
Abu Yousef says it is not surprising that Palestinians have reached this point. “US- sponsored bilateral negotiations with the Israelis over 20 years have led to nothing except for more crimes by the occupiers and the Americans covering for them,” he charged.
Abu Yousef told The Media Line that when it comes to the plan to be presented to the UN Security Council, the US has already made up its mind “to oppose it and use the veto.”
The Palestinian security services are downplaying speculation that ending security coordination with Israel will cause disarray. A high ranking PA security official says that if Abbas follows up with statements to stop all ties with Israel “we will do so immediately,” but he also says security coordination with Israel “will still go on in some capacity.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, the Palestinian Authority official who has been directly involved with coordinating PA affairs with Israel since 1994 says his people will not be affected and that coordination will continue “with or without us.”
Israel-Gaza border (Photo: Roee Idan)
“Many times, we tell Israelis not to come in to Palestinian cities under our control to arrest someone and they do it anyway,” he told The Media Line.
He goes on to say that the security coordination since Oslo has been one sided, with Palestinians supplying information that benefits Israel. “Whether the President cuts it or not, business will go on,” he said.
The business he is referring to is the daily movement of Palestinians through crossings such as Erez in the Gaza Strip, or the Allenby Bridge in the West Bank, which will continue to be controlled by Israel.
PLO communications advisor Ashraf Khatib says the Palestinian leadership will have to “redefine” its relationship with Israel and that “all options are open” if the Americans use the veto in the Security Council. Khatib says “no golden date” has been set for when the UN Security council will discuss the plan, long in the making.
“Twenty years of negotiations with Israel should have only lasted five years,” he told The Media Line.
He went on to say that if the resolution doesn’t succeed, it means the international community failed to transform their words of support for a Palestinian state into action.
On several occasions, Abbas has said Palestinians will join other international treaties or go to the International Criminal Court, which could enable them to bring Israeli officials up on war crimes charges.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mustafa says that the goal is clear.
“Future political steps should serve our interests of sovereignty and economic independence,” he said.
Article written by Abdullah H. Erakat.
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line