Will the PA collapse or be dismantled ?

File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  July 6, 2020

Despite the “temporary” delay in announcing the Israeli annexation plan, the Israeli readings remained unchanged, offering a number of scenarios and assessments regarding the implications implementing the plan will have on the relationship with the PA.

At the same time, Israeli officials continued their readings and expectations of the implications of the annexation plan and what may result, specifically at the security level. They also mention its consequences and the possibility of it leading to the collapse of the PA and thus Hamas’ return to the West Bank.

Meanwhile, two conflicting Israeli positions have emerged regarding the future of the PA. The former army commander of the Israeli Central Command, Gadi Shamni, stated: “When you start doing these unilateral actions, you actually put yourself on a very slippery slope,” suggesting that this would undermine the security and political stability in the region, leading to the collapse of the PA.

As for General Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Military Intelligence Service – Aman, he does not believe that the PA will quickly hand over its keys to Israel, nor will it give up concessions amounting to billions of dollars.

These Israeli findings regarding the future of the PA confirm that those who are leading the annexation scheme, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, do not understand the consequences of their long-term plans. Meanwhile, the army and its security services hold a series of intensive security meetings with the aim of preparing for scenarios of confrontation with the Palestinians.

The Israelis, particularly their decision-makers, do not realise that they are putting themselves in an irreversible position before the Palestinians. This could undermine the stability of the Palestinian arena to a large extent, whether with the collapse of the PA, or with the return of armed operations, leading to the outbreak of a third popular intifada.

This situation means the quick gradual dismantling of the PA, which is a scenario of complete chaos in the West Bank. This will lead to Hamas’ control of the West Bank, which is the last thing Israel wants. In this case, the Israeli army will be forced to take full control of all areas.

Despite the cooperation between the PA and Israel in the health and security fields, the PA believes it is only a matter of time before its economy collapses. The coronavirus crisis will leave its negative effects on the Palestinian economy and markets, and hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their sources of income from working in Israel, settlements and industrial areas in the West Bank.

In this case, the security stability witnessed by the PA may begin to shake and the possibility of withstanding this tremor is nonexistence. Moreover, with the absence of basic incomes, the PA’s collapse is closer than ever, and it may happen within a few days, no more. This means economic chaos will ensue.

The concern of Palestinian and Israeli security officials regarding the health and economic collapse may coincide with the outbreak of security occurrences and extreme scenarios and means an explosion of the West Bank is drawing near. This must be considered because it means the possibility of a new intifada.

The PA realises that the Israeli security system recognises its distress, and acknowledges the risks of its collapse, but its hands are tied due to the Israeli political decision. If the required measures are not taken immediately, a violent Israeli confrontation with the PA will occur and there is no way to stop it.

The situation in the West Bank is sensitive and tense, both due to the reduction of American aid to the PA and its refusal to receive tax money. It has now found itself in a dangerous economic crisis that adds to the Palestinian public anger toward Israel and the PA together, and against Mahmoud Abbas personally, whose popularity has decreased to humiliating levels.

The brakes that prevented the PA’s collapse in the past are gone and Abbas is witnessing a dramatic end to his political era. It is true that the warnings of the PA’s collapse began since it was founded a quarter of a century ago, but these warnings increased and decreased from time to time. Every time Israel freezes PA funds, its leaders announce that they are going to hand the keys of the PA over to Israel and dismantle it, but each time, this scenario is stopped at the last minute.

Today, none of the policymakers in Israel appear to be affected by the threats of the “old man” living in the Al-Muqataa compound, even though he seems serious this time. The sick and desperate Abbas is living the last period of his political era

Netanyahu knows that the Israeli strategic interest is served by the continuation of the PA’s existence, because it is a security need, his interest today is focused on staying at the head of the government in Israel, even if it means the collapse of the PA and chaos.

Adnan Abu Amer is a Palestinian academic