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How the Palestinians Trap Themselves and Drag the West Along

The Palestinian Authority is in a box of its own making. It cannot win militarily against Israel, nor will it engage in serious diplomacy with Israel.
Arabs being rounded up by British soldiers following terrorist violence in 1921.

Arabs being rounded up by British soldiers following terrorist violence in 1921.

One Fatah member put it this way:

[The killer] is a hero of the Fatah movement, a revolutionary and a fighter who restores Fatah’s pride and former glory; he exposes the dark [face of] interested parties and unmasks the mercenaries.

But why use the phrase about restoring Fatah’s pride? Because the organization’s pride is counted by the number of Israelis it kills. That’s how score is kept in Palestinian politics, even in 2013. When Fatah isn’t killing Israelis it is ashamed (restores…former glory), while any Palestinian—like Muheisen—who doesn’t support it is one of the “mercenaries,” presumably of the Zionists and Americans. If Fatah doesn’t keep up the killings, it believes that means it loses ground to Hamas.

Today, though, the P.A. is in a box of its own making. It cannot win militarily against Israel, nor will it engage in serious diplomacy with Israel. During a recent public relations meeting in Washington, supposedly to show Arab state support for a two-state solution, the P.A.’s representatives glowered in making clear they weren’t interested in serious negotiations with Israel.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Fatah chiefs finally rid themselves of relatively moderate Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who was too honest for their purposes. Fayyad blasted the P.A.’s corruption and incompetence in a New York Times interview and then denied he had said these things, hoping for political survival. It isn’t clear whether he might return but clearly the credibility of the P.A. regime’s front-man, who was effective at collecting international donation, should be undermined.

So what can the P.A. do? Collect billions of dollars in Western aid, stage occasional terrorist attacks, try to use the U.N. General Assembly’s designation of Palestine as a “non-member state” to try to get into international groups and perhaps someday sue Israel in the World Court.

It is precisely because it lacks any active alternative that the P.A. and its allies are engaged in an unprecedented public relations campaign complete with strenuous attempts to subvert support for Israel in Jewish communities, boycotts, and disinvestment drives. This echoes the old PLO strategy although in this case it is not Arab state armies but armies of activists that will weaken Israel to the point that it must make huge concessions and subsequently collapse. Of course, this strategy won’t work as it did not work in the 1960s and 1970s.

Meanwhile, the P.A. leadership benefits from the status quo, they live well, pocket the aid money, posture as revolutionaries, and avoid being “traitors” by refusing to make peace.

A Western reader of this article might well think that such a situation is impossible. It certainly isn’t what he’s seeing in the Western mass media. Yet the above description is nonetheless true.

The same person might conclude, with more justification, that such a situation cannot be sustained. He would look for a “solution,” assuming that the Palestinian leadership wanted such a solution. You know, we all know the broad outlines of a potential comprehensive agreement and we can play at drawing borders and have fun imagining the status of Jerusalem.

Yet the deadlock nonetheless prevails and it will prevail.

There is, of course, one way out: A Hamas takeover. Indeed, Hamas is becoming gradually more popular on the West Bank. Yet Western donations would dry up, Israel will keep the P.A. in power as the better of two bad alternatives.

Is it because Israel builds more apartments in settlements? That should be an argument for making the Palestinians more eager, not more negative, about making a deal to get rid of all settlements on Palestine’s territory.

While many in Israel, especially on the political right, wanted to keep the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1970s and 1980s, there is a broad Israeli consensus today that the goal is to get rid of involvement with these territories as long as it can be done in a way that reduces the likelihood of war and enhances security.

The problem is that there has been no way found to do so. The left’s solution is to walk away from any presence there; the problem with that idea is what has happened in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip where that strategy has been tried, plus the growing radical Islamist wave in the region to which a new state of Palestine would probably fall prey.

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.


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