After the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs small pockets of the West Bank, decided to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Tel Aviv has retaliated by sanctioning them. PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, warns these sanctions could lead to the PA’s collapse.
Last week, Israel’s new fascist government hit the ground running on their hardline anti-Palestinian policy platform. Israeli national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound, triggering a meeting in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that sought to address the dangerous step. Condemnation poured in from all over the world, with even the US government expressing its dismay. Yet the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, had no apologies about the provocation at al-Aqsa. Despite affirming that the status quo would be respected, in reality, he advocated for a change to it and implied that the site was Jewish and under Israeli sovereignty. He also argued that the policy of respecting the current legal reality was somehow anti-semitic, this despite the Israeli government having agreed to it until now.
In addition to the hardline policies that are being introduced by the Israelis, the latest provocation is the banning of the simple act of raising a Palestinian flag. On the Palestinian side, the armed struggle has returned to the West Bank. However, the West Bank is currently under Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority controlling small enclaves where they have policing powers. These enclaves are located around the major city centers, meaning that the PA, which is based out of the city of Ramallah, is responsible for policing the majority of the Palestinian population, most of which live in the cities.
The new Israeli government is now introducing sanctions against the PA, which are in effect Israel’s biggest security partners and work to stop armed attacks against Israelis. Tel Aviv issued the following statement, outlining the new policies:
“The current government will not sit idly by in the face of this war and will respond as necessary. The Cabinet approved a number of steps to be taken vis-à-vis the PA in response to its appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week. The following is a list of these steps:
1. Transferring approximately NIS 139 million from PA funds to victims of terrorism, implementing the Litvak verdict, which compensates the families of victims murdered in Palestinian terrorist attacks.
2. Immediately offsetting the payments made by the PA to terrorists and their families in 2022, according to the report of the defense establishment.
3. Placing a moratorium on Palestinian construction plans in Area C, following illegal take-over attempts by the PA, in opposition to international agreements.
4. Denying benefits to VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel.
5. Action will be taken against organizations in Judea and Samaria that promote terrorist activity or any hostile activity, including political and legal action against Israel under the guise of humanitarian work.”
In effect, what the Israeli government is doing is to steal the tax revenue that is supposed to go to the Palestinian Authority, and instead handing that money off to Israelis. When Israel speaks about victims of terrorism, it doesn’t just mean unarmed Israeli settlers who were attacked by Palestinians, but also Israeli soldiers and their families. A Palestinian terrorist, to the Israeli government, can be anyone from an armed fighter to an unarmed protester who burned a tire or threw a stone.
Threats have also been issued by Israel’s minister of finance, Bezalel Smotrich, who claimed that these sanctions were only the beginning. The Religious Zionism Party’s Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are illegal settlers who see the PA as a direct enemy, a view that is not held by other Israeli parties. This is because the PA seeks a two-State solution and the extremist cabinet members both want to own the West Bank. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu made sure to apply the sanctions in a way that would not cause the collapse of the PA, but to try and put it in its place for daring to invite the ICJ to rule on the war crimes committed by the Zionist regime.
The Palestinian Authority is currently undergoing a crisis in legitimacy, its primary function at this point is as a security arm of the Israeli occupation forces inside the West Bank. The so-called “Two State solution” as an option to even be discussed is dead and hasn’t been alive for the past two decades. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has not been elected in 18 years and has prevented legislative elections since 2006, where his ruling Fatah Party lost in a land-slide to their opposition Party, Hamas.
The PA was founded by a series of agreements called the Oslo Accords, which took place between 1993-1995, it stemmed from what was known as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO was the representative body under which all the primary Palestinian political factions once belonged, it is now dominated by a faction within the Fatah Party that controls the PA. This faction seeks collaboration with Israel and has absorbed the PLO into the PA.
In 1987 the Palestinians, living under Israeli occupation, rose up into mass non-violent revolt, causing the Israeli military to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops into the West Bank and Gaza. At that time the occupied territories were also heavily linked with the economy of Israel, which caused economic pressure. In addition to this, the wide coverage of events led to a public relations debacle for Tel Aviv. The solution that the Israelis sought to end the revolt, known as the Intifada, was to strike a deal with the PLO and to bring it into the occupied territories in order to control the large population centers where Palestinians lived.
For Israel, the creation of the PA was a strike of genius. Whilst Israel claimed to be seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis, it also won EU and US funding to prop up a corrupt set of collaborators inside the occupied territories that were willing to take most of the burden off of the Israeli military. The Intifada ended, Israel continued building settlements and stealing more Palestinian land, their PR recovered and now they had the prized “security coordination”.
The PA would pose some problems to Israel, during and after the year 2000, under the command of former President Yasser Arafat. However, the US worked hard to create a completely new PA security force and succeeded. By 2007, the US and Israel had already worked with the PA’s security apparatus to attempt a coup against the democratically elected Hamas leadership in Gaza and the PA’s ‘security coordination’ was perfected. Any armed action against Israel has been combated since then by the PA, any dissenters in the West Bank have been imprisoned, tortured, handed over to the Israelis or killed. The PA spies on the Palestinian people and works to prevent any real action against Israeli settlement expansion or ethnic cleansing. The PA also works as the king of access; if you oppose them as a West Banker, you are doomed to harassment and your rights to services, travel and a job could all be threatened. In addition to this, they employ a large portion of the West Bank population and use their jobs as a pacifying tool.
Until this time, no Israeli government has found a way to get rid of the PA without causing chaos for Tel Aviv itself, this is why it is hesitant to make the whole system collapse. Yet the extremists that are now the second largest party in Netanyahu’s government — the Religious Zionism alliance — do not care for looking at the PA pragmatically, they view the Ramallah-based Authority as being a mortal enemy, a view openly held by their hardline settler supporters who fail to see the reality in which the PA actually serve as their biggest protectors.
The PA, under Mahmoud Abbas, has never opened fire on or arrested Israeli settlers and attempted to imprison them for their crimes against Palestinians. In fact, they have done the very opposite, imprisoning and torturing Palestinians who plan or carry out attacks against Israeli settlers. PA security forces have even saved settlers lives on a number of occasions and handed them back to the Israeli military, after they got in trouble with Palestinians. None of this matters now for the Israeli extremists in Netanyahu’s government, as they seek to annex the West Bank, to introduce a death penalty for Palestinians, and to ethnically cleanse them from their lands. They do not even see the purpose in maintaining the collaborator PA regime.
If Israel is to continue on its current trajectory, we could see a completely new reality in the West Bank, one in which the PA either collapses or transitions to open hostility with the Israeli military.