In the past, he and other Palestinian officials have threatened to revoke all signed agreements if Israel proceeded with its intention to apply sovereignty to any part of the West Bank. They have also threatened to suspend security coordination between the PA security establishment and the IDF and revoke Palestinian recognition of Israel.
This was the first time Abbas addressed the PA cabinet since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Abbas has not been seen in public since the beginning of the crisis and has maintained contact with Palestinian officials only by phone and video conference.
Abbas’s absence from public life has paved the way for PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh to lead Palestinian efforts to curb the spread of the disease. Shtayyeh, 62, has been praised by many Palestinians for his government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, with some saying it would enhance his chances of succeeding Abbas, who is 84.
Monday’s appearance apparently was designed to show that Abbas remains in control of the situation and that the PA government is acting on his instructions.
In his speech, Abbas instructed the Shtayyeh government to ease restrictions “in a calculated manner” in some Palestinian communities, particularly on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. Several Palestinian villages and cities have been under lockdown since Abbas announced a state of emergency last month as part of efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
“We don’t want to export fear to the residents, but there is no fixed date for the end of this crisis,” Abbas said.
Israel did not take any measures regarding Palestinian workers in Israel in light of the coronavirus outbreak, he said.
“We are working to ensure that these workers don’t become a source for the disease by making sure they are committed to quarantine and examinations for those who show symptoms,” Abbas said. “Despite that, we are continuing to work with the Israeli side so that the workers could return to their homes in a dignified way.”
The coronavirus crisis “has placed us before two options: either measures that some may consider as harsh, or that we lose our people. Therefore, we will do our utmost not to lose our people,” Abbas said.
Meanwhile, the PA government on Monday announced seven new coronavirus cases have been detected in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of infected patients to 449. Seventy Palestinians had recovered from the disease as of Monday morning.
Two of the new cases were confirmed in the Gaza Strip, raising the number of patients there to 15.
Two patients from Bethlehem who previously recovered from the disease have again tested positive for the virus, PA Health Ministry senior official Kamal al-Shahkrah said.