Current news about Israel’s interdiction of the Gaza flotilla centers entirely on more or less pertinent operational and legal details. It is also important, however, to look beyond this particular event and toward the more critical underlying issue of a Palestinian state. To be sure, once such a state was established, the tragic cycle of anti-Israel terrorism, Israeli blockade and Palestinian counter-blockade would only accelerate.
President Obama favors the creation of a Palestinian state. Such creation, of course, is the core of his proposed Road Map to Peace in the Middle East. Ironically, however, any state of Palestine would quickly become a primary launching point for both “ordinary” terrorism and mega-terrorism. Such terror-violence could be directed not only at Israel, but also against the United States.
The Arab/Islamic world generally commends only a one-state solution. For Israel, this can mean only a “Final Solution.”
What is going on in the “Palestinian Territories?” Gaza is already the site of close and growing cooperation between Hamas and al-Qaeda. The “good offices” of Iran make much of this tactical and strategic cooperation possible.
Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Lebanon are also witnessing a determined al-Qaeda push to establish more terror bases. In the West Bank, American military units, vainly seeking to blunt Hamas and al-Qaeda, are actively assisting Fatahin the training of their “security forces.” Led by U.S. Lt. General Keith Dayton, this plainly self-defeating program will significantly enhance the effectiveness of Fatah terrorists once they inevitably begin to turn their weapons against Americans and Israelis in Palestine.
For some time now, al-Qaeda has been asserting its commitment to wage jihad against Israel (always the individual Jew writ large) and against Jews in general. Only recently, however, has this genocidal commitment begun to elicit serious Western attention. In a Jihadi website posting, bin Laden warned: “We will not recognize a state for the Jews, not even one inch of the land of Palestine.”
The physical destruction of Israel has always been Hamas’ unhidden objective, but al-Qaeda, which has proven adept at inserting itself into local conflicts around the world and then incorporating them into the broader Wahhabi-Salafi war against the West, has more recently fixed its operational sights on “Palestine.”
A “Two-State Solution?” The fragmented and fratricidal Palestinian Territories are not about to morph into a decent and democratic national society. Instead, they have become the newest front in a well-organized international jihad movement. With Gaza now an active forward base for global terrorism, Shi’a Iran, long a close partner of Hamas as well as an al-Qaeda ally, has been intensifying and diversifying its own existential threat to Israel.
Iran’s existential threat is not “only” nuclear. Further, close collaboration between various Shia and Sunni groups will not be prevented because of religious differences. It is a pipe dream to think otherwise.
While Israel was reluctantly engaged in Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian civil warfare revealed expanding concentric circles of jihadi alignment. Already, in a February 2008 interview with the al-Hayat Arab language newspaper, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeated claims that al-Qaeda’s growing presence in both Gaza and the West Bank would destabilize the entire region. Abbas, who quickly became an object of ridicule and vilification in Gaza, had earlier warned that Hamas was enhancing al-Qaeda’s power.
The January 2008 breach in the Gaza border with Egypt along the Philadelphia Corridor represented a pivotal development. This well-coordinated attack had permitted not only large quantities of Iranian-made weapons to enter Gaza; it also admitted scores of al-Qaeda operatives. This breach had enabled Hamas to bring back those who had left for training in Syria and Iran, including snipers, explosives experts, rocket experts and engineers.
After the Sharm El Sheikh attacks of July 2005, al-Qaeda terrorists moved to the West Bank and Gaza from their bases in the Sinai. Backed by Iran, al-Qaeda is now steadily moving in on Israel from the north, first by establishing its secure presence in Lebanon. Despite their religious differences, Sunni al-Qaeda and Shia Hezbollah now form a true partnership, led by Iran, whose common goal is the destruction of Israel, the toppling of less radical Arab-Muslim regimes (such as that of the Palestinian Authority’s Abu Mazen) and the establishment of a core territory around which a new Islamist Caliphate might ultimately be formed.
Radical Islamist behavior is now de rigeur in Gaza. Several al-Qaeda–linked groups have emerged openly, such as the Army of Islam, and the Swords of Islamic Righteousness. Several are clan-based and affiliated with Fatah and/or Hamas. They are also reliably reported to be offshoots of al-Qaeda.
President Obama should understand that a Palestinian state would be contrary to the security interests of the United States. Sobering, too, would be the inevitable competition for control of such a fragile and anarchic state by the various Sunni Arab regimes, now being armed by Washington, and by Shiite Iran, now still being armed by Russia. Naturally, a Palestinian state would most clearly endanger Israel, creating irresistible new opportunities for both conventional and unconventional acts of aggression.
New wars could be launched by enemy states directly or by their proxies from Gaza. The attackers might assume the posture of suicide bombers, thus immobilizing the normal security bases of rationality and deterrence. Under even the most optimistic assumptions, a Palestinian state, any Palestinian state, could spawn a grievously unstable balance of power in the region.
Any Palestinian state would embolden and strengthen al-Qaeda and other terrorist enemies of the United States. What was once a basically secular nationalist territorial dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors has now become a primary battlefront in a no-holds-barred international jihad. Failure to understand this could even render moot all current U.S.-led counter-terrorist operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the final analysis, the Gaza flotilla episode was merely the tip of a much larger iceberg. That menacing iceberg is a Palestinian state.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is an expert on international relations and international law. The author of many major books and articles in the field, Professor Beres was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.