The Netanyahu government’s decision to weaken the Palestinian Authority (PA), with the support of Washington, is dangerous for Israel and a recipe for violence and an emboldened.
Hamas. The latest round of fighting between Israel and the Hamas is evidence of that.Yesterday’s firing of more than 400 rockets from Gaza marks the largest ever single day barrage, yet it is clear that the Israeli prime minister is not looking for another round of conflict with Hamas. That is the explanation Netanyahu gave to justify his decision to funnel $15 million in three suitcases of cash to Hamas via a Qatari envoy. However, a botched operation, likely intended to plant surveillance equipment in Gaza, led to the death of an IDF officer, causing things to spiral out of control. A series of tit for tat rounds ensued, with Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately on Israeli civilians and Israel responding with targeted strikes. Despite a ceasefire, a further escalation is likely because of the casualties on both sides and the strain on southern Israel. No matter the outcome of the latest violence, the Palestinian public will view this round as a victory for Hamas not because of what Hamas will accomplish but because of what the PA won’t. Many Palestinians see the PA, which maintains close security cooperation with Israel, as collaborators in the occupation. On top of security cooperation, the P.L.O. (whose largest faction, Fatah, dominates the PA) has conducted multiple rounds of peace talks with Israel and recognized its right to exist. The belief among Palestinians was that such security cooperation would translate into Israeli steps advancing a two-state solution and giving the PA greater control. This might have entailed a settlement freeze outside the major blocs and the reallocation of parts of Area C to Area B, or civil Palestinian administration. Under the Netanyahu government, the exact opposite has happened: settlement construction outside the blocs has increased three-fold since Netanyahu took office and his government’s support for two states is dubious. Meanwhile, the United States has cut millions of dollar in aid to USAID and closed the P.L.O. mission in Washington. When one considers all this information, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Palestinians view the PA as a failed institution now more than ever. Hamas, on the other hand, remains committed to its genocidal doctrine of murdering Israelis (and Jews more generally), has conducted three wars against Israel and continues to indiscriminately fire thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. While the PA has received little for its cooperation, Hamas is seemingly being rewarded for its violence. Instead of including the PA in its effort to address the Gaza humanitarian crisis, the Netanyahu government has decided that the best course of action is dealing directly with Hamas. What do Palestinians think of this? Who is successfully advancing the national aspirations of Palestinians? Does cooperating with Israel or waging a jihad against it bring results? The PA is far from perfect. Its leaders incite, have a long history of corruption, and they retain problematic practices such as a “martyrs’ fund” for the families of slain and imprisoned terrorists. Aging PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been cruel to Gaza, an extension of Fatah’s fierce rivalry with Hamas. At the same time, however, the PA is Israel’s only partner in preserving the relative quiet in the West Bank, including thwarting hundreds of terror attacks against Israelis in the past year. But looking to the future is concerning: Abbas’s successor (or successors) will have a much harder time garnering public support with no political accomplishments after years of cooperation with Israel, further strengthening Hamas and putting pressure on the PA to return to violence. Now, despite these considerations, Israel may have no choice but to strike Hamas targets throughout Gaza. If the ceasefire doesn’t hold, the serious damage and casualties in southern Israel could be sufficient to push even the cautious Netanyahu over the edge. Yet if there is no accompanying strategy, this will be just another war without a clear resolution.