The ongoing war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas has raised serious questions about the political and strategic relevance of the Palestinian Authority, or PA. But it also takes place against the backdrop of recent trends in the Israeli occupation of the PA-ruled West Bank. As such, the war both reflects and exacerbates the PA’s dwindling authority and the shifting paradigm of the Palestinian national movement.
In particular, the war in Gaza followed an unprecedented escalation of Israeli military operations in the West Bank, reflecting the current right-wing Israeli government’s implicit endorsement of the activities and territorial encroachments of Israeli settlers there. The situation in Gaza is now exacerbating the already dire situation in the West Bank, further testing the PA’s resilience and strategic orientation. The PA’s reaction will likely influence the future of its civil and security infrastructure, with its long-term viability now shifting from being an academic debate to an urgent policy priority. Significantly, circles within the Israeli policymaking community are now actively engaged in discussions aimed at preventing the potential collapse of the PA.
Three trends from recent years are especially central to shaping the PA’s future. These are the dramatic rise of Israeli army and settler violence in the West Bank, which has prompted the emergence of hubs of Palestinian resistance in towns across the northern West Bank; the PA’s declining financial and institutional stability; and regional shifts, in the form of the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states and the effective abandonment of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. All of them take on added significance in the context of the war in Gaza, whose consequences will in turn affect future developments.