Next Strategic Surprise: PA Collapse or 3rd Intifada?

The combination of the current Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians and the absence of a political agenda is liable to bring a "Strategic Surprise" in the form of either a collapse of the PA or a Third Intifada.
fIn the midst of contacts regarding the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government between Hamas and Fatah, Israel arrested yesterday the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer (Ha'aretz, 20/8/06).

The Reut Institute contends that the combination of (1) the policy of the "Three Demands" (see below) that leads to the paralysis of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and (2) the absence of a political agenda is liable to bring a "Strategic Surprise" in the form of either a collapse of the PA or a Third Intifada.

What is the Issue?

The "Three Demands" – Israel's stance since the electoral victory of Hamas (1/06) has been that the economic and political boycott of the PA can only be terminated if the Hamas government meets three conditions: recognition of Israel, reaffirming existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and ceasing terror.

The absence of a political agenda – after what seems to be "freezing" of the Convergence Plan, Israel has no political agenda vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

The Palestinian unity government – in the course of discussions last week on the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government, Haniyeh stated that establishing the unity government is conditioned on the cessation of the "blockade."

Why is this Important? Why Now?

The status quo arrangements require the PA to provide basic services for the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Thus, the PA government is the only "Address" for Israel regarding these issues.

Without a meaningful presence of Hamas, which dominates the Palestinian Legislative Council, the PA government will not be able to be an "Address" (see: No Palestinian Address without Hamas).

And therefore, the absence of a political agenda seemingly means that the status quo will continue for a substantial period of time without undue harm to Israel.

However:

In recent months, there is increasing erosion in the status of the PA due to the "Three Demands" of Israel and the international community (despite the mechanism for foreign funds created by the European Union).

In this current reality, and in the midst of the Israeli arrest of the Hamas ministers and members of the PLC, calls for the dissolution of the PA have been intensifying (see Dissolution of the Palestinian Authority – an Emerging Trend).

Moreover, without a political horizon, the Fatah movement cannot offer a moderate alternative to its constituents. Thus, the chances are slim that Fatah and the moderate forces will gain ground against Hamas.

Policy Options

The combination of the paralysis of the PA and the absence of a political agenda is liable to cause the PA to collapse and/or cause a Third Intifada.

Given the absence of a political agenda, and the potential establishment of a Palestinian national unity government, Israel should officially relinquish its demand for an explicit recognition or compromise on thee implementation of the three demands in order to bolster the PA's delivery capability.