Israel, Unacknowledged, Guarantees the West Bank’s Security

Jan. 11 2017

Current discussions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the U.S., Europe, and most of all the UN tend to ignore the fundamental realities of the West Bank—and of the Middle East more broadly. Reflecting on a recent conversation, Reuel Marc Gerecht writes:

Not long ago, I was talking to a Fatah official about Palestinian aspirations, especially his party’s sharp emotions about Hamas, the Palestinian fundamentalist movement that rules Gaza and would gladly overthrow the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Fear, loathing, secular outrage (which may have been amplified to please Western ears), and a certain sadness about unrequited Palestinian fraternity in the face of Israeli oppression punctuated our conversation. When I finally tired of his urgent demand that America rectify Israeli transgressions or see violence rip the West Bank, I asked him how long he thought the Palestinian Authority could survive if Israel yanked its support for Fatah’s security apparatus. I suggested one month. He remonstrated: “We could probably last two.” . . .

The truth about Fatah’s security weaknesses is symptomatic of the truth about the Palestinians: they can exist as a non-Islamist polity only if Israel protects their attenuated nation-state. If [Israel] pulls back, then the militant Muslim faithful will probably recast the Palestinian identity, wiping away the secular Palestinian elite who have defined the Palestinian cause among Westerners since the Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organization first started sparring with each other in 1964.

The Israelis have granted the West Bank Palestinians the opportunity to take a pass on the ongoing implosion of the Muslim Arab world. That pass also extends, with fewer guarantees, to the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan, which could have a much harder time surviving with a triumphant Hamas on its border. . . .

Fatah’s men actually exist in the best of possible worlds: they enjoy undisputed mastery of Palestinian politics on the West Bank; they have established a perpetuating oligarchy; foreigners pay for their dominion; the Israelis rarely take credit for maintaining Fatah’s supremacy, . . . while the Palestinian Authority can lambaste the Israelis for a wide variety of sins, most surreally blaming the Jewish state for the inability of the Palestinian people to come together. Abbas’s men can unofficially condone, if not encourage, low-level violence against Israelis; through credit by association, Palestinians’ knifing of Israelis helps Fatah stay competitive with the Islamists. Even if violence worsened, the Israelis probably wouldn’t stop protecting Hamas’s principal foe, the only instrument Jerusalem has for keeping Islamic militancy at bay without deploying far more of the Israel Defense Forces.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Two-State Solution, West Bank

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy