Burning Issues No. 17: Is the inner Palestinian crisis good for Israel?

hamas supporter 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
hamas supporter 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Burning Issues brings our best opinion writers to one podium, where they respond, in brief and in real time, to a question about one of the hottest news topics on the agenda. Our aim is also to get you, our readers, involved, by sharing your opinions with the JPost community, or if you wish, by responding to any specific posting. Burning Issues 1-16: Last three: Anti-Iran rhetoric, Gaza cease-fire, Kadima anniversary.
Question #16
There are those who believe inner Palestinian fighting is good for Israel. When Hamas and Fatah clash, they argue, their efforts shift from attacking Israel to attacking each other, thereby doing Israel's 'dirty work.' Others, however, argue that when the Palestinians fight among themselves their way out is always to just join forces and fight against their common enemy - Israel. They also maintain that it could lead to regional instability and accelerate a break up between the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of an Islamic gov't in Gaza. What is your opinion? Contributions by MJ Rosenberg, Jonathan Tobin and Elliot Jager. Elliot Jager: Let's be frank. It feels good to watch your enemies slog it out. So my gut reaction is: let them kill each other. In the short-term, the busier Fatah and Hamas are fighting each other, the more their leaders are occupied watching their own backs, the harder it is for them to maintain the war with Israel. That said, long term it is not in Israel's interest to see the complete breakdown of Palestinian society. Because in the long run the essential problem the Palestinian Arabs have with regard to Israel isn't going away. It's worth remembering that in the course of the long Palestinian Arab war against the existence of Israel, Arab violence has often been directed against other Palestinians. Over some 80 years virtually every Palestinian moderate has been either liquidated or frightened into silence by what the West likes to call "the militants." That has left Palestinian society divided between the corrupt Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas. Fatah, I remain convinced, is committed to the phased destruction of Israel. That's why - regardless of Abu Mazen's rhetoric - Fatah refuses to socialize its followers to the idea of coexistence with a sovereign Jewish state. Hamas won't even pretend to embrace the phased plan, but is willing (given Palestinian military weakness) to accept a 10-year "hudna" on the basis of (among other demands) an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines. What's needed to bring stability to the region is a trusteeship for Palestine. The Palestinians are obviously incapable of building a civil society. We all agree that the Palestinian "problem" festers - though we may disagree as to why. The only way out, I feel certain, is to replace the Palestinian Authority with an international trusteeship aimed at building structures of representative, pluralist self-government in Palestine. Only when moderate Muslim states backed by the EU (with the acquiescence of the new UN Secretary-General) set up a custodial governing mechanism for the Palestinians can there be prospects for stability in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. To summarize, the current in-fighting only exacerbates the pathology of Palestinian Arab society. And having a profoundly dysfunctional polity at your door-step is not in Jerusalem's interest. The writer is deputy editorial page editor of The Jerusalem Post. His personal Web site is www.elliotjager.com A conversation with Lawrence Wright MJ Rosenberg: The best outcome for Israel would be establishment of a Palestinian government that is willing and capable of negotiating an end to the conflict. That could require a complete Fatah victory, although such an outcome is highly unlikely. Accordingly, the best contingency for Israel is that a unity agreement is worked out between the two sides that will give Israel a negotiating partner capable of offering peace and security in return for the West Bank/Gaza. The Israeli Right (and its camp followers in the United States) is of course cheered by any blood-letting among Palestinians. The fewer living Palestinians, the less pressure to make a deal. And peace is what terrifies them. But it becomes increasingly clear every day that Israel's survival, let alone its security, requires the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state in the West Bank/Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem. The longer that eventuality is delayed, the more problems for Israel. In Washington: The Right is scared Jonathan Tobin: Should we be rooting for Fatah and Abbas to fight and defeat Hamas? Not exactly. Compared to Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does looks more presentable. And if the goal of Fatah and Abbas were truly to create a state dedicated to peace and economic prosperity for its people, then it would certainly be in the interest of Israel and the United States to do what they could to help Fatah or (since such intervention would hardly be helpful to Abbas) at least to hope for its triumph. But there is little reason to believe that this is the case. Why? First, Fatah and Abbas have a long history of unwillingness to make peace. In Abbas' one year in power before the Hamas election victory, he did nothing to curb anti-Israel terror. Even today, he continues to be the godfather of Fatah's own terror outlet - the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade - and uses his media to routinely laud terrorism and incite hate. Second, the battle between Hamas and Fatah is fundamentally a naked struggle for power. The one thing they still have in common is hatred for Israel and the Jews. Their main difference has to with control of government patronage, not their attitudes toward Israel. A Palestinian civil war to create a society that rejects the ethos championed by both the late Yasser Arafat and Hamas would be one worth fighting. But there is no sign that Abbas or Fatah is interested in fighting such a battle. Nor is it a certainty that they would win even if they wanted to do so. Those who rejoice in Palestinian fratricide either because they foolishly believe this is the path to peace or simply out of spite are fooling themselves. The tragedy of Palestinian politics is that it is governed by a culture that embraces death. The notion that the current thuggery on display in the territories is a harbinger of a transformation that might lead to peace is sheer fantasy. View from America: What price outreach?