Netanyahu: Israel to work to prevent collapse of Palestinian Authority


JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Sunday decided that Israel would work to prevent the collapse of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), but did not offer any concrete steps to do so.

Israel has been stepping up military operations against armed groups in the occupied West Bank, where the PA has limited autonomy.

The volatility has laid bare the weakness of the PA in the face of hundreds of Palestinian militants and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s office said his security cabinet had decided to act to prevent the collapse of the PA, though it was not a unanimous decision. His coalition includes far-right parties that oppose Palestinian statehood.

Eight members of the top-level forum voted in favor, with one voting against and one abstaining.

The statement said Netanyahu and his defense minister would bring forward “steps to stabilize the civil situation in the Palestinian arena,” but did not give any specifics.

Set up 30 years ago as part of interim peace accords with Israel, the PA has seen its popularity shrivel amid allegations of graft, incompetence and widely hated security cooperation arrangements with Israel.

There is also uncertainty over the position of 87-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas has defied prophecies of an end to his two decades in power and refused mounting demands to go, even as prospects of a lasting peace with Israel look more distant than ever.

In an interview with CNN broadcast earlier on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the PA “has lost its credibility, not necessarily because of what Israel’s done, just because it’s just lost its credibility, number one, and, number two, created a vacuum for extremism.”

“It’s not all Israel now on the West Bank, all Israel’s problem, but they are a part of the problem,” he said, referring to nationalist cabinet members bent on expanding Jewish settlements.

For Palestinians, Netanyahu’s far-right government has made worse an already bleak outlook, with violence surging and Jewish settlements set to expand in the West Bank – among territories where Palestinians hope to build a future state.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Hugh Lawson and David Holmes)

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