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Bishara A. Bahbah
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What to expect when the Palestinian Authority collapses

All hell could break loose, leaving the IDF to contend alone without the benefit of PA cooperation – and that's just for starters
Muslim Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)
Muslim Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli said on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority was a “neo-Nazi entity…an enemy entity…an entity that is antisemitic to its core,” and alternatives to it should be examined.

His statements came on the heels of two of the deadliest days among Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Israel and one day before the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel/Palestine. Blinken’s visit was intended to forestall measures by Benjamin Netanyahu’s new ultra-right-wing government that would lead to escalated violence between Palestinians and Israelis and the highly probable collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

From an American, and even an Israeli perspective, the worst possible outcome that could precipitate from the current severe crisis in Israel/Palestine is the collapse of the PA. The Palestinian Authority’s failure seems imminent and will carry many severe consequences.

The end of hope

The collapse of the PA will end the hope of creating a Palestinian state based on the two-state solution. Should Palestinians lose hope of a dignified future in their homeland, all hell could break loose – intense and widespread violence could quickly spread throughout the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Israel proper.

No security cooperation

The collapse of the PA will end the security cooperation between Israel and the PA, which, according to many experts, is the most crucial benefit Israel has accrued from this relationship. This security cooperation involving 50,000 – 70,000 Palestinian security forces, paid mainly by the United States at Israel’s behest, has prevented numerous attacks against Israel from the West Bank and even from Gaza, which Hamas rules. In fact, many Palestinians were critical of the PA because it assumed, willy-nilly, the role of a security subcontractor on Israel’s behalf.

Disbanding PA security forces

The disbandment of Palestinian security forces would open the floodgates for tens of thousands of armed Palestinians to roam the West Bank creating a nightmarish security situation throughout the West Bank and, most likely, Israel.

Leadership exodus

The collapse of the PA could follow a decision by the current Palestinian leadership to, most likely, look for a political headquarters in one of the neighboring Arab countries or, most likely, in Algeria. Hence, the Palestinian leadership would be free to wage a political war against Israel in international forums without the constraints of living under Israel’s watchful eyes in Ramallah.

PLO to rise again

The new Palestinian leadership would leave behind a collapsed Palestinian Authority and reinvigorate the PLO as the Palestinian people’s sole and legitimate representative everywhere. The PLO leadership would be stationed away from Israel’s clutches and dictates.

Israel will foot the bill

The collapse and elimination of the PA would force Israel’s military establishment to manage Palestinians’ lives in the occupied Palestinian territories directly. According to international law, Israel would become the sole provider of health, welfare, sanitation, and infrastructure services to the occupied Palestinians at the cost of billions of dollars, paid for by Israel’s government and whatever taxes Israel can collect from Palestinians under its occupation. The PA’s current budget to provide services, mainly in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, is between $4 and $5 billion annually. This would free the PA from being hostage to Israel’s policies of retaining a percentage of what it collects in taxes on behalf of the PA for this or that reason. The PA would be released from the need to beg the international community for funds to close the perennial budget gaps. Paying for the occupation becomes Israel’s responsibility and not the PA’s.

More IDF soldiers, more exposure

Without the PA’s security forces and their cooperation with Israel, the latter would be forced to increase its military presence in the West Bank. This would increase the Israeli military’s exposure to attacks by Palestinians. Additionally, it would require Israel to divert critical military resources to govern the West Bank and ensure the security of the ever-expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Apartheid

If Israel or world Jewry dream of living in a democratic and Jewish state, then the collapse of the PA ensures this will be virtually impossible. How can Israel claim to be democratic while it governs or controls almost 7 million Palestinians inside historic Palestine? When half the population that Israel manages is treated with different rules and laws detrimental to the non-Jewish inhabitants, Israel will then fit the classic definition of an apartheid state.

An extremist takeover

With the absence of the PA’s intelligence and security services, it will be a matter of time before Hamas and the Islamic Jihad strengthen their presence in the West Bank. They will be free to create an underground political/military entity focused on fighting Israel and incurring maximum damage to its people.

As Secretary of State Blinken arrives with outwardly honorable US intentions, it is incumbent on him to acknowledge the extent of US complicity in Israel’s destructive policies in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. Somehow, the sole superpower in the world cannot force Israel – the largest recipient of US foreign aid and international political support – to open a consulate in East Jerusalem, let alone open the PLO office in Washington, DC, two promises that were made by Joe Biden as a presidential candidate and subsequently as president.

The United States has been unable or unwilling to pull its weight with Israel. Perhaps witnessing with his own eyes the beginning of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority will serve as a call for the US to finally do the right thing.

About the Author
Dr. Bishara Bahbah is vice president of the US Palestinian Council (USPC), one of the major Palestinian-American advocacy and educational groups in the United States operating out of Washington, DC. Bahbah is former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper, Al-Fajr. He served as the associate director of Harvard University’s Middle East Institute and was a member of the Palestinian delegation on arms control and regional security.