Adnan Abu Amer
Middle East Monitor / July 2, 2020
Israeli security assessments revealed that the implementation of the annexation process in the West Bank will lead to the return of individual Palestinian attacks, leading to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.
They have not ruled out the scenario of a new intifada because the Palestinian security services may allow the Palestinians to demonstrate and confront the Israeli army in points of friction, but it will not allow armed activity against Israeli targets.
The scenarios outlining the Israeli intelligence community’s predictions suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may choose to carry out a symbolic annexation of some parts of the West Bank, while Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will not break ties with Israel. While Netanyahu does not yet know what the move will look like, it is unlikely that it will lead to Abbas handing over the key to managing three million Palestinians to Israel.
In this case, the Israeli army may face individual attacks in the West Bank and rocket fire from Gaza, but Netanyahu has not yet announced the extent of the annexation, its geographical planning, its direct contribution to the security of Israel and its citizens, and has not demonstrated that it does not hinder the functional and administrative capacity of the Palestinian Authority.
In this situation, Abbas will not put the keys on the table, and the PA will not collapse into the lap of Israel. However, the Palestinian public in the West Bank will respond with lone wolf attacks and once they are completed, the army will quickly step up its forces in accordance with the plan that has been prepared. However, the main goal will be to prevent armed attacks on Israeli roads.
As for the Israeli General Security Service, the Shin Bet, it will thwart these attacks and confront the demonstrators at “points of friction”, even though the attacks and attempts to kidnap soldiers in the West Bank, as well as the possibility of a conflict in Jerusalem, will give a religious dimension to this political event. However, the Israeli assessments believe that the security tensions in the West Bank may disappear after a few weeks.
There is a cautionary note. The whole process may deteriorate and escalate as a result of an event, or a series of events and both Israelis and Palestinians will be killed, but what Israel fears most is that a desperate Mahmoud Abbas will decide, in response to the annexation, to completely or partially stop the PA’s duties in the occupied territories. In this case, in accordance with international law, managing daily life, including matters of health, security, and welfare of the Palestinians will fall directly on Israel.
Abbas maintains nonviolent resistance, but fears are increasing that if the annexation is implemented, even if it is postponed for some time, will frustrate him after he failed to hinder the Israeli action with his threats and political pressures. Therefore, he stopped paying the salaries of PA employees in order to provoke them and pressure them. He also stopped the security coordination, which increases the possibility of the tensions becoming violent, although he is not intending to do so, and he has no interest in dismantling the PA.
Another factor contributing to the steam in the West Bank is the succession struggle the Palestinian territories are already witnessing. Abu Mazen’s potential successors do not want to dismantle the PA but they may start clashes with the Israeli army in order to earn points for the day following Abbas’ absence.
It is worth noting that Israeli security leaders are warning that implementation of the annexation plan may ignite the West Bank, and they are offering the political forces all options and bleak scenarios of what would happen if the annexation took place.
The Israeli army chief of staff, chiefs of the public security agencies, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad are all trying to read the minds of the political decision-makers as they prepare for every imaginable scenario. They have all had discussions in recent weeks about the possible annexation and its implications and have drawn up a precise map of threats.
Recent days have witnessed in-depth discussions between the Israeli war and security leaders to present the opinions of decision-makers. When the political leadership in Israel asked them for their assessments, they heard serious warnings about the implications of the annexation and warnings about the imposition of Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank risks facing Palestinian resistance to varying degrees.
With regards to the Gaza Strip, Israeli security services’ assessments suggest that the annexation, if implemented, would lead to yet another round of confrontation with the Palestinians, as Gaza will witness protest marches encouraged by Hamas, and the Palestinians may come to the border security fence.
It is no longer a secret that the Israeli army is preparing for a possible escalation in Gaza. Senior army officers warned that annexing lands from the West Bank would end the prisoner exchange deal arrangement with Hamas. Moreover, an escalation of the security reality in Gaza, despite the existing situation being stagnant for many months, will contribute to putting more pressure on the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
The Israeli establishment estimates that Hamas will find it difficult to negotiate an exchange deal with Tel Aviv. Senior army generals have also informed the Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz that the situation in the Gaza Strip is very broad and that the situation may lead to an escalation of rocket fire and the return of demonstrations near the border fence.
Adnan Abu Amer is a Palestinian academic