Before Peace Talks, the Palestinian Authority Needs to Undergo Political Reform

President Trump is scheduled to meet today with the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas. Before discussing a renewal of the peace process, Grant Rumley argues, the U.S. must jettison the Obama administration’s policy of ignoring the Gaza Strip and focusing solely on the West Bank. Instead, he writes, the White House should pressure the PA to hold elections in both Gaza and the West Bank so that there will be a Palestinian leader with the authority to negotiate:

A renewed push for a new Palestinian political process will undoubtedly evoke memories of the George W. Bush administration, which insisted on holding elections in 2006 — with the support of Abbas—and inadvertently paved the way for a Hamas electoral victory that the U.S. then refused to recognize. But the Bush administration’s errors were tactical, not strategic. Not enough was done at the ground level to prevent Hamas’s triumph. . . .

[In the 2006] elections Hamas merely won a plurality, not a majority, of votes by gaining 44 percent to [Abbas’s Fatah party’s] 41 percent. Fatah entered the elections with deep divisions over who would be the party’s official candidates, and as such saw many of its disenfranchised members run as independents. . . . Crucial to the success of another round of elections is preventing similar disunity within Fatah.

[It will also be necessary] to place conditions on [candidates’] participation in the elections, . . . such as the renunciation of violence and adherence to the PLO’s prior agreements with Israel. Hamas officials will be posed with a dilemma: renounce violence and participate in the first free and fair elections in over a decade, or refuse and risk looking obstinate and out of touch with the Palestinian people. If the former, the U.S. should feel confident of a unified Fatah’s chances of defeating Hamas. If the latter, then the Palestinian street will see clearly which of the two major parties turned down the chances at democratic representation.

This plan is not without risks. Hamas could participate and win, Fatah could fracture at the last minute, or elections could take place only in the West Bank. And admittedly, the West Bank leadership’s incitement, endemic corruption, and payments to families of terrorists make it far from an ideal peace partner right now. Still, that should not prevent U.S. policy from thinking creatively about Gaza. A Palestinian leader needs both the willingness to sign an agreement and the ability to deliver on its implementation. That is impossible so long as a leader in the West Bank does not, at the very least, have a legitimate claim to Gaza.

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More about: Donald Trump, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, Politics & Current Affairs

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror