burning issues 35: the future of the PA

Question #35
Amid the chaos in the PA, which of the following scenarios is more likely? 1) Gaza and the West Bank become two separate political entities: Hamas rules Gaza while Fatah reigns in the West Bank 2) Clashes spill over to the West Bank and Hamas takes control of the entire PA 3) Fatah and Hamas work out an agreement and restore unity 4) Amid growing chaos, an international force assumes control over Gaza 5) Other Contributers: (read it all or click on name to read post; link to writer's most recent column follows entry)
  • Daniel Pipes
  • Elliot Jager
  • Michael Freund
  • Amotz Asa-El Daniel Pipes: I vote for (1). Drawing on the research of Jonathan Schanzer, I predicted at the time of Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004, that his passing would lead to the dissolution of a single Palestinian Authority and the emergence of two strongmen, one in the West Bank, the other in Gaza. A year later, Aharon Zeevi, the chief of Israeli military intelligence, predicted Hamas would take control of Gaza and Fatah to control the West Bank. Shalom Harari, an Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs, noted this March that "We are seeing the beginning of two states" in those areas. Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian politician, found that there is a "process of separation in all levels [between the two regions], economic social legislative and political." Two 'Palestines' would undercut the notion of Palestinian nationalism and damage the international myth of Palestinian nationalism. The continued existence of 'Hamastan' and 'Fatahstan' would likely also diminish the Palestinian will to eliminate Israel. Can the IAF take out Iran's nukes? Elliot Jager: Let's step back and recall how we got into this mess. First, we mistakenly thought that a unilateral disengagement from Gaza would not create a dangerous vacuum. So those of us who supported disengagement (whatever its many merits) badly miscalculated the security implications. I had not illusions about disengagement leading to peace, but I didn't imagine the outcome would be so deleterious to Israeli security. Mea culpa. So, what seems clear is, we mustn't go down the same path in the West Bank: no unilateralism and, for the foreseeable future, no Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority framework a creation of the catastrophic Oslo accords (for which I wrongly thought disengagement could serve as an antidote) must go. I'm not sure how, but the continued facade of a PA with Mahmoud Abbas as its figurehead, and the Islamists as its true inheritors must end. Once the international community pronounces the PA dead and buried, the Palestinians in Gaza must come under an international (EU-led) trusteeship. By that I mean, every significant aspect of political and social life must be managed by European outsiders while a new cadre of Palestinian Arabs is politically socialized and trained to function in the 21st century. This will take years. It will require coercion. Recall, however, that despite enormous investment of European (and American) emotional, diplomatic and financial support until now, the Palestinian Arabs are today incapable of running their own affairs. The PA has become a dangerously dysfunctional entity, the polity it manages is a menace to Palestinians, the region and the world. And, as Israelis are not interested in running the lives of the Palestinian Arabs, the EU will have to take the lead. They'll need an Arab League fig leaf, UN support - whatever - but the EU and the US will have to carry the burden of building the framework for Palestinian self-government. In the meantime, a similar Trusteeship could be implemented in the West Bank, under complete Israeli security control. The inducement Israel could offer the EU for rolling up its sleeves and taking on a Trusteeship for Palestine is for starters - the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank - meaning those adjacent to major Arab cities. But we also need to make it clear, that "consensus" and "security" settlements will remain. The security fence will be completed. Is this likely to happen? Are the Europeans going to do what needs to be done? Of course not. Their default position - once the penny finally drops that Abu Mazen is a useless windbag - will be to appease and try to rehabilitate Hamas. So to sum up: Conditions are not ripe for Gaza and the West Bank to become two separate political entities. We can't allow Hamastan to operate in Gaza especially because our friends the Egyptians refuse to block the flow of arms and bullets to the Palestinians. And we certainly don't want a lethal Arab entity in the West Bank -- flush against our major population centers. Thankfully, IDF control of the West Bank (even as we try to let them manage their own municipal affairs) means that the clashes won't spill over from Gaza in any real sense. We've already arrested most of the key Hamas players in Judea and Samaria. An international force, absent a strategy of trusteeship, is not in our interest and we most oppose it. Finally, it is the Bush administration (with prodding from Tony Blair) that pushed "democratic" elections on a Palestinian polity which wasn't mature enough for such a responsibility. Will Washington now learn from its mistakes? [www.elliotjager.com] Power and Politics: Ideological cavemen Michael Freund: As Gaza is being transformed before our very eyes into 'Hamastan', it is interesting to note the deafening silence of those who supported the Israeli withdrawal from the area two years ago. Opponents of the retreat predicted that Hamas would assume power over Gaza, and that is precisely what has happened. They also warned that pulling the IDF out from the strip would lead to intensified Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel, and that too has come to pass. The pullout from Gaza has proven to be a disastrous strategic blunder, one that has claimed numerous Israeli lives - and Palestinian ones, too. So when Israelis consider their options, they should be wary of following the advice of those who trumpeted a retreat as the solution to all of our problems, as their track record hardly inspires confidence in their ability to grapple with complex challenges. Let one thing be clear: Israel cannot and must not allow a rogue Hamas-run entity to rise up along its borders. And the solution to our security problems in Gaza does not lie in reliance on foreign forces or intra-Palestinian political intrigue. As much as the government has refrained from tackling the Gaza problem head-on, it seems the situation will only continue to deteriorate. It is only a matter of time before Israel is left with no choice but to go back in and uproot the terrorist infrastructure once and for all. We should never have left Gaza in the first place, and the way things are looking now, we should be readying ourselves to return. Right On!: Hogwash history Amotz Asa-El: Over the years I have learned to avoid predictions in general, and ones involving the Middle East in particular. I will therefore make do with counting my hopes: First, that Israel will understand it has no business meddling in the Strip's internal affairs. Let Gaza choose its own course. Surely, if its leaders choose war we should meet them in the battlefield, but if they prefer to avoid that - which they may - we should not try and help someone else replace them. If they are to be unseated, it should happen without us being in the scene, whether formally or informally. Secondly, that Gaza's fall to fundamentalism will be seen as a warning sign by the West Bank's residents, and make them shun zealotry, and offer a counter-Gazan vision, one that respects Israel and seeks accommodation with it. Third, that the broader Arab world will understand that this is what awaits anyone who condones, let alone hails, a culture of hatred and suicide. That includes all those, from the Arab League's Amr Moussa and Syria's Bashar Assad to al-Jazeera and Egyptian folk singers who legitimized, albeit in different ways, Hama's terror. Fourth and last, that Hosni Mubarak realize that an Islamist Gaza is a strategic threat on Egypt even more than it is on Israel, and that he must therefore get down to the very simple business of developing a northern Sinai. Currently, the strip of coast between Gaza and Port Said is largely abandoned. With some governmental will and very simple-to-obtain international financing, it can become filled with factories, resorts and farms that will employ, feed and breathe hope in Gaza's desperate inhabitants. [www.MiddleIsrael.com] Middle Israel: Was the Six Day War worth it?