Eyeing West Bank, Israel sets sights on PA

ALI ABO REZEG
Published 26.02.2019 00:07

Following the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada, there have been many Israeli bids aimed at totally terminating the Palestinian Authority (PA), especially during the era of the late President Yasser Arafat, and these attempts have, nowadays, intensified with the goal of completely annexing the entire West Bank.

The PA was established in 1994 as an outcome of the infamous Oslo Accords agreement, which stipulated that the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) could return to Palestinian territories after decades of refuge and representing the Palestinian people from abroad.

The cruel Israeli policies against the PA have a lot to do with U.S. President Donald Trump being in power since Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been, to a great extent, emboldened to go forward with such measures after the arrival of that administration in the White House. Trump has proved, on different occasions, his administration's antagonizing polices against the Palestinian people and their just cause.

Israeli policies that were adopted to realize this purpose have been worse than what we used to hear from the daily media of the Israeli violations against the Palestinian people and their lands. Since, Israel has gone extended its expansionist policies in the West Bank in general and in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in particular.

The Israeli measures have been ranging from cutting the PA's monthly funds, which are the main income source for its budget, to increasing the role of the "Israeli coordinator" in the West Bank and the Israeli daily incursions into the PA-run towns and villages there.

The Israeli security Cabinet decided in mid-February to deduct around $134 million of the tax fund Israel collects from its crossings since this amount equals what the PA pays, on a monthly basis, of stipends to the families of Palestinian martyrs and detainees.

Based on 1994's Paris Protocol between the newly born PA and the Israeli side, Israel was given the right to collect the monthly taxes from Palestinian imports and exports on behalf of the PA.

The Israeli financial figures estimated that this amount of money – $134 million – was what the PA paid in 2018 for those families. The Israeli decision came despite the PA's decision to cut the stipends it was giving to the Hamas-affiliated martyrs and detainees in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Cutting such an amount of money from the PA's only financial source added insult to injury. PA officials have been saying, in recent months, that the fiscal year of 2019 would be in danger after many of the PA's financial supporters have yet to uphold to their pledges in backing the PA's crippling budget. It also coincided with the crazy campaign the Trump administration led against the U.S. fund, which was a source of funding for the PA and its security agencies in the past.

Another aspect of the increasing Israeli influence in the West Bank at the expense of the PA is the so-called "Israeli Coordinator." The Israeli Coordinator is an Arabic-speaking Facebook page in addition to a radio station that were set to receive the Palestinian people's questions and complaints on daily matters. These questions focus mainly on the Israeli checkpoints splitting West Bank cities and on humanitarian issues like medical treatment and work inside Israel.

In a few years, the Facebook page reached half a million subscribers, with a study done by a Palestinian new-media expert saying that the number of subscribers to the page increase 4 percent every week. Older Palestinians say the issues discussed on the page remind them of what was known as "Israeli Civil Administrations," which regulated daily life matters before the arrival of the PA in 1994. So, it could be interpreted as an Israeli systematic plan to totally terminate the PA by substituting it with alternative forms of administration.

The frequent arrest campaigns Israel launched in West Bank cities and its incursions into the Palestinian government installations is also another facet of the Israeli bids to undermine the role of the PA. Israel's targeting of the PA's headquarters in Ramallah not only affects the concept of sovereignty which the PA already lacks but also eliminates the prestige of its security forces there, who found themselves doing nothing on the ground but protecting Israeli interests.

The Israeli bids have one goal only: annexing the entire West Bank. Step by step, Israel has been marginalizing the PA's role in different sectors, even as it has decided to weaken the PA's income source by cutting its funds. It also increased its direct services to Palestinians through the coordinator, and it has almost complete control over the security side there.

* Ph.D. student at Yıldırım Beyazıt University's Department of International Relations

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