Last Friday saw a spate of rumors that Mahmoud Abbas had suffered a stroke or other serious health crisis. On Tuesday it was announced that he would make a “major speech” Wednesday. There was speculation that he would say that he plans to step down, which would immediately set off a possibly violent struggle to be his successor. He finally made the speech, and said nothing interesting.
There are warnings of serious instability in the PA. What about the possibility, raised by PM Netanyahu on Monday, that the Palestinian Authority might “collapse?” What should Israel do if Abbas were really to die or become incapacitated?
Netanyahu and IDF officials seem to think a PA collapse would be bad for Israel. Suddenly, Israel would be responsible for seeing to it that Arabs living in Areas A and B – populous urban areas in Judea and Samaria – continue to receive services like health care and garbage collection, that they don’t engage in riot and insurrection, and that Hamas or even the Islamic State don’t take over. The US and the EU together fund most of the PA budget. Would they be prepared to continue to do so if Israel were running it? The PA’s massive ‘security’ establishment would have to be disarmed or somehow controlled. If the PA falls, there will be an immediate struggle for power between the various factions.
Netanyahu understands that there will be no two-state solution because a sovereign Arab state in Judea and Samaria would render Israel impossible to defend. He also understands that raising the percentage of Arab citizens of Israel by simply annexing the territories would be destabilizing for an Israel that already has a population that is 21% Arab. And he is not prepared to annex the territories and encourage (coercively or not) most of the Arabs to leave, in some ways the best solution of all.
It appears that they are taking another approach: to somehow turn the PA into a good neighbor. What’s needed is something less than a sovereign state which could maintain an army or invite neighboring armies into it. The ideal PA would be as Rabin envisaged it in his last Knesset speech, an entity that could police its citizens, manage its economy and build infrastructure, without being a threat to the Jewish state. Thus we would try to keep the PA alive and encourage it to evolve into such an autonomous entity.
For this reason, Israel’s moderate leaders support the PA and advise Western allies to continue to fund it, despite the fact that huge amounts of money are stolen or diverted to terrorism against Israel, and despite the PA’s refusal to stop the vicious incitement that has led directly to the present situation in which Israeli Jews (and some Arabs) are stabbed, shot and run over in the streets.
This strategy cannot work as long as the PA is the PLO. The PA as it is constituted will never be the good neighbor Bibi would like to have. Its ideology has not changed significantly since it was formed in 1964, and that ideology calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement by an Arab state. Despite pressure from the US and Israel and repeated promises, the offensive parts of the PLO charter were never removed. The comprehensive system of education for hate and violence established by Arafat, which the PLO also promised to change, has remained. And the incitement in PA media, schools, mosques, and more continues as well.
Abbas, while he is careful not to explicitly call for violence, nevertheless doesn’t hide his (and the PLO’s) intention to reverse the nakba of 1948. There is no room in PLO ideology for a Jewish state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
The PLO-constituted PA is a hostile entity which, if it is too weak to confront Israel militarily, will nevertheless do so via diplomatic maneuvers, lawfare, plausibly deniable terrorism and subversion. It is not evolving in the direction of becoming a peaceful neighbor; rather, with the help of the EU it is trying to become a confrontation state. Indeed, it’s probably correct that the EU wants to prop up the PA for the opposite reason from that of Netanyahu: they want to use it as a weapon against Israel.
But time may be running out. The popular insurrection that was started by PA incitement has taken on a life of its own and may not be controllable by the PA. Israel cannot be expected to sit still while its citizens are murdered. The financial problems caused by the theft of funds intended for development and infrastructure are becoming acute, and the struggling West may not be able to continue to pump Euros and dollars into the failing enterprise. Finally, Mahmoud Abbas is 81, and even if he turns out to be in good health, the pretenders to his throne won’t wait much longer. The PA’s crisis is imminent.
What should Israel do?
I think the policy of propping up a PLO-based PA and waiting for the moderation beam from the planet Venus to come along and make an ally out of it has proven to be a failure, just like its father, the Oslo accords. But I also understand why Israel would prefer not to take over full control of all the territories in the near future, particularly because it would then have to replace much of the millions presently paid by the US and EU to support the welfare-based ‘Palestinian economy’.
I would like to see Israel present the PA with an ultimatum:
“The PLO is a terrorist organization whose reason for being is to destroy our state.”
“We are not interested in governing or controlling the lives of Palestinians. Hence we support the existence of a Palestinian Authority. But we do not support its control by the PLO, or any group that does not accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel. This is our bottom line.”
“Therefore we will support the continuation of the Palestinian Authority on the condition that the President of the PA and other top officials be replaced by non-members of terrorist organizations. We demand an end to incitement and support for terrorism and terrorists. We demand that the PA ‘security’ forces give allegiance to the new non-terrorist leadership of the PA. In return, we will commit to supporting such a PA administration militarily, as well as transferring customs funds as usual.”
