A senior minister who serves in Israel’s security cabinet warned Monday that the Palestinian Authority is on the brink of collapse, and that ignoring the situation will lead to “anarchy.”
“The current terror wave is a sneak preview for the collapse of the Palestinian Authority,” Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin, who is considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said during an address at Bar-Ilan University.
“The collapse of the PA is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’ For this reason, we must prepare militarily and stop the futile discussions over whether or not it will be good for the State of Israel. The PA will collapse whether we like it or not, and the State of Israel needs to understand that the train has left the station,” Elkin said.
Yet despite the signs that the PA’s collapse looms, he continued, “we haven’t sufficiently internalized” the significance of these developments. Said Elkin, a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a one-time deputy foreign minister: “We are not properly preparing ourselves.”
Israel’s defense establishment, including the military and the Shin Bet domestic security service, has maintained that such a scenario would be disastrous and that close security ties with the PA security apparatus are an important reason for Israel to avert its collapse. But several ministers, including Elkin, have reportedly argued that Israel may stand to benefit from the collapse of the PA and should not try to keep it afloat.
“The ones who will have to pay the price for anarchy in the PA are Israeli citizens, particularly the settlements, and we must therefore prepare for even worse attacks,” said Elkin, who resides in a West Bank settlement, referring to the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence that has killed 29 Israelis and three non-Israelis since October. Over 170 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
“We were wrong when we brought the PLO leaders out of Tunis, we were wrong when we thought that they would deal with terror and incitement, and we were wrong when we allowed them to run their education system, media and addresses in mosques without supervision,” Elkin said. “All of these led to the building of a generation filled with a burning hatred toward us and causes a 13-year-old girl to leave her school and stab Jews to death.”
He said the imminent collapse of the PA was a due to the lack of a successor to President Mahmoud Abbas, an unwillingness to hold elections for the presidency, and a surplus of legal and illegal weapons in the PA’s territory.
Speaking in January, Abbas dismissed talk of the approaching collapse of the PA, the ruling body he heads that was set up by predecessor Yasser Arafat in the 1990s. “No one should dream” of such a scenario, he said, amid reports in Israel that the government has been discussing just such a possibility. He stressed that only a Palestinian state would replace the PA.
“There is no scenario of what will happen after the PA… because the PA will stay and any replacement must be a state,” Abbas said. The PA is “one of the Palestinians’ achievements. They won’t give up on it, and no one should dream of its collapse.”
In December, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned against moves to weaken the PA, describing the situation as teetering on the brink of disaster.
“Some officials in Israel have reportedly argued that it may not be in Israel’s interest to have a Palestinian Authority,” Kerry said at the Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum. The secretary said he knew that Netanyahu had acknowledged the importance of having the Palestinian leadership remain intact, but noted that “circumstances force us to consider [the collapse of the Palestinian Authority] seriously, because there are valid questions as to how long the PA will survive if the current situation continues, mark my words.”
At the same time, Kerry slammed suggestions made by Palestinian leaders that the PA could be dissolved and that Palestinians could end security cooperation with Jerusalem.
“Many of those arguing for the dissolution of the PA simply don’t believe in two states,” Kerry said. “Many current Israeli ministers have been clear that they oppose the vision of a Palestinian state, not just now – but ever.”
Elkin said Tuesday that international efforts to prevent the PA’s collapse would end up damaging Israel.
“The international community must also stop trying to strengthen the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “It is just an attempt at an artificial resuscitation that will blow up in our faces.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.