The Palestinian Authority could use its tens of thousands of troops for a new war against Israel, a report said.
The Institute for National Security Studies asserted that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas could order Palestinian security forces to confront Israel in an effort to end the stalemate over the establishment of a state in the West Bank. In a report, INSS said another Israeli-Palestinian war marked an option by the PA leadership and the ruling Fatah movement.
“The PA may also instigate a limited armed conflict,” the report, titled “Following Abbas’ Letter to Netanyahu: Options Available to the Palestinian Authority,” said. “The PA has thousands of trained and equipped security personnel who have operational experience and are highly familiar with the area, assets in a conflict with Israel.”
Authored by researcher Ehud Eilam, the report cited calls for an uprising by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences in Israel. But the report said Abbas might restrain his 30,000-member security force to prevent Israel Army retaliation.
“However, it is very possible that the PA will not wish to expose its security forces to IDF retaliation, and will therefore, as in the past, project an ostensibly separation between its security forces and those undertaking acts of guerrilla warfare and terrorism,” the report said. “Still, such a policy may damage the PA image. The likelihood of this scenario materializing is low since the Palestinian leadership has adopted a policy that opposes the renewal of violence and supports only a popular struggle.”
Another scenario was that Abbas would initiate a conflict in the hope that Israel would destroy the PA. The report said such a move would be designed to spark a crisis that would mobilize the international community.
“This would be a gamble designed to upgrade the PA to statehood status even at the risk of destroying the PA and all its achievements,” the report said.
Eilam said the PA could also decide on diplomatic options to pressure Israel. He cited an appeal by Abbas for Egyptian intervention or returning to the United Nations to be granted the status of a non-member state.
The report cited threats by senior Fatah officials to dismantle the PA. But the report said such a move could lead to a takeover by the Islamic opposition, particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“Naturally, in a situation like this the Palestinian security forces would crumble, thus enabling Hamas and other extreme organizations such as Islamic Jihad to carry out attacks against Israel, and not necessarily only in Judea and Samaria [West Bank],” the report said. “Further, the former PA security units, if only out of frustration at losing their jobs, could turn their anger against Israel.