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    Halting Deals With Israel May Lead to Dismantling of PA as Political Entity - Scholar

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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on 25 July he would end all agreements with Israel, a few days after Israel demolished 12 buildings in Wadi Hummus outside East Jerusalem over purported violations of construction rules.

    Dr Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former deputy director-general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Ministry for Strategic Affairs has spoken about the consequences of the Palestinian Authority's decision to end all the agreement with Israel.

    Sputnik: The Palestinian Authority is suspending all accords signed with Israel. What consequences could this decision cause, if any?

    Dr Kobi Michael: I think that the probability that the Palestinian Authority will end the relations on the cooperation with Israel according to the agreement, is still a low probability. But unfortunately, there are some circumstances, mainly the new story about the houses in Sur Baher, East Jerusalem, which is a very complicated issue, and, of course, all the other political circumstances mainly related to the "deal of the century" of the American administration of President Trump that actually increases the pressures on the Palestinian leadership.

    But reading very carefully the speech that Abu Mazen gave yesterday evening, I think that he still uses the traditional Palestinian way of dealing with complicated issues when he talks about the establishment of a special committee that will deal with the decision to end the relations with Israel. And the idea of establishing that committee is the idea of killing the issue, something that has been done by the Palestinians many times in many years. So I think that at the end of the day the probability is still low, but it's higher than it used to be before. 

    Sputnik: Agreements with Israel signed in the 1990s are the basis for Palestinian self-governance. How might Abbas' decision impact the legitimacy of this self-governance?

    Dr Kobi Michael: I don't see any replacement to the agreement that was signed, meaning the Oslo agreement, and I that think if Palestinians realize their threat about ending their relations with Israel, they will create a vacuum that will not be filled by any other agreement. And in this regard they are dangering their political existence, I mean the Palestinian Authority's existence. It might cause a sort of a chaotic situation in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and it might lead to de-composition or dismantling of the Palestinian Authority as a political entity.

    I don't know what exactly will be done or how exactly Israel will continue coordinating or cooperating with the fragile Palestinian entity in the West Bank in the absence of the Palestinian Authority as a central authority. But I do not believe that any other agreement will be signed under such a scenario, such a threat which was realized by the Palestinians. I mean, with whom exactly we are going to reach any sort of an agreement and what would be the nature, the characteristics of such an agreement? It is a sort of emptiness, vacuum.        

    Sputnik: How will Israel react?

    Dr Kobi Michael: I don't think that Israel will react. At least since yesterday evening till now I haven't heard any official reaction from the Israeli establishment and I think there will be no official reaction from the Israeli establishment. Because there is no contribution to such a reaction. I mean, what exactly such a reaction will contribute to the situation? I think that Israel understands pretty well the complex situation Abu Mazen is under and I don't thank that Israel has interest in complicating the situation more than it is now.

    I think there are some back channels with the Palestinians, mainly the security channels, which still work and they are very efficient because the Palestinian Authority understands pretty well that the continuation of the security cooperation with Israel is not only in Israel's interest, it's first of all in the Palestinians' interest. Without cooperating with Israeli security apparatuses, there is a very big danger about the head of the Palestinian Authority because of the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority among each constituency in the West Bank and due to the efforts which are done by Hamas in order to undermine the Palestinian Authority's stability and to replace it with the hegemon political power.

    In this regard, Hamas is a common adversary of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority. And the PA by chance or alone cannot tackle the threats it faces. Therefore they need security cooperation. I believe the security cooperation will continue even if the Palestinians will make some further political steps that will be more serious in comparison to some other political steps that were taken by the Palestinians before. I believe that the security cooperation will continue between both sides. And I believe that Israel will not react publicly or officially to the last statements that were made by Abu Mazen.  
    Sputnik: What steps do you expect from the US administration now? 

    Dr Kobi Michael: I think we have to listen carefully to the things which have been said by the special envoy Greenblatt in the last convention of the General Security Council of the UN. I think the Americans are pretty determined with regard to their political vision which includes the Israeli-Palestinian issue but it is not limited to the Israeli-Palestinian issue because they have a much broader strategy regarding the broader Middle East. Where the Palestinian issue is only one layer or one component of the bigger strategic vision that they have in this regard.

    I think they are pretty fed up with the Palestinians, mainly with Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority. You have to remember that they stopped the financial aid to UNRWA in 2018, and they stopped funding the Palestinian Authority and the Americans were the main and the biggest providers of the Palestinian Authority in UNRWA. They are continuing their efforts with the Arab leaders in the region in order to fulfil, to realize their strategy. And I think that they will come with the political component of the deal pretty soon, immediately after the regional elections elections that will be held on 17 September.

    And they will offer to the Palestinians and to the Israelis and they will be backed by the Arab leaders again. They will propose a deal to the Palestinians and to the Israelis, and they hope that the Palestinians will not reject it. If the Palestinians reject it, they will leave them on their own, I mean they are not going to insist and to do more than what they can do with regard to their political deal. If the Palestinians reject it, then the Palestinian will remain to continue by themselves. Due to the fact that the Europeans, the EU is not a significant, influential player in the Middle East, generally speaking, in the Palestinian arena or in the Israel arena specifically and when Palestinians generally lost the support of the Arab world, of the Arab leaders, what eventually they can do? They can protest. They can initiate violent resistance against Israel, so on, but eventually, I don't think that they are able, under the current circumstances to create sort of a political breakthrough, which is totally different than the American proposal, the American deal. This is actually the only option on the table and if they reject the only option they will remain without options.    

    Sputnik: How can Abbas' decision help him on the "domestic front"? Do you think, Fatah and Hamas may reconcile?  

    Dr Kobi Michael: I'm not sure that this decision actually promotes or advances the probability for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. It's much much more complicated than the rift and the dispute between the two factions. It's not only the Palestinian issue, it's something that's related to the broader context of the problematic Middle East because they represent two different camps or two different powers in the Middle East that are fighting each other and they have a zero sum game between them. Hamas is the Palestinian version of political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood where the Palestinian Authority is considered to be part of the so-called Sunni Pragmatic Arab Camp which is led mainly by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These two camps in addition to two other camps or powers, the Iranian camp and Jihadia Salafia represented mainly by al-Qaeda and ISIS*. Those four powers are fighting each other for hegemony and influence in the entire Middle East. Therefore, the Palestinian issue is only a reflection of the world in context. Therefore I really doubt the option of the probability that Hamas and Fatah would be able to reconcile. And if you want to have a sort of comparison to the Palestinian internal conflict, you can have a look at what is going on in Egypt.

    Sputnik: Do you think there is a high probability for reconciliation between the current regime in Egypt led by Sisi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?

    Dr Kobi Michael: This is the same situation. The Muslim Brotherhood are Egyptians, they are Egyptian citizens, but the rift and the dispute is so deep and the gaps are so wide that they cannot reconcile. Since two years ago, three years ago the political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are banned, they are out of the law, they are illegal, they are not allowed to participate in the political game in Egypt. Therefore I think there is a very similar situation that we see in the Palestinian arena. And therefore I see no significant contribution to the last things that have been said by Aby Mazen to the probability that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will be achieved. 

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Kobi Michael and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik. 

    * Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) and al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations banned in Russia

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