Bahbah: Who Benefits or Suffers from the Palestinian Authority’s Collapse?
By: Bishara A. Bahbah / Arab America Featured Columnist
Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli stated 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 at 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 the 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 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, hell could break loose – intense and widespread violence could quickly spread throughout the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Israel proper.
- 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. Many Palestinians were critical of the PA because it had assumed, willy-nilly, the role of a security subcontractor on Israel’s behalf.
- 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.
- 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 watching eyes in Ramallah.
- 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.
- 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. The PA would then be freed from being a hostage living with 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 freed from begging the international community for funds to close the perennial budget gaps. Paying for the occupation becomes Israel’s responsibility and not the PA’s.
- 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 exposure of Israel’s military 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.
- If Israel or world Jewry dream of living in a democratic and Jewish state, then the collapse of the PA will make sure this will be virtually impossible. How can Israel claim to be democratic while it governs or controls almost 7 million Palestinians inside historic Palestine? Suppose half the population that Israel manages is treated with different rules and laws detrimental to the non-Jewish inhabitants. In that case, Israel will then fit the classic definition of an apartheid state.
- 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.
Finally, I want to convey to US Secretary of State Blinken the message that, despite the outwardly honorable intentions of the United States, the US has been an accomplice to Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. Sadly, 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.
Because of the United States’ inability or unwillingness to pull its weight with Israel, I am gratified to have Secretary Blinken witness the beginning of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority before his eyes.
Prof. Bishara A Bahbah taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based Al-Fajr Palestinian newspaper and served, with self-admitted failure, as a member of the Palestinian delegation on “Arms Control and Regional Security.” He currently contributes on a regular basis to 15 newspapers and media outlets.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.
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