“If the PA does not reconfigure itself according to our demand, we will consider it a hostile entity. We will not cooperate with it in any way, will not participate in funding it, and will intervene militarily when necessary. This might include arresting PA officials, disarming PA security forces or even engaging them in combat.”
Naturally the PA/PLO will reject the ultimatum, which will probably lead to violent clashes. But if the PLO leadership is arrested or exiled, perhaps cooler heads will choose cooperation over chaos. Israel’s official position toward the international community should be that it favors self-government for the Palestinian Arabs, but does not accept their leadership by a terrorist group like the PLO.
The greatest single mistake made by any Israeli government since 1948 was signing the Oslo Accords, and by far the most damaging part of Oslo was to accept the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian Arabs and to permit it to establish the PA. The PLO is no less a terrorist organization than Hamas, and should not be granted legitimacy.
It’s rare that one gets the opportunity to unmake a historic mistake. Perhaps the collapse of the PA will be such an opportunity.
Inspiring, creative thoughts …. and/but …
As I understand it, Abbas and company are planning to replace the PA with a “state under occupation.” There have been reports of this in the Israeli English language press (Jerusalem Post, ToI, Haaretz) – but none with as much detail as this: Summary: The Palestinian leadership has a tentative strategy in place for the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority and the establishment of a state under Israeli occupation.
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/palestinian-authority-mahmoud-abbas-un-resolution-occupation.html (6 January – Uri Savir)
If so, I guess the result would be open war? What’s your take on this, Vic?
“Bupkes” has left a comment on this column in EoZ, which I think is also important: ” In the event of a PA collapse, there are external players who will rush in with their solutions, and will try to strong-arm Israel into accepting them. Players like the US State Dept., the White House, the UN, the EU, the Arab League, and many others.”
As I’ve written many times in the past, the entire purpose of the Obama administration, at least in the foreign policy arena, was the establishment of a PA/PLO state in J&S more or less per the Saudi Peace [Surrender] Plan, now known as the “Arab Peace Initiative”, that would in turn result in Israel’s ultimate dismantlement as a viable national homeland for the Jewish people. In recent public appearances, Kerry has been quite open about supporting the API as a viable solution, even though no sane Israeli would accept it. This has been the goal all along for Obama and his lieutenants, and the “negotiations” sponsored by this wretched administration were not really “negotiations” at all in any genuine sense. The API was the endgame that Israel was to be blackmailed into accepting, period. The fact that Kerry is talking so openly about this now, I offer as further anecdotal proof that I was right about this all along.
With the above in mind, and with one year to go in office, and “end game” is going to be coordinated between the PA/PLO and the Obama administration, the EU, and the UN. Obama has said many times in the past that if he could not broker an agreement, then he’d turn the matter over to the UN. I was pleasantly surprised a year ago right about now when Obama didn’t support a PA statehood initiative on the UNSC, but he is biding his time.
As the Israeli commentator, David Weinberg, recently predicted, I would expect the most likely scenario to start with pronouncements starting this spring by Obama telegraphing his intent to support such a resolution on the UNSC, followed by increased unrest in the territories and among Israeli Arabs, culminating in an all-out Intifada by the end of the year, timed right around the 2016 American election. Right after this election, Obama will have absolutely NOTHING left to lose politically by putting the maximum screws to Israel, which he will proceed to do in his last ten weeks of office. This will include support for a draconian UNSCR aimed at gutting UNSCR 242, and requiring Israel to withdraw to pre-’67 lines by such-and-such a date, regardless of Pali behavior, or Israel will face UN-mandated embargoes, sanctions, etc. And if Hillary replaces Obama, she’ll support him in this and follow on with relevant policies when she takes office. If a GOP candidate wins, depending on who it is (I wouldn’t expect much positive change in U.S. policy towards Israel if Christie wins, for example), even if that president-elect is pro-Israel, it will be very hard to undo a UNSCR. A pro-Isreal Obama replacement would have to probably engage in unprecedented confrontation with the UN in order to get them to back off, threatening to cut off U.S. funding completely, or even U.S. withdrawal, and eviction of the UN from U.S. soil. Whether or not even a pro-Israel president-elect would have the courage to go that far would remain to be seen; of course, the media would portray this circumstance as ‘the U.S. and Israel against the world’ and accuse the U.S. president of being a ‘pawn of the Israel lobby’, blah blah blah.
The actions Israel will likely be forced to take in order to quell the uprising encouraged and abetted in this fashion by the world community may also very well get Israel expelled from the UN. I see an ultimate result where Israel winds up more or less like Taiwan; a de-facto independent national political entity with no official standing as such in the world community; a future pro-Israel administration may support Israel nonetheless – as we now support Taiwan – but the official “illegitimacy” of Israel will remain and be hard to reverse, unless the UN simply collapses (which I expect it ultimately will at some point down the road, sham that it is).
