What Do Israelis Want for the West Bank?

Feb. 15 2017

While a small number of Israelis want their country to hold on to Judea and Samaria at all costs, and another minority want to cede these territories as quickly as possible, the majority, according to Haviv Rettig Gur, are themselves of two minds over what seems to be an intractable problem. The internal tensions go back to the very strategy that created the West Bank settlements in the first place:

The new settlements [founded after the Six-Day War] ran roughly along the contours of the “Allon Plan,” developed by [the Israeli general Yigal] Allon, who had urged the conquest of the West Bank in 1948. The plan sought to strike a balance between the two incompatible aims with which the Israeli cabinet had wrestled twenty years earlier: to claim areas that would mitigate the perpetual threat to Israel’s narrow north-south corridor while leaving intact and unclaimed a large, contiguous Arab-majority territory that could someday become a Palestinian state.

In practice, that meant relatively modest steps, such as establishing well-defended hamlets along the Jordan River whose reservists-turned-farmers could hold an enemy army at bay in an emergency, or expanding the most vulnerable and precious of Israel’s cities, Jerusalem, to encompass the hills that before the war had threatened it on all sides. Even today, most of the settlers live in a circle around Jerusalem or in towns placed as buffers around the main highways leading to the capital. . . .

When diplomats in Washington, London, or elsewhere wonder about Israel’s intentions—when they complain that Netanyahu is lying either about his support for Palestinian statehood or about his support for settlements, because how can he support both?—they are overlooking the most important fact of Israel’s position. Since Israel’s earliest days, the West Bank has meant both secure boundaries and mortal danger, a homecoming to the landscapes of Jewish and biblical history and a potentially disastrous intertwining with a foreign people.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Palestinians, Settlements, West Bank

Mahmoud Abbas’s Appointment of a New Deputy Chairman Won’t Prevent a Violent Succession Struggle

Feb. 24 2017

Last week, amid ongoing concern over his refusal to choose a successor, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elevated two of his associates to important positions within his Fatah party. Mahmoud al-Aloul, a PLO veteran who was close to Yasir Arafat’s inner circle, was named deputy party chairman, and Jibril Rajoub, who served as the head of Arafat’s Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, became the secretary general. The move, writes Yoni Ben Menachem, has calmed some of the internal tensions within Fatah, but only in the short run:

Both . . . Aloul and Rajoub, are unacceptable to the Fatah Central Committee as possible successors to Abbas as PA president or Fatah chairman. As soon as Abbas is in a state of incapacity, a harsh and violent succession struggle will ensue. . . .

Aloul and Rajoub are already making the most of their promotions to try and clear their path to the PA leadership and remove any obstacle in their way. . . . [The two] are themselves keen political rivals. But, although each sees himself as Abbas’s [rightful] successor, they appear to have a common interest in getting rid of [the current PA prime minister, Rami] Hamdallah, as quickly as possible. He does not belong to the Fatah movement and was appointed to the post because of his personal ties with Abbas. . . .

Abbas will have to contend as soon as possible with a pack of Fatah figures who want to succeed him. The pound of flesh he tossed to Aloul and Rajoub in the form of senior positions in the movement’s leadership will only satisfy them for a very short time. They will not stop trying to undermine him—especially Rajoub who is known to be a tireless subversive in Palestinian politics. Also involved in the effort will be [Abbas’s longtime rival Mahmoud] Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, [the mastermind of the second intifada, who is currently in an Israeli prison], who are likely to join forces, and General Majid Freij, who has already forged ties with the new CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

The current calm in the Fatah leadership is only temporary. Despite Abbas’s new appointments last week, it could collapse at any moment.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs