Is the Palestinian Authority really set to cut ties with Israel?

Could Mahmoud Abbas really end all cooperation with Israel - including on security matters? Or is he just bluffing?

Hossam Ezzedine, AFP,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced late Thursday that the PA would stop
implementing its agreements with Israel.

Analysts were quick to question whether Abbas seriously intended to deliver on the threat which has been made several times in the past.

But the Palestinian Authority leader had not previously spoken so clearly and definitively of a break in cooperation.

What are the agreements with Israel and will Abbas's comments change anything?

What did Abbas say?

Abbas spoke Thursday night after a week in which Israel demolished 12 illegal Arab residential buildings in Sur Baher, a neighborhood that straddles eastern Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority-administered territory in Judea.

Israel said the buildings, most of which were still under construction, built too close to the security fence built around the outskirts of Jerusalem.

But Abbas on Thursday labelled the demolitions an act of "ethnic cleansing."

In response, the 84-year-old PA leader said, "we announce the leadership's decision to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side."

He said a committee would be formed immediately to implement the decision.

What are the agreements?

In the early 1990s Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, then headed by Yasser Arafat, signed a number of peace agreements under US sponsorship.

Abbas was a key figure in negotiating the so-called Oslo Accords.

They led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and cover a range of issues including water usage, electricity, security coordination and economic relations between the two sides.

Ripping up the agreements could seriously impact security in Judea and Samaria.

Why now?

Relations between Abbas's administration, based in Ramallah, and the Israeli government have worsened in recent months.

In addition to the house demolitions, Israel has also started deducting around $10 million a month from tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

That corresponds to the amount it says the PA pays to families of terrorists or directly to the terrorists themselves in Israeli jails.

The Palestinian Authority has in response refused to take any of the roughly $180 million in monthly tax revenues until the full amount is transferred, leaving Abbas's PA in financial crisis.

Will the PA follow through?

Palestinian Authority officials have previously made a number of threats to cut relations with Israel.

In January last year, the Palestinian Central Council voted to suspend recognition of Israel, but the decision has yet to be implemented.

Thursday's comments were the most direct by Abbas himself regarding the agreements but there is skepticism that he will follow through.

Ending the agreements could lead to the demise of the Palestinian Authority of which he is president.

"It is useless to talk about halting agreements with Israel without talking about the fate of the Palestinian Authority and changing its shape and functions," said analyst Hani al-Masri.

"The resolution is a repetition of previous resolutions."