Window on Israel: Tired of the Palestinians

No Arab government is likely to risk its standing by taking an idea from the people known as conquerors and imperialists.

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January 30, 2007 10:25
3 minute read.
Window on Israel: Tired of the Palestinians

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The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem Efraim Inbar, professor of political science and head of a strategic studies center at Bar Ilan University, has tired of the Palestine National Authority. It has failed to reach an accommodation with Israel, it has been unable or unwilling to impose discipline on factions that continue on the path of violence, and it has failed to provide its own residents with protections from crime and with conventional social services. Despite massive financial and technical assistance from donors wanting to help it along, it is not functioning like anything close to a conventional state. In a recent op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post, Inbar writes that many others have also tired of the Palestinians, and that "little can be done by outsiders to fix the Palestinian mess." So far, so good. But then Inbar makes a proposal that sounds right, but is unlikely to work. He says that Israel should urge an end to the Palestinian experiment, convince other countries that there is no future in Palestinian self-rule, and that Jordan and Egypt should assert their control over the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. He writes that those counties ruled those segments of Palestine "with relative success" before 1967. There are several problems with Inbar's suggestions: First, anything Israeli comes with a kiss of death. No Arab government is likely to risk its standing by taking an idea from the people known as conquerors and imperialists, closely allied with the United States that is itself guilty of all that and more. Second, Jordanian and Egyptian rule over Palestine before 1967 was not all that successful. It produced mutual antagonism between rulers and ruled, convinced the Jordanians and Egyptians to minimize the migration of Palestinians to their countries, and otherwise to distance themselves from responsibility for the Palestinians. Moreover, the 1948-67 period featured numerous bloody Palestinian incursions from Jordanian and Egyptian ruled areas to Israel. We should not be encouraged by the latest evidence of how Egypt has been casual with respect to its commitments about controlling its border with Gaza against the smuggling of weapons and explosives. So what should Israel and others do with respect to the Palestinian regime? Not much. Currently there is a civil war among Palestinian religious and political movements, along with bloody feuds between extended families and criminal gangs. Outsiders can provoke a civil war and contribute to the animosities that keep it going, but are not good in solving the problems that cause it and enforcing peace among the fighters. Americans should have learned something from Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Israel's records are not much better with respect to Lebanon or Palestine. Egypt and Jordan might be able to use their own violence to repress violence among the Palestinians, but there is no sign that they want to threaten their own regimes with what is likely to come from the effort. Would they be the lackeys of the Israelis and Americans? They would be inviting rebellion from their own restive populations. Israel may be able to do nothing more than minimize the Palestinian violence that spills over to its people. That means more of the same: controlling the movement of Palestinians that threaten Israelis, operating intelligence networks and entering Palestinian areas in order to neutralize whatever is being planned against Israelis. All that is likely to increase the pressure on Palestinians and will add to the tensions that keep their civil war going. I doubt that we can do better. Until they can solve their own problems and demonstrate a capacity to control violence, neither Israel, Jordan, Egypt, nor other well meaning outsiders can make Palestine a better place.


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