JERUSALEM (AP) — The Palestinian Authority will restore ties with Israel that it severed in May over Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, a move that will allow it to receive much-needed tax revenues that Israel collects on its behalf, Palestinian officials said Tuesday.
The move to restore ties likely reflects the Palestinians’ hope that President Donald Trump’s election defeat spells the end of his administration’s Mideast policies, which overwhelmingly favored Israel and weakened and isolated the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinians hope for a fresh start under President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to restore U.S. aid and push for a return to negotiations over a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official and close aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, tweeted that “the relationship with Israel will return to how it was” following “official written and oral letters we received” confirming Israel’s commitment to past agreements.
Abbas announced in May that the Palestinians would no longer be bound by any past agreements signed with Israel or the U.S. and would suspend all coordination with Israel, including cooperation on security matters.
The move came as Israel was preparing to annex up to a third of the West Bank, including all of its far-flung settlements, as part of Trump’s Mideast plan. Annexation was put on hold in August when the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations with Israel, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the pause was only temporary.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the restoration of ties.
The decision to restore ties will pave the way for the resumption of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank. The loss of the tax revenues had severely strained the PA’s finances, forcing it to drastically cut the salaries of civil servants even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to cut ties had also hurt ordinary Palestinians, who rely on the coordination to travel in and out of the territories for medical treatment and other purposes.
Two Palestinian officials said the PA would restore all cooperation with Israel, including security coordination, and that meetings would be held in the coming days to facilitate the tax transfers. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
While the move will provide financial relief, it also opens the PA up to criticism that it has bowed to Israeli pressure. The security coordination with Israel is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, many of whom view it as a betrayal of their cause.
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, condemned the PA’s “return to relations with the criminal Zionist occupation,” calling it a “stab in the back” for recent efforts to promote Palestinian unity. It said the move would encourage other Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, further eroding Arab support for the Palestinian cause.
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