The Palestinians’ 21st-Century Strategy Has Failed Them

With a Democratic administration about to be sworn in in Washington, the Palestinian Authority’s leaders are hoping to get more sympathy from the White House than they did over the past four years. Undoubtedly, they will. But, writes Eran Lerman, they shouldn’t assume that they can easily return to their policy of trying to boycott, isolate, and anathematize Israel until it is forced to give in to their demands. Lerman argues that this approach died in November along with its chief architect, the veteran Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat—due to much larger geopolitical forces:

The “grand strategy” [Erekat] masterminded . . . called for the abandonment of negotiations with Israel, thus avoiding the need for compromise and for mutual recognition between the two national movements. Instead, it envisioned an imposed solution by the international community leading to a return to the 1967 lines, the partition of Jerusalem, and some redress on the so-called “right of return.”

In the spring of 2014, in line with Erekat’s strategy, the PA took the decision to join several international agencies, most significantly, the Rome Statutes and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This, too, was part and parcel of the grand strategy based on isolating Israel in the international arena and placing its leadership in the dock.

The basic idea was not new, and in some respects goes back to the 1950s and 1960s. The deliberate terrorist campaign in the autumn of 2000, often referred to as the “second intifada” was to a large extent knowingly designed to bring about . . . international intervention; meaning “protection” that would replace IDF forces in the territories. Moreover, the UN Conference on Racism in Durban (2001), and particularly the NGO forum associated with it, laid out the foundations of a strategy of boycott and isolation.

But Israel’s improving relations with Asia and Africa, let alone the more recent breakthroughs in the Middle East, show the inefficacy of attempts to isolate it. “Moreover,” writes Lerman:

the utter ruin of countries such as Syria and Libya point to the deeper problems besetting the Arab world, which go well beyond the Palestinian question. This also has underlined the legitimacy of Israel’s security concerns. Thus, the grand effort by Palestinians to mark Israel out as an international pariah, and to impose economic boycotts and diplomatic isolation on Israel, has come to naught. This was true already in 2017, well before the full impact of Donald Trump’s policies kicked in. Such a realization is now being reflected even in aspects of European policy.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: BDS, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, Second Intifada, United Nations

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority