An influential Israeli security think tank has warned against letting the Palestinian Authority economically collapse.
The paper by the University of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said that such an eventuality would lead to civil disturbances in the occupied Palestinian territories, and empower Israel’s arch-nemesis, Hamas.
Led by former Israeli military chief, Amos Yaldin, INSS is staffed by several senior former Israeli military officers, and is seen as a bellwether of where the military stands on important issues.
According to the paper, the occupied West Bank had suffered economically in recent years but had remained relatively calm in contrast to another occupied territory, such as Gaza.
This was due to a number of issues, including awareness of more chaotic conditions in neighbouring Arab states, and the Palestinian Authority’s ability to keep order.
The PA’s diminishing revenues, however, were straining their ability to continue ruling effectively, the report’s author, former Israeli Army officer, Michael Milstein said.
Speaking from the point of Israeli security, rather than the quality of life for Palestinians, Milstein said the PA had helped stem violence and bring calm to the territories under its control.
In recent years, the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to negotiate with the US and Israel on the latter’s terms has been punished heavily by the US.
Washington has pulled funding to the PA, and to UNRWA, which caters to the needs of Palestinian refugees, further straining the PA.
“The emerging dynamic, centered on the public rancor that can be expected to gather strength as the economic crisis persists, is liable to outstrip the Palestinian Authority's capacity for planning and control, and to steer the entire system toward an unmanageable confrontation,” Milstein wrote.
US aid cuts to the PA, excluding the UNRWA cuts, amount to hundreds of millions of dollars and a substantial proportion of the money supplied to the PA is used for its security forces.
While ostensibly an internal security force, many Palestinians believe PA security forces relieve Israel from using its resources to administer areas it occupies.
The INSS paper warns that budget shortages would lead to social discontent that would strain the PA’s own security apparatus and heighten the risk to Israel’s security.
Milstein argues that Hamas would benefit from such a scenario, citing the group’s take over of the Gaza Strip in 2007 by offering itself as a better equipped and organised alternative to the PA.