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Coronavirus fallout pushes Palestinians to the brink of economic ruin, anarchy

In a matter of days, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians employed in Israel, the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and the industrial zones, lost their jobs and are not eligible for unemployment benefits that can ensure them a basic means of existence – in contrast to Israelis who are on unpaid leave or were fired and are eligible to receive unemployment benefits from social security.

According to a senior PA official, the Palestinian Authority’s economy is almost entirely incapable of enduring such a crisis. Without basic income and economic prospects, self-employed Palestinians and the majority of households in the PA appear closer than ever to collapse.

Such a collapse will occur in the span of a few days, predict concerned senior PA officials, who believe that anarchy and chaos will erupt. Not only in the PA areas but, even more drastically in the congested Gaza Strip – where the healthcare system is all but non-functioning in regular times, let alone the current emergency.

Meanwhile, senior PA security officials believe the devastation of the healthcare and economic systems in the PA and Gaza increases the odds of security incidents and the extreme scenario whereby hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from PA areas and Gaza will look to escape into Israel in an attempt to save their lives and their loved ones.

PA officials are maintaining that for now, closely cooperating and coordinating with the relevant financial, medical and security authorities in Israel is helping the PA cope with the coronavirus crisis. Just a few days ago, Israel transferred the PA more than NIS 150 million ($40 million) in taxes it collected on its behalf but was withholding.

However, even senior PA officials say the outcome is inevitable. The question, in their minds, isn’t “if the healthcare and economic systems will collapse but when.”

In light of the fact that more and more cases of infection are being recorded daily in the PA and Gaza, it is only a matter of days until a general outbreak occurs, and when it does it will be Israel that is forced to deal with it.