Palestinians say restoring cooperation with Israel
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –
The Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas will restore coordination with Israel after severing it in May, a PA minister said Tuesday evening.
"In the light of Mahmud Abbas's international contacts... and given the written and verbal commitments we have received from the Israelis, we will resume relations where they were before May 19, 2020", Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA's civil affairs minister, said.
Abbas at that time had announced a halt in security coordination in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
He had said that his government no longer was bound by "all its agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments, and all its obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including those relating to security."
The decision had broad impact, including on organising the transfers of Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals.
The PA also stopped accepting transfers of taxes, in particular customs duties, collected by Israel on its behalf.
Deprived of this income, it had to cut the salaries of its civil servants at a time when the Palestinian economy had begun grappling with impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Sheikh did not specify whether a return to the prior Israeli-Palestinian relations meant the resumption of the tax transfers.
His announcement came on the eve of the arrival in Israel of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Palestinians have welcomed the US presidential election victory of Joe Biden, who has said his administration will restore US opposition to Israel building settlements in the West Bank.
President Donald Trump broke with decades of American practice by not opposing settlement expansion and was condemned by the Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israel.
Palestinians were also enraged when he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
Israel put its US-backed annexation plans on hold in return for an agreement to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates, announced in August.
"We will resume contacts with the Israelis on financial issues, on health issues, on political issues," Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Tuesday.
The decision came after receipt of a letter indicating "that Israel is ready to commit itself to the signed agreements with us," he said in a video conference hosted by the US-based Council on Foreign Relations.
"This is for us a very important step in the right direction," he added, saying that the development followed intervention by the United States, the European Union and "other countries".
© 2020 AFP