According to a recent report, 2023 has so far seen 101 cases of Palestinians opening fire on Israelis and a total of 3,640 terrorist attacks, which have left 28 dead. One reason for the increase in terror is the decline of the power and influence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the northern part of the West Bank. Many serious observers of the situation—and many decisionmakers within the Israeli government and military—believe that Jerusalem’s best strategy is to strengthen the hand of the PA president Mahmoud Abbas. But since the beginning of his reign, Abbas has systematically violated the Oslo Accords, fostered hatred of Israel, incited violence, and provided financial incentives for terrorism. Yossi Kuperwasser examines how Israel might find its way out of this apparent dilemma:
[W]hy is it so essential for Israel to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and the PA he heads? . . . Israel is reinforcing a leader and an entity that are not only hostile toward Israel and committed to fighting the Jewish state but weak domestically. If so, there is no guarantee that Israel’s assistance will benefit [its own interests]. The PA can probably manage, and perhaps even better, without Israel’s help, which casts [the Palestinian government] as collaborators with those [whom Palestinians] define as an enemy. (Indeed, when in 2020, the PA, on its own initiative, stopped accepting the revenue payments from Israel and halted the security coordination, its functioning was not harmed at all.)
In recent years, reflecting fears of an escalation, the Israeli government’s approach has combined fighting terror, deterring Hamas, buttressing the PA, and improving the Palestinians’ quality of life. Those governments were willing to live with the diplomatic pressure the PA mustered against Israel while seeking to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords. At present, it is quite clear that the logic behind this approach has not proved itself, but rather the opposite.
The PA will not disintegrate of its own volition. The Palestinians regard it as the most outstanding achievement of their national struggle and as the basic infrastructure for the future Palestinian state, even if they have much criticism of its rampant corruption and are repelled by its leadership. It is also the largest employer of the Palestinians. . . . This reality is not going to change whether or not Abbas is strengthened. Even if, after his departure, the PA collapses amid a Palestinian civil war, almost all the Palestinian factions will share the aim of reestablishing it.