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Israeli-Palestinian Security Cooperation: What Next?

Courtesy of orientalizing/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) on 5 May 2017.

Until recently, Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation was seen as a unique ‘success story’ of the Middle East Peace Process. However, recent developments seem to be challenging this narrative; only last month, demonstrations attracted thousands of Palestinian protesters who demanded the suspension of cooperation with Israel. Shortly before this, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to end Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation in response to a new Knesset law which retroactively legalised some 4,000 Israeli settler houses built on private Palestinian land. Consequently, one of the cornerstones of the Oslo Accords now appears to be under real threat.

Effective cooperation – what for?

Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians in security terms has hitherto been robust in the West Bank (Hamas put an end to it in Gaza in 2007) and dates back to the 1993 Oslo Accords. These stipulated the creation of ‘a strong police force’ which would guarantee public order and internal security for Palestinians, while the Israeli state was to be responsible for countering external threats and ensuring the overall security of Israelis. Today, with over 44% of public sector employees in the PA working in the security sector (over 80,000 people), it remains a major provider of income to the Palestinian population. It also accounts for the lion’s share of the PA’s annual budget, with 30-45% allocated to this sector.

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The Rise and Fall of “Obamaism” in Israel

Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, but flattery currently is not an attribute of the Netanyahu-Obama relationship.

Do you remember last winter, when Netanyahu imitated Obama’s campaign strategy?

Netanyahu...Obamafied

Netanyahu...Obamafied

The imitation did not end with the Netanyahu campaign’s copying of the color and design of Obama’s website. The same way the Obama campaign linked Republican presidential candidate John McCain to then president George W Bush, the Netanyahu campaign sought to portray Tzipi Livni as the status quo candidate while portraying Netanyahu as the candidate of change. Last November, Ron Dermer, one of Mr Netanyahu’s top campaign advisers, went as far as to state that “Netanyahu is the real candidate of change for Israel.”

But while Obama actually sought to break with his predecessor’s foreign policy, Netanyahu has so far not given a new direction to Israeli foreign policy.

Obama may have served as a role model of how to conduct a successful election campaign, but that was pretty much it. Netanyahu merely copied the shell of “Obamaism,” but certainly not its content.
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