Saturday, May 25, 2024

US lawmakers cast doubt on continued security coordination with Palestinian Authority

US lawmakers have questioned whether Washington should continue security coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA). Some politicians have blamed it on the deteriorating security situation in the occupied West Bank.

The US has trained the PA and encouraged security cooperation between it and Israel through the Office of US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority since 2005, in the wake of the Second Intifada.

After a trip to the occupied West Bank in July, Republican Senator Rick Scott accused the PA of letting “terrorists” operate in the occupied West Bank and cast doubt on the future of further security coordination.

Asked whether he believed security ties with the PA could continue, he said that he was “always hopeful, but [Palestinian security forces have] to do their job.”

“If [the PA] want[s] to have control over the West Bank, they’ve got to be policing, they can’t let these terrorists [operate] in there that are killing Israeli civilians,” he said. “If they’re not, Israel has no choice but to defend their security and defend their citizens,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn accused the PA of “not doing anything to stop radicalization”, adding, “their turning a blind eye to the effects of their policies is what’s led to a lot of the radicalization”.

At least 204 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire this year, including 36 children – a rate of nearly one fatality per day. A total of 167 people have died in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making 2023 one of the bloodiest years in the occupied Palestinian territories. Another 36 people were killed in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians have killed 25 Israelis in the same period, including six children.

For decades, security assistance to the PA received bipartisan support in Washington as a way to check the influence of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which the US labels terrorist organisations.

Palestinians blame the Palestinian Authority for failing to protect Palestinians from assaults by the Israeli army and settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The comments from Republican lawmakers, however, underline how any support to Palestinians, even those cooperating with Israel, is increasingly coming under pressure, especially within the Republican party. In 2016, the Republican Party dropped support for the two-state solution from its official platform.

The PA, established in 1994 following the Oslo Accords, holds devolved authority over parts of the occupied West Bank and was supposed to mark the first tentative step towards Palestinian sovereignty and negotiations over the creation of an independent state. Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 war.

In the years since its creation, however, it has become widely unpopular over its corruption, authoritarianism and security cooperation with Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, aged 87 and leading the Palestinian Authority for nearly 20 years, has a severely diminished support base within the Palestinian public.

Although the Joe Biden administration continues to provide rhetorical support for a two-state solution, it has done nothing to rein in Israel’s record-breaking expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank or its increasing use of heavy fire-power against the Palestinians.

In an interview with CNN last month, President Biden said the PA had “lost its credibility, not necessarily because of what Israel’s done, just because it’s just lost its credibility, number one, and, number two, created a vacuum for extremism”.

The Biden administration has also askewed fostering direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in favour of the Donald Trump administration’s Abraham Accords plan, which backs Arab states normalising ties with Israel in the absence of a permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the PA’s control over the occupied West Bank is increasingly being called into question. Last month Abbas was greeted with scorn by residents of the Jenin refugee camp he went to survey after an Israeli offensive on the city.

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