Israel, Unacknowledged, Guarantees the West Bank’s Security

January 11, 2017 | Reuel Marc Gerecht

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.

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