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Netanyahu 'tells cabinet to prepare for PA's possible collapse'

Israeli prime minister reported to have told senior colleagues they should do all they can to prevent scenario during recent cabinet meetings
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Iran nuclear talks (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told senior colleagues to prepare for the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority, according to a report in Haaretz.

“We must prevent the Palestinian Authority from collapsing if possible, but at the same time, we must prepare in case it happens,” Netanyahu is reported to have said during a diplomatic-security cabinet meeting on Monday, the newspaper said, citing two senior officials who attended the meeting.

The Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet held two meetings over the past 10 days to discuss the possibility that the PA might collapse as an economic crisis in the West Bank and a political crisis within the Palestinian leadership continue to deepen, reported Haaretz. 

According to a senior Israeli official, communications from the government defence units over the last two months had sparked fears that the PA may collapse, reported Haaretz.

While the senior Israel official said that any collapse of the PA would leave Israel responsible for security and civilian affairs, a source within the Israeli government defence unit advised the diplomatic-security cabinet "to adopt an official policy of preventing such a collapse".

“Not just to say we aren’t interested in a collapse, but to make gestures and take steps on the ground that will stave off... such a scenario,” added the source.

Discussing the matter with Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen and other officials, Netanyahu has been intent on taking practical steps to ensure the PA does not collapse.

If it were to collapse, the alternative to the PA would probably be worse, Haaretz reported Netanyahu as saying during the Paris Climate Conference in early December.

But according to Haaretz, Netanyahu has not implemented most of the recommendations made by the security units due to political pressure from ministers in the security cabinet, including Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. 

The Israeli government defence unit believes that even if Israel were to stand back, the PA could still collapse due to internal factors, such as questions over who will succeed 81-year-old PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The possible collapse of the PA has also worried the US and EU, with the Middle East Quartet envoys – the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – reportedly discussing the issue during their most recent visit to Israel two week ago.