The security cabinet held marathon discussions over the past several days over the possibility of the Palestinian Authority collapsing and what Israel should do if that happens, Haaretz reported.
The discussion, initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came after this week’s visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with the prime minister and with PA President Mahmoud Abbas separately in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
According to the report, after Kerry failed to make progress on the Palestinian front, Netanyahu convened the cabinet to discuss recently acquired information that the Palestinians were planning new processes against Israel in the diplomatic arena.
One move the PA has considered, as reported in the past, is to approach the UN Security Council or the General Assembly to push through a resolution demanding international protection for the Palestinian people “in the occupied State of Palestine.” Another possibility, also reported in the past, is for Abbas to revoke the Palestine Liberation Organization’s recognition of Israel, which formed the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
In his UN speech before the General Assembly in September, Abbas made both points, albeit more subtly. He said the PA would cease to abide by agreements signed with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo Accords, claiming Israel had shown that it, too, was no longer committed to them, that the State of Palestine was under occupation and that Israel must “fully assume all its responsibilities as an occupying power.”
Israel in response slammed Abbas’s speech, calling it “deceitful.”
According to the Haaretz report Friday, several ministers who attended the cabinet meeting argued that Israel may stand to benefit from the collapse of the PA and that it should not try to prevent it.
Israel’s security establishment, including the military and the Shin Bet, by contrast, have maintained that such a scenario would be disastrous and that close security ties with the PA security apparatus are important for Israel. Officials at the meeting reportedly warned ministers against the consequences of such an event.
After his meetings with both Netanyahu and Abbas this week, Kerry warned that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is at a “pivotal point” and could worsen beyond repair unless both sides make rapid compromises.
“As you know, we’re very concerned about the violence and the potential for the situation to spin out of control,” Kerry told reporters as he arrived home in Boston after the trip.
Kerry’s warning came amid a relentless wave of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and security forces in Israel and across the West Bank. At least 20 Israelis have been killed in a series of near-daily stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks since October 1. Over 80 Palestinians have been killed in that same time frame, about half of them attackers.
Kerry has urged both leaders to take steps to calm tensions amid the unrest. But he left without a concrete breakthrough and said he would continue to press both leaders on the issue in coming weeks.
During their meeting, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel would only agree to take steps to improve the security and economic situation for Palestinians in the West Bank when calm is fully restored, according to a senior Israeli official.
Netanyahu also said there would be no settlement freeze, and Israel would only okay building plans for the Palestinians if the US recognizes Israel’s construction in the settlement blocs, according to the official.
Kerry reportedly rejected an Israeli proposal to halt building in outlying settlements in exchange for recognition of construction in major blocs Israel hopes to hold on to in a final-status deal.
According to Haaretz, the Kerry meeting with Abbas did not go any more smoothly, with the PA leader demanding to know what steps Israel was willing to take to calm tensions. Abbas reportedly refused to condemn the recent spate of terror attacks and threatened to hand the keys to the PA over to Israel.
On his way to the airport, Kerry is said to have called Netanyahu and told him: “I’m out of ideas,” according to Haaretz.