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PA threatens to cut ties with Israel over Sur Bahir demolitions. Critics say they’re bluffing.

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The Palestinian Authority (PA) is threatening to cut ties with Israel over its massive demolition campaign in in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir that resulted in the displacement of dozens of Palestinians, calling it a “war crime par excellence” and a “crime against humanity.”

In a statement made to the official PA news website Wafa, President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said that over the coming days the Palestinian leadership will “make crucial decisions regarding the relationship with Israel and the agreements signed with it.”

“[Rudeinieh] said that President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly warned that the Palestinian side cannot continue to abide by the agreements signed with Israel if it insists on not committing to them, stressing the need for everyone to shoulder their responsibilities, including Israel as an occupying power,” Wafa reported. 

The majority of the 10 buildings that were demolished in Sur Bahir were located in Area A and B of the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords, are under the jurisdiction of the PA. Residents argued that they duly obtained building permits from the PA, therefore nullifying any demolition orders issued by Israeli authorities.

The unprecedented nature of the demolitions sparked international criticism from leaders in Canada, Denmark, France, the EU, and the Arab League, among others.

Palestine’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that a request for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the Sur Bahir issue — made at the behest of Abbas — was approved and that PA leaders had “decided on cessation of dealing with the Israeli courts.”

Additionally, upon instruction from Abbas, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a complaint to the international Criminal Court (ICC) against the demolitions in Sur Bahir, Erekat said during a press conference on Tuesday.

“[The] leadership decided to put in place mechanisms to cancel all agreements with Israel,” Erekat said.

An emergency meeting called by Abbas is expected to be held in Ramallah on Thursday.

The Palestinian leadership’s threats to cut ties with Israel come as US envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner are set to visit the region to discuss US President Donald Trump’s upcoming peace plan.

The PA has already suspended diplomatic relations with the US since 2017, and has refused to engage in the Trump administration’s peace talks.

While threats to cut ties with Israel are not to be taken lightly, given the PA’s current financial crisis and standoff with Israeli and American officials, critics say they are skeptical that the PA will follow through with concrete action.

“Ultimately, the PA is completely powerless to make these kind of dictates,” political analyst Dawoud Yousef told Mondoweiss. “They exist because the occupation allows it.”

“From the Oslo Accords onwards, the PA has been designed and structured to be dependent on cooperation with Israel,” Yousef said, noting that such cooperation “moves beyond the matter of the dispersing of custom and tax dues, but to freedom of movement and operation for the PA elite and their very ability to govern.”

It’s not the first time the PA has threatened to cut ties with Israel, Yousef said, citing similar threats made in 2006 following the election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “We saw the closest thing to a PA withdrawal from interaction with Israeli officials, and it lead to near bankruptcy for the institution.”

Last year, Abbas threatened to end the PA’s infamous security coordination with Israel if Israeli authorities cut money from the funds used by the PA to pay the families of prisoners and “martyrs.”

But even then, Yousef noted that “the ending of security cooperation was never complete and only meant the ending of high level communications, not day to day interactions between security forces.”

“In essence, these threats demonstrate to an acute degree the complete emptiness of the PA’s diplomatic strategy within the current Post-Oslo paradigm,” Yousef told Mondoweiss. “The asymmetry of power wasn’t offset by the PA’s establishment, it was officially entrenched. It is as if the prison says that he no longer recognizes his cell.”

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If I have a property and I build an extension that goes too close to the border of my property then I am in breach of the law. The PA might have jurisdiction or “ownership” of Areas A and B but that doesn’t give them the right to build too close to the boundary of what they control.

Abbas threatened to resign years ago. If he had any self-respect, he would have. He didn’t, of course. I too think this is an empty threat.

There’s someone – a liberal Israeli, I forget his name, Aviv something – coming to speak in Toronto in September, who will say why Israel demolished these houses. Uh huh.