In real terms, Israel will survive and continue to defend herself. As the Moslem civilization (a generous term, I know) in North Africa and SW Asia continues to collapse amid chaos and conflict, and as more people in places of authority, particularly in the U.S., come to realize just how little the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with any of this, a better day may come some years or even decades from now. But the final legacy of Obama – assuming a nuclear-armed Iran is indeed prevented – besides the massive national U.S. debt and wrecked race relations here, will be long term if not permanent political and diplomatic damage to Israel. The goal of Obama & Co in their final year endgame will be to reduce Israel’s status on the world stage to that of apartheid Rhodesia, setting Israel up for ultimate political and economic destruction as a pariah state. I don’t think they’ll succeed in terms of dismantling Israel, as Rhodesia was dismantled, but it will usher in a long, grim political/diplomatic period in Israel’s history. It won’t help the Palestinian Arabs one iota, nor anyone else, but that was never the point. The point was always, was ever, ‘f*** the Jews’, as per the bloody-minded medieval agenda of the Arabs, via their corrupt anti-Semite proxies in the U.S. political system and foreign policy establishment, simply for it’s own sake.
I don’t blame the Jews of America for Obama; I know he’d have made it in ’08 for sure, and probably in ’12 as well, without any Jewish support. But the support most of the community here game him in both elections is still shameful and humiliating in the extreme, and given how all of this is turning out and is likely to end, so far as I am concerned at least, any Jew who voted for Obama twice is not worthy of being considered a Jew.
Um, Happy New Year!
If the PA leaders do this, they will immediately be faced with the loss of almost $1 billion a year in international aid, much of which benefits the leadership class personally. I do not agree with Savir that they would continue to receive it as a government in exile. So I don’t think they will do it.
Probably what will happen will be a violent struggle for succession. At this point Israel should step in and demand that whoever takes over will make the concessions regarding incitement and recognition that I discussed. Yes, there will be demands from the US and the UN, but Israel will have say no to them while at the same time presenting an alternative — a non-hostile PA administration — that they can accept, even if it’s less than what they want.
I don’t think that in today’s Middle East, “The region as a whole would be forced to express its solidarity with the Palestinian uprising.” That is a pre-Iran, pre-Syria point of view!
I don’t think Obama will wait until after the election to try to screw Israel.
You may be right. He just might not be able to resist. But I think even Obama knows that Hillary is playing with a pretty weak hand going into the election. He may not like the Clintons personally – rumor has it that he hates them, and the feeling is mutual – but I strongly suspect she blackmailed him into supporting her (or at least not getting in her way) in some fashion connected with Benghazi.
With the above in mind, and given that even Obama knows that most Americans still support Israel (all the more so with each new Islamist outrage, from SB to Philly), he might not want to go all out against Israel until after the election, when such action can no longer hurt Hillary.
But these predictions are hard to make either way. There are many unknowns, many variables. The FBI may yet try to indict Hillary over her e-mails. Obama may try to pull a Marcos and stay in power indefinitely past his term (especially if Cruz or Rubio get the GOP nomination and are poised to win, or in fact win, the general election). If Ted Cruz wound up as president, he would do whatever it would take to reverse anything Obama did against Israel. Which brings me back to my original point…depending on whom the GOP nominates, Obama might not want to do anything that would serve to reduce Hillary’s chances in November (assuming she’s not on trial)…such as completely abandon Israel in the UN before the election.
We live in interesting times. Too interesting. I could do with some boring times myself.
Jewish financial support is essential to the Democratic Party. Jewish votes, not so much – there are very few of us, most Jewish voters care little about Israel, and Jewish population is concentrated in states that the Democrats are sure to carry (NY, CA, NJ, MA, IL, PA).
Obama and the Clintons hate each other, yes, but Obama does not have to be blackmailed to support Hillary. As much as they dislike each other, they are on the same side, policy-wise, and they hate the opposition (such as it is) much more. Also, Hillary is the main wrongdoer in connection with Benghazi, so I’m not sure how she could have used it to blackmail Obama.
The FBI is just an investigative and police force, it can’t indict anyone. The decision whether to indict Hillary, if the FBI recommends it, will be made the Attorney General, a reliable leftwing hack. There is no chance of Hillary being indicted. Obama will not allow it, no matter what the FBI wants.
I think Israel’s support in the US is extremely soft. The younger evangelicals aren’t as supportive as their parents were, and much of the rightwing blames Israel and its US supporters (unfairly) for the Iraq debacle. Hostility to Muslims does not necessarily indicate friendliness to Israel. Trump, notwithstanding his Jewish daughter and grandchildren, is aware of this, and has been cool to Israel thus far in the campaign.
I agree with Vic – if Obama wants to screw Israel once and for all before he leaves office, he probably will not wait until after the election.