Cabinet reportedly set to discuss measures to boost teetering Palestinian Authority

Ministers will weigh economic, travel, security steps to stabilize West Bank during Sunday meeting, amid fears the government in Ramallah could collapse, reports say

Palestinians take part in the funeral of two gunmen who were killed in an Israeli army operation, in Nablus, in the West Bank, on July 7, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Palestinians take part in the funeral of two gunmen who were killed in an Israeli army operation, in Nablus, in the West Bank, on July 7, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The security cabinet will reportedly discuss approving a series of measures to boost the Palestinian Authority during a meeting on Sunday, amid renewed fears the PA is on the brink of collapse.

The cabinet will discuss economic, travel and security measures aimed at stabilizing the PA, with the backing of the Israeli security establishment, according to Friday Hebrew media reports.

Many of the steps mentioned in the reports have been promised by past Netanyahu governments but have yet to come into fruition.

The proposed steps include approving a new industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, a move long supported by Israeli security officials, Channel 13 reported.

The cabinet will also discuss economic measures including easing the schedule for PA debt payments to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other security officials will brief lawmakers on security issues, Channel 13 reported.

Security officials told the network that they have warned the political leadership of the PA’s possible collapse and called to advance the measures quickly.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (R) visit a military post near Jenin, July 4, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The measures are also intended to counter Iran’s influence in the West Bank, the Ynet news site reported. The regime in Tehran supports the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

The PA is at odds with Hamas, its leading rival, and PA security forces act against more terror elements in the West Bank. The PA and Israel also coordinate on security, although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this week that cooperation has ended, a threat he has made repeatedly in the past.

The PA’s collapse would likely create chaos and a power vacuum in the West Bank, and an opportunity for terror groups to seize control, similar to the situation in Gaza, where Hamas violently ejected the PA in 2007.  The PA has increasingly lost control over the northern West Bank, empowering terror groups, and spurring Israeli forces to carry out regular operations in the area following a series of deadly terror attacks emanating from the region.

Israeli forces earlier this week carried out a major counter-terror operation in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, which Israel views as a hotbed of terror, and where the PA has little authority.

Palestinian gunmen take up positions during a confrontation with the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The three leading Israeli TV networks all reported the planned cabinet discussion during Friday night broadcasts, in what appeared to be a coordinated leak from the government.

Israeli officials have previously leaked plans to boost the PA in recent months, amid pressure from the US to step up cooperation between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

In February, a senior official in Netanyahu’s office told The Times of Israel that the premier had signed off on a series of small measures to provide financial assistance to Ramallah. But as of last week, two of the three steps promised had yet to be implemented.

Late last month, Netanyahu reportedly told lawmakers that Israel “needs the Palestinian Authority,” but also said Israel “needs to crush [the Palestinian] ambition” for an independent state.

In this photo provided by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2023. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

The planned cabinet discussion comes after the IDF counter-terror operation in Jenin earlier this week, and continued violence in the area since.

During the IDF operation in Jenin, 12 Palestinian gunmen were killed alongside one Israeli soldier, Sgt. First Class David Yehuda Yitzhak from the Egoz commando unit. The IDF was investigating if Yitzhak was hit by so-called friendly fire.

In response to the Jenin operation, Abbas said security coordination with Israel would remain suspended and other ties would be cut.

Abbas has threatened to halt security coordination with Israel several times in the past and declared a total freeze in January after an IDF raid in Jenin led to clashes in which nine Palestinians were killed, most of them members of terror groups, but also at least one civilian. Israel said at the time the raid was a necessary anti-terror operation.

But a week later, Abbas acknowledged to visiting CIA chief William Burns that parts of the security coordination apparatus remained in place and could potentially be fully restored.

Palestinian security forces rest after clashes with Palestinians following an arrest raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, September 20, 2022. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Previous Palestinian moves to suspend this coordination have been short-lived, in part because of the benefits the PA enjoys from the relationship by helping fend off challenges from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It has also faced US and Israeli pressure to maintain ties with Israel, with all three viewing the coordination as a key element helping to tamp down terror activity and promote stability in the West Bank.

The violence in the area has continued in recent days, following the Jenin operation.

On Friday morning, two armed Palestinians accused of carrying out a recent shooting attack were killed by Israeli forces in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and later in the day, a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli troops near the West Bank village of Umm Safa.

On Thursday, an Israeli soldier, Staff Sgt. Shilo Yosef Amir, 22, was killed by a Palestinian gunman near the settlement of Kedumim. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

During the past year, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the Israeli military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 25 people.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 151 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that time — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

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