The Palestinian Authority (PA) has increased pressure on Tel Aviv, seemingly hoping to force a resumption of dialogue in order to undermine its rival Hamas, which maintains that only military means will strengthen the Palestinians’ position. President Abbas rejected a 27 March offer by Tel Aviv to hand over outstanding tax revenues, which had been suspended for several months, on the grounds that Israel had deducted money to cover disputed arrears for utility supplies. The PA’s move was seemingly intended to demonstrate its resilience despite Israel’s control over its income. This was reinforced when Qatar subsequently offered a USD 100 million loan to pay PA salaries, suggesting that it may have influenced Ramallah’s move and reducing the immediate risk of public disorder from unpaid state employees, as has happened in the past.
Then, on 1 April, the PA formally joined the International Criminal Court (ICC)
On 4 April Abbas said that he was ready to resume talks with incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu without preconditions, despite having said on 19 March that a two-state solution could not be reached while Netanyahu holds the premiership. However, coalition negotiations following the 17 March Israeli General Election continue and, if Netanyahu forms an administration including pro-settler parties (see below), this will reduce the likelihood of Tel Aviv offering concessions, such as freezing settlement activity, and so limit the chances of any talks having success.
Moreover, the PA’s decision to join the ICC is highly unpopular in Israel, where politicians fear that they could face arrest when abroad if the PA pursues cases against them through the court. Given the existence of conscription, many Israelis will also be concerned that their family members serving in the military could face indictment. Tel Aviv is highly likely to reject any ICC findings, and the PA’s decision to join the body could well make the Israelis less willing to offer concessions. It consequently further reduces the scope for successful dialogue in the longer term. Inflammatory rhetoric will continue in the meantime as both sides seek to justify their positions. This makes further low-level violence and minor attacks of the kind seen around Hebron during the Passover period (3-11 April) highly likely, in both the West Bank and Jerusalem, over the coming months.