The natural response to Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas' threat to leave the keys on the table and dismantle the Palestinian Authority is to say, "Please, why not?" There has not been a leader yet who has truly tired of ruling and his colleagues forced him to continue.
There is no need to view the threat with the joy that Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett exuded. Abbas' threat to close down shop is largely an empty one. Abbas does not want to step down. And if he gets into a situation in which he has no choice but to carry out the threat that he did not intend to fulfill, none of his younger counterparts in the PA would allow him to do so.
Jibril Rajoub, Mohammed Dahlan and even Marwan Barghouti did not wait until 2014 to let a transitional leader shatter their dreams of succeeding him. Palestinian leaders do not want to give up the throne at the Muqataa (PA headquarters) in Ramallah and the red-carpet welcome ceremonies around the globe. Mostly, these freeloaders do not want the international contributions to stop. Abbas can jump into the abyss, but his political family will not follow him. Abbas does not have the power to dismantle the PA.
On the one hand, cases exists in which fate-tempting tight-rope walkers slip and fall. If this happens to Abbas, Israel should make clear that it would not take the PA's place, much to the chagrin of Bennett and his friends. Rather, such a scenario would provide a historic opportunity to offer Jordan some of the territory it had held before the 1967 Six-Day War. If Jordan's King Abdullah hesitates, he could receive a mandate (if possible) from Arab League nations.
Israeli-Palestinian talks have reached a stage in which threats must be met with threats. The Palestinians should be made to look at a cost-benefit analysis before they get entangled in a bitter dispute. Recently, the Palestinians violated a commitment they made at the start of the renewed negotiations and applied to join 15 international organizations and conventions. These applications are still being discussed and awaiting approval. Dismantling the PA would cancel the applications. A bankrupt company that is being liquidated cannot sign checks and buy goods. The applications would be null and void.
However, Israel is not interested in seeing Abbas resign or the PA being dismantled. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was right about this, but he overestimated in his assumption that increased pressure on Israel, which has sought to maintain its dialogue with Abbas, would produce any accomplishments for the teetering regime in Ramallah.
Talks are the hope (however dwindling) of both peoples and provide a chance for a rosy future. Without talks, the growing violence taking place on the Temple Mount could also erupt in other areas. Shrugging in the face of Abbas' extortion is the major note in Israel's diplomatic melody, but this needs to be accompanied by a carrot, not just a stick. Israel should offer Abbas an enticing excuse to climb down from the tall tree where he is perched.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has many options. He should choose one and stick with it, even if this goes against the wishes of opponents within his coalition. Perhaps Abbas will see reality at eye-level.