Analysis: What a PA collapse would mean for Israel

The spiraling anarchy inside Gaza is not something Israel can watch from outside.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
When the security cabinet meets Sunday to finish its discussion on how to grapple with the Kassams from Gaza, one hopes that beyond dealing with the very acute problem of how to reduce the rocket attacks on Sderot, it will also take up the issue of how Israel will react if the Palestinian Authority collapses. For the spiraling anarchy inside Gaza is not something Israel can watch from outside. A collapse of the PA as a government, something that the events of the last few days have shown is a real possibility, would have far-reaching strategic ramifications for Israel and could fundamentally change the two-state concept that has underpinned Israeli policy since 1993 and the Oslo Accords. Since that time, successive governments have adhered to a strategic approach based on the idea that if Israel wished to remain a Jewish and democratic state, it was not in its long-term strategic interest to continue to control the 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, or the 2.5m. Palestinians in the West Bank. But at the same time, said Gidi Grinstein, head of the Tel Aviv-based Reut think tank, certain factions inside Palestinian society were not interested in the two-state solution. They were, he said Thursday, interested in drawing Israel back into Gaza, perpetuating Israeli occupation, believing that this would lead to Israel's collapse from within. In a paper Reut published last November, Grinstein wrote that the aim of this strategy "is to establish one Palestinian/Arab/Islamic state in place of Israel through actions that will bring about Israel's internal collapse as a state." According to this strategy, "the occupation accelerates Israel's implosion and therefore should be sustained. Either way, the Hamas government in and of itself serves the 'Strategy of Implosion' because it creates a political deadlock, deepens the Palestinian crisis of representation, and erodes the PA's capacity to govern." Grinstein, who was an adviser to Ehud Barak when Barak served as prime minister, said that the collapse of the PA - a situation of "non-governance there" - was bad for Israel. "We will have no one to talk to, and too many people to shoot at," he said. "There are groups, Palestinian and Muslim Arabs, who are beginning to question whether their immediate goal should really be to try to push Israel out of the West Bank, and who are saying that the continuation of the occupation may accelerate Israel's implosion," he said. Grinstein noted that over the last year, there has not been any significant pressure on Israel from the PA, or from the Arab world, to get out of the West Bank. "We got used to an environment where there were powerful forces pushing us out of the West Bank," he said, saying that these voices have been silent for the last year. Because of some of the Palestinian factions' desire that Israel remain an occupying force, the threat of the IDF moving back into Gaza is a hollow one. That's what they want, Grinstein said. To support this argument, Grinstein quoted Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, who said in March 2006 that Hamas has always seen the establishment of the PA "as a mistake." He said that Hamas would not "hesitate to declare the dissolution of the PA and the return back to square one: that of being under occupation." The philosophy that Israel can be defeated easier from within than in a military attack from outside is also shared by Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Grinstein said he doubted whether the current chaos was premeditated by Hamas to provoke an Israeli response that would draw it back into Gaza, but that local events - such as clan feuds over weapons and drug smuggling - have a dangerous momentum of their own, and that other issues can piggyback on them. Faced with the possibility that the PA could collapse, Israel is essentially faced with two unattractive choices: drop the three conditions established when Hamas came into power and deal with a Hamas-led PA, under the logic that some address is better than none at all, or side with Fatah in its battle with Hamas.