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Country Reports

Palestinian Territory Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rejected the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, signed on 13 August. The agreement suspends Israel’s annexation plans, initially scheduled to commence 1 July 2020. Co-ordination between Israel and the PA has deteriorated in 2020, and the PA has threatened to suspend all co-operation, including on security matters.The United States is likely to seek the replacement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas with a more pliable figure who would at least accept negotiations over the peace proposal. One lever to achieve this would be a cut-off of Gulf Arab aid to the PA, likely prompting Abbas's resignation. This remains unlikely while the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak is ongoing in the West Bank. If it did happen, it would risk infighting between Fatah factions, with Abbas having no declared successor.The risk of a renewed escalation between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Israel remains high in 2020. Intermittent rocket fire and incendiary kites are still being launched at targets in southern Israel, prompting retaliatory airstrikes by Israel. Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza would ease hostilities if it led to healthcare cooperation and an alleviation of the Israeli blockade.Economic growth is forecast by IHS Markit to be -1.1% in 2020, with a steep forecast downgrade likely to be upcoming in the second quarter forecast revision. This is driven by restrictions intended to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including lockdowns and business closures. The aggregate unemployment rate is likely to rise further, from an already high 30%, with unsurprisingly higher rates in Gaza than in the West Bank.
Last update: August 21, 2020

Operational Outlook

Business activity is severely hindered by Israeli border closures, weak infrastructure, corruption, and complex bureaucracy. The collapse of the unity government in 2007 and the subsequent takeover by Hamas in the Gaza Strip further compounded this situation.

Last update: March 17, 2020

Terrorism

Hamas is likely to continue to launch arson attacks against southern Israel, but is unlikely to escalate this to regular rocket or mortar bomb fire while Egypt and Qatar continue to back mediation with Israel. 'Price-tag' and other attacks by Jewish settlers are likely to continue in the West Bank, alongside a risk of isolated knife attacks, shootings, and car-rammings at Israeli checkpoints and at other locations. The UAE-Israel normalisation agreement has suspended Israeli plans to annex the West Bank, decreasing the previously elevated risk of more frequent low-capability attacks by Palestinians.

Last update: August 21, 2020

Crime

Almost all forms of criminality are at problematic levels in the Palestinian Territories. The police force and judiciary lack the capability to address criminality, with evidence of complicity among the rank and file of the security forces. Despite these structural weaknesses, violent crime is generally rare.

Last update: June 17, 2020

War Risks

Israeli airstrikes, artillery strikes, and limited ground incursions are probable in response to rockets fired from Gaza, but the risks of escalation into wider inter-state war are mitigated by Hamas's continued limited security co-operation with Egypt. War risks are mitigated in the West Bank, where the PA security forces will probably continue co-operation with the Israeli military. One exception would be a third 'intifada' scenario, which would likely lead to the security forces ceasing co-operation.

Last update: March 17, 2020

Social Stability

Violent protests in Gaza and the West Bank are very likely in response to Israeli military operations, arrest campaigns, or settler attacks targeting Palestinians. These are highly unlikely to successfully challenge the control of either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Key triggers are likely to also include Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and a prolonged economic crisis in Gaza. Recent examples include protests against a social security law since October 2018 in the West Bank and the economic protests in February 2019 in Gaza. The UAE-Israel agreement has suspended plans to annex the West Bank, reducing escalation risks.

Last update: August 21, 2020