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Netanyahu's strategy: Sustain the Palestinian Authority but undermine its influence

Netanyahu's strategy: Sustain the Palestinian Authority but undermine its influence

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Saturday 15 July 202304:08 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

هكذا استدرج نتنياهو "أبو مازن" وأنجز مهمّة تطويق السلطة الفلسطينية


The Israeli Security Cabinet has approved the proposal put forth by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last Sunday's government meeting on July 9th, to adopt a decision that aims to "prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority." It received the approval of eight ministers, while Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, opposed it, and Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, abstained from voting.

The draft resolution, published by the i24news website, states: "In the absence of a change in the national assessment, Israel will act to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, while demanding that it cease its anti-Israel activity in the international legal-diplomatic arena, the incitement in its media and education system, the payments to the families of terrorists and murderers, and the illegal construction in the area".

Israel will act to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, while demanding that it cease its anti-Israel activity in the international legal and political arena.

The official Palestinian response, voiced by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, states that "the Israeli statement is an attempt to blackmail the rights of the Palestinian people. Thus, Palestine rejects the occupation's conditions for releasing Palestinian tax funds." During the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh stated, "What is required of Israel is to stop aggression against the Palestinian people, cease the killings and settlement, stop confiscating our funds, and return to a path based on international legitimacy, which entails ending the occupation. Talk of a conditional return of Palestinian tax revenues linked to the suspension of our actions in international organizations or the cessation of stipends to the families of martyrs and prisoners will not take place. We will persist in our course."

Shtayyeh did not address a crucial aspect of the Israeli statement regarding Israel's efforts to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. This raises discussions about Netanyahu's endeavor to revive the role of the Palestinian Authority and seek security coordination with it to serve Israeli interests. It prompts questions about the potential consequences of these Israeli attempts, and: Will the Palestinian Authority find itself before the option of having to accept without objection? What are the implications of this on the resistance and its future?

Not merely an attempt to revive

Tarek Fahmy, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University and an expert on Israeli and Palestinian affairs, believes that Netanyahu's intentions go beyond reviving the role of the Palestinian Authority. Fahmy suggests that Netanyahu actually "aims to rebuild the authority by providing direct facilitations, such as economic benefits in the form of establishing an industrial zone in the southern West Bank, as well as financial plans encompassing loan guarantees, debt settlements, fuel discounts, tax payments, and extended working hours at the Allenby Bridge."

Recent political and security developments have prompted Israel to present itself as the savior of the Palestinian Authority, despite being the direct cause of its weakening. How?

Fahmy emphasizes to Raseef22 that "the project of reviving and strengthening the authority is still in place. However, the main challenge lies in the lack of collective agreement within the government regarding these measures. The security apparatus, 'Shabak' (Shin Bet), is imposing this vision and perception at this particular time, despite strong opposition from other Israeli security agencies such as Aman and the General Staff."

According to Fahmy, Israel will continue to offer incentives and cooperate with the Palestinian Authority, especially in terms of security coordination. He believes that "security coordination will persist in some form, as the Israeli government stands to lose significantly if it terminates such coordination. What took place in Jenin might be replicated in Jerusalem and other areas, which Israel seeks to avoid, so ending security coordination would result in chaos."

The researcher also discusses Netanyahu's bet on "Abu Mazen" (Mahmoud Abbas) to fulfill this role, despite objections from within the apparatus, both in the Israeli state and within some members of the Authority itself. "Israel recognizes that undermining the Palestinian Authority would result in the collapse of stability in Israel. They are considering a scenario known as 'hell' after the death of Mahmoud Abbas 'Abu Mazen' where direct chaos could be transformed into calculated plans."

A lie promoted by the occupation

In recent days, there has been extensive discussion in Israeli circles and the Israeli media regarding Netanyahu's government's desire for increased security coordination with the PA to prevent chaos. This is not a new point, as it was one of the provisions of the Oslo Agreement. The overlapping of the West Bank areas (A, B, C) necessitated coordination between the occupation and the Authority. Despite the agreement and the diminished Palestinian role over time, the Israeli side consistently directs blame at the Palestinian Authority in the event of a security emergency. Consequently, the PA periodically demands the right to exercise security and civil control over the West Bank areas.

With the escalation of confrontations between the occupation and some resistance factions, "It appears that the situation has compelled Netanyahu's government to reconsider self-protection and possibly salvage what can be saved, under the pretext of strengthening and preventing the collapse of the Palestinian Authority," according to Dr. Jihad Al-Harazin, professor of law and political systems and expert in Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

"Netanyahu's attempts will not deceive anyone, including major world leaders, who are well aware of his lack of interest in peace and ending the occupation. His aim is to undermine the two-state solution and safeguard his position no matter the cost"

Al-Harazin tells Raseef22 that he believes that "recent political and security developments have led Israel to promote itself as the savior of the Authority, despite being the direct cause of its weakening. Israel's withholding and unlawful seizure of Palestinian funds have plunged the Authority into major financial crises. Additionally, Israel obstructs and steals investment projects, seizes compensations to give to Israelis, and deducts salaries from the families of martyrs and prisoners, all of which have caused the Authority to face severe financial crises. Israel also prevents investment projects and the development of service facilities, disrupts the connectivity and links between cities, villages, and refugee camps, arrests sons of members of security agencies, erects barriers, and allows settlers to engage in vandalism, destruction, and arson amid continuous incitement by ministers like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, against the Authority, its institutions, and the Fatah movement."

