Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) has doubled down on comments he made Monday, in which he said the collapse of the Palestinian Authority is not a question of if, but when.
The PA swiftly denied it is facing an imminent collapse, dismissing it as wishful thinking on the part of Israeli officials, despite its rising unpopularity among the Palestinian public.
Speaking to Israeli diplomatic correspondents Tuesday afternoon, Elkin defended his prediction.
"I spoke publicly because this is not a secret, and I am not the first one to bring up the subject," Elkin said, and noted that "those who work with me know" that he is extremely strict about never leaking confidential discussions held in cabinet meetings.
"At the same time, we are talking about a subject which will affect everything that happens to us," he added. "This is a public matter which has implications on our very lives."
"There is great value in public debate," Elkin continued. "I think that we have not yet internalized that the (Palestinian) Authority will collapse. I have not yet found anyone from (either) the political or military echelons who claim this is an outlandish scenario."
Elkin insisted that the public, first and foremost, had to let go of outdated paradigms and accept the emerging new reality. "We have gotten used to certain parameters," he said.
"Just as (the) Oslo (Accords), in its time, changed our way of life," things could change just as dramatically again, he warned.
"I remember as a hesder yeshiva student I argued with my friends about just how much it would change our lives," he continued of the disastrous agreement with the PA which led to the bloody Second Intifada. "It was clear to me then that the reality would be very harsh, and it was difficult for people to internalize this."
Nevertheless, the public can indeed internalize the failure of the Oslo paradigm, he insisted. Elkin cited the way in which the concept of a "Palestinian state" – once universally rejected by all but the most fringe extremists on the Israeli Left – came to become an integral part of the mainstream narrative.
"30 years ago it seemed delusional – today the majority accept it, and even parts of the Likud."
Asked what would happen the day after the PA collapsed, Elkin admitted he didn't have a "clear-cut answer," but speculated that the resultant breakup of a centralized "Palestinian" leadership could lead to great local self-rule for Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
But Elkin rejected the doomsday predictions suggested by some that the breakup of the PA would lead to a rapid security deterioration, mocking the naysayers by noting that that very scenario was already in place.
"I have heard voices who claim that I am calling to return our soldiers to the kasbah of Shechem," he said. "So I want to reveal to them that this is already happening today, since Operation Defensive Shield.
"That is the reason that, relatively speaking, the level of terrorism hasn't reached what it was during the Second Intifada."
He did, however, acknowledge that a lack of central authority posed a risk of increased anarchy and the rule of the gun, and that if Israel did not adequately prepare for such an eventuality the situation could threaten Israeli lives.
"Imagine that tomorrow the landlord is no longer in charge, or that there are numerous landlords… First of all the guns will be directed towards the local population – and after that they will be turned on us.
"The moment the PA collapses everyone will seize a weapon in order to rule, and eventually it will be directed towards us. That means not just the 'isolated settlements' – it means all the thousands of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria and travel the roads, and it could also spill over within the Green Line."
Asked whether Israel would need to fully "reconquer" Judea and Samaria, Elkin responded: "What does that mean 'reconquer'?
'Right now we have already conquered it. We already enter whenever we want, " he said of Judea and Samaria. "I don't phone every time I go in," added Elkin, who himself lives in Gush Etzion in Judea.