"The U.S. administration has warned against the possibility of the PA's collapse if the tax revenue that Israel collects continue to be withheld for the second month in a row," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
The result is that the PA has been unable to pay its employees' salaries. If this continues for months to come, it threatens dire consequences such as the spread of anarchy and a security breakdown, whose signs we have already begun to detect in the Gaza Strip. In fact, the American warning was preceded by similar warnings from Israeli military and security officials who have cautioned Netanyahu that continuing to withhold the tax revenues will not serve Israel's security interests.
Meanwhile, PA leaders and Fateh leaders have issued statements to the effect that the next meeting of the PLO’s Central Committee scheduled for early March will be decisive and adopt fateful decisions regarding the Palestinian/Israeli relationship. Foremost among them will be a decision to end security coordination, letting Israel assume responsibility for its occupation, with all that this entails as far as handing over the PA's keys to the real ruling authority.
But the Israeli government has paid no heed to any of this. First, because it is using this and other extremist and racist measures against the Palestinians, in order to improve the Likud and the other right-wing parties’ chances in the coming [March] elections. Second, it realizes that these threats, which have been repeated often over the past years, are just a puff of dust that will eventually disappear without effect, and that ending security coordination is not part of the PA's calculations because, quite simply, it would be hurt as much, and possibly even more, than Israel as a result.
Israel's confidence is justified. After all, had the PA been genuinely interested in a confrontation with the Hebrew state, the first and most important precondition would have been for it to put its domestic house in order at the various levels, especially by ending the inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split and by restoring national unity, as well as by taking measures that would prevent the existing political and geographical split from developing into a permanent separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
But such a separation is precisely what is happening at a growing pace in light of the two parties’ insistence on clinging to their factional and partisan preconditions for achieving unity. Each side is trying to take over the leadership and monopolize power, or to divide the spoils and share power between them, at best.
Moreover, preparing for a confrontation [with Israel] calls for rebuilding and activating the PLO's institutions that have been in a miserable state since the  Oslo Accords were signed, thereby turning them in both word and deed into the supreme authority and sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
No one who is seriously considering ending security coordination and taking legal action against Israel (whenever the application to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) takes effect in April) for its war crimes in the Gaza war and the ongoing crimes of settlement construction that are not subject to any statute of limitation, would sign a 20-year-long gas agreement with Israel worth billions of dollars.
By doing so, the signatories have breached the boycott of the Hebrew state; a wall whose height has risen in recent months. They are also encouraging other countries to take similar steps, such as Jordan that is witnessing a rowdy internal debate over the proposed gas agreement with Israel. And they are also consolidating the Palestinian economy's status as an annex to Israeli economy.
In addition to the above, and as is customary, the eyes of the president and the influential circle around him are focused on the Israeli elections in the hope that they may end in the right-wing's defeat and the victory of the left and center (which is also right-wing in fact). They hope that this would facilitate a resumption of the negotiations, leading to an agreement that establishes the long-promised Palestinian state, or that maintains the status quo and prevents it from collapsing completely, at least.
Moreover, the PA is wagering that if the Netanyahu government returns to power, it will not force matters towards a total collapse, and that its aim is to take the PA to the brink of the abyss merely in order to blackmail it and extract the maximum concessions from it.
This means that all that has been happening so far is a merely matter of playing 'in extra time' while waiting for the negotiations to resume. The aim is to ensure that negotiations will be 'the only game in town', even though it is one that is lethal to the Palestinians and their cause.
The PA was established in implementation of an agreement that allows for self-rule; therefore, it was a burden on the Palestinian people from the very start. What is new about the situation is that the overwhelming majority of people now realize this. Those who once expected it to be a step towards ending the occupation and the establishment of a genuine Palestinian state have been shocked by the facts that successive Israeli governments – right-wing, centrist, and leftist – have created, driving the possibility of establishing such a state further and further away.
Therefore, instead of continuing to hang on to the coattails of the Oslo Accords that have led us to the catastrophe that we are now living as a result of the illusion that this may lead to the establishment of a state, and instead of using national reconciliation and the strategies of internationalization, popular resistance, boycott, threats of ending the security coordination, and handing over the PA's keys to the occupation as tactics to pressure in order to revive the Accords and return to the ‘paradisiacal’ negotiations, we must adopt a new and radically different track that focuses on the struggle to alter the balance of power, rendering the occupation costly for Israel and those who support it.
As part of this new track, we need to reconsider the PA's form, tasks, and commitments. It must become an authority that serves the national program and turns into one of that program's tools. This does not mean that the PA should necessarily become a resistance authority; but it must become an authority that sits in parallel with the resistance, rather than a tool used to combat it.
This could lead to the PA's collapse, not to its disbandment. It may simply collapse in the heat of the confrontation that will break out with the occupation, which will not accept any change in the PA's position and role. But the PLO would then lead the people and their struggle after its institutions have been rebuilt in a manner that includes all shades of the political spectrum. Moreover, believing in the justice of its cause and its moral superiority, and determined to fight for its rights, the nation will be able to build new structures that secure its presence and needs, in place of the collapsed PA.
"The Palestinian cause was in a much better place before the establishment of the PA. It is likely to be in a better place after it, if the PA is turned into an authority that serves the nation and its national liberation struggle," concludes Masri.