Netanyahu, despite facing international condemnation, even from his closest allies due to his actions, seeks to enhance the image of his government by announcing efforts to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority

Al-Harazin suggests that "Netanyahu, despite facing international condemnation, even from his closest allies, aims to improve the image of his fascist government by announcing efforts to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. However, this is a mere smokescreen, by requesting a resumption of security coordination and emphasizing the importance of the Authority's continued functioning."

The real question, according to Al-Harazin, is will Netanyahu allow the Authority to operate and take its role? He further remarks, "Netanyahu conveniently ignores practices like the arrests, the day and night raids, the cold-blooded killings and executions, the distortion of historical facts and established truths, the ongoing blockade, checkpoints, restrictions on movement, and the piracy of Palestinian tax funds. Instead of rectifying these actions, he claims to be rescuing the Authority from collapse while engaging in a futile attempt to market a policy rooted in racist fascism."

The law professor also wonders "whether Netanyahu is aware of the recognition of any security cooperation in light of Minister Ben-Gvir's extremist actions, like targeting prisoners, arming settlers, leading incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, and attempting its desecration, while another extremist minister, Smotrich, advocates for the expansion of settlements, issues building permits, confiscates land, and demolishes Palestinian homes?"

Al-Harazin concludes that "Netanyahu's attempts will not deceive anyone, including major world leaders, who are well aware of his lack of interest in peace and ending the occupation. His aim is to undermine the two-state solution and safeguard his position, regardless of the consequences and no matter the cost. Thus, Netanyahu has veered away from the true essence of security coordination and is now striving to present a superficial facade in order to deflect international outrage against his heinous crimes committed against the Palestinian people."

"Netanyahu has veered away from the true essence of security coordination and is now striving to present a superficial facade in order to deflect international outrage against his heinous crimes committed against the Palestinian people"

The Palestinian Authority's failure

While speaking to Raseef22, Dimitri Diliani, a member of the Revolutionary Council and spokesperson for the Democratic Reformist Current within the Fatah movement, sheds light on the historical evolution of the security relationship between Israeli and Palestinian authorities and their management of affairs in the West Bank, with questions like: What were the objectives during the era of the late President Yasser Arafat? And how did they change under the era of Mahmoud Abbas? He says that during Arafat's tenure, the security aspect was intertwined with the political agenda. However, the dynamics changed during Abbas's leadership, with the occupation recognizing the significance of security over achievements and the political agenda in their interactions with the Palestinians. And so, security coordination became unregulated.

According to Diliani, "Abbas prioritized the security file over the political one, as evidenced by his multiple meetings with Israeli security officials, while the political agenda took a back seat. This shift highlights the occupation's focus on a purely security-oriented relationship with the Palestinian Authority, evident in Netanyahu's refusal to meet 'Abu Mazen' for negotiations and his reluctance to address any political aspects."

A ten-year plan

"Since 2014, the year negotiations stopped, Netanyahu has been striving to marginalize the role of the Palestinian Authority and render it ineffectual, without value or influence. He has repeatedly promoted an unfounded idea, first presented at the Herzliya Conference by Zeev Jabotinsky, that peace cannot be achieved with the indigenous population, the Palestinians in this case. Instead, Israel has sought peace agreements with neighboring countries, hoping to frustrate and coerce the Palestinian Authority into accepting Israeli-imposed conditions. This has been Netanyahu's underlying philosophy, aiming to undermine and weaken the Palestinian side," explains Dr. Ayman Al-Raqab, a political science professor, Fatah leader, and expert on Israeli affairs.

During Arafat's tenure, security was entwined with the political agenda. However, the dynamics changed during Abbas's era, with the occupation recognizing the paramount importance of security over political accomplishments. So, what role does Abbas play?

Al-Raqab, speaking with Raseef22, highlights that "over the past decade under Netanyahu's dominance, his plan has been to break the authority of the Palestinian Authority, and unfortunately, he has succeeded through both political and financial means. Netanyahu has plunged the Authority into a financial crisis and fueled internal divisions between the West Bank and Gaza. He has offered minor privileges to entice Palestinian workers with lofty salaries. Furthermore, he has strategically manipulated the mindset and sentiments of the Palestinian populace. Consequently, their focus has shifted away from national issues towards day-to-day survival concerns. Even sporadic acts of resistance in the West Bank have been met with small-scale protests, indicating a waning interest in the Palestinian cause among the general population. This reveals that the authority has contributed to altering the public sentiment, to some extent. Hence, the resistance has diminished, and Netanyahu's plan has proven successful. Unfortunately, the Authority has failed to fulfill its optimal role in confronting this agenda."

Al-Raqab emphasizes that "the decision to continue or suspend security coordination does not rest solely with the Palestinian Authority, despite their repeated declarations. If the Authority were to genuinely cease security coordination, it would lead to its collapse. This is because Abbas is not prepared or willing to detach from the occupation or relinquish the Authority's security responsibilities in the West Bank. Therefore, we cannot definitively claim that security coordination has ceased at any point. Israel is keen on maintaining the Authority's presence in the West Bank, albeit it must be weakened and incapable of countering Israeli actions effectively. Ultimately, propping up the Palestinian Authority serves Israeli interests. Supporting and preventing the collapse of the Authority, in reality, is nothing but a grand scheme that serves the occupier's agenda."



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