End the Delusion
By Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2007
Israel is missing a great opportunity to change the international diplomatic discourse on the Palestinian issue. The lasting anarchy within the Palestinian Authority and the imminent civil war among the various militias presents Israel with the opportunity to undermine the misguided conventional wisdom of the past two decades: that a two-state solution is the only hope for peace and stability in the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Many have suggested that the Palestinian national movement will be able to agree on a compromise with the Zionist movement and subsequently establish and maintain a state which could live peacefully next to Israel. Unfortunately, both assumptions have proven to be false.
Actually, the establishment of an embryonic Palestinian state, the PA in 1993, has led to more bloodshed and greater instability. The discredited Oslo process has allowed the PLO, which has been, inter alia, a terrorist organization, to get a territorial foothold in the Holy Land.
Terrorist organizations are much more dangerous and lethal when they have a territorial base. Indeed the number of Israeli (and Palestinian) casualties has increased tenfold since 1993. Moreover, the emergence of the PA led to the militarization of the fragmented Palestinian society, which is beleaguered by the internecine struggles of a myriad of militias.
Arafat’s unwillingness and/or incapability to acquire a monopoly over the use of force and the escalation of the violent conflict with Israel since 2000 further eroded the governing capabilities of the PA, leading to a collapse of law and order and pervasive corruption.
The ascent to power of the radical group Hamas in 2006 did not improve governance in the PA despite the hopes that the Islamists could be honest and effective administrators. Moreover, the Hamas government’s refusal to recognize Israel further eroded the belief that the Palestinians are able to reach a historic compromise with the Jewish national movement. Such a notion had already been undermined by Arafat’s refusal to sign a deal with Israel at Camp David in July 2000.
SKEPTICISM concerning the ability of the Palestinians to maintain a functioning state has become widespread in the world. Israel should capitalize on that awareness, primarily in friendly countries, to help them reach the conclusion that the Palestinian experiment started at Oslo has basically failed and there is no effective Palestinian option.
Moreover, little can be done by outsiders to fix the Palestinian mess. Generally, the ability of foreigners to influence the domestic sociopolitical dynamics of the Middle Eastern societies is limited. Western political pressure and/or financial aid can hardly change entrenched ways of conducting political affairs. Any Israeli attempt to intervene in the internal struggle within Palestinian society is doomed to failure. For example, Israel’s transfer of $100 million to Mahmoud Abbas will only taint the Palestinian leader as a collaborator with Israel and further weaken his untenable position.
Foreign support to the Palestinians and/or the preservation of the UNRWA relief system only sustains the terrible status quo, allowing for increased militarization of Palestinian society and prolonging its ability to refrain from facing the grim reality its leaders have led it into.
All current plans fail to address the main problem – Palestinian chaos. Palestinians have an urgent need for effective government, not “a political horizon,” which is a euphemism for quickly establishing a Palestinian state. This is an impossible endeavor because the Palestinians have already amply demonstrated their ineptitude at state-building. It will take them decades to mature politically. Nurturing the national hopes of the dysfunctional Palestinian national movement will bring only further suffering to the Palestinians and their neighbors.
The only chance to alleviate the Palestinians’ situation is foreign rule, despite the fact that it sounds politically incorrect. Nevertheless, their best friends, the Israeli Left, advocate an international mandate, realizing that the Palestinians are not politically mature for self-rule. Yet why an international mandate enforced by an international force should be more successful than the US in Iraq is unclear. Recalling the colonial record of the UK and France in the Middle East, the inescapable reality is that only Arabs can rule over Arabs by Arab methods.
Therefore, the quest for peace and stability requires stopping the Palestinian experiment as soon as possible. Since Israel has no appetite for ruling unruly Palestinians, it is for Jordan and Egypt, both Arab, to contain the Palestinian national movement and rule over the Palestinians. This was actually done with relative success by both states before 1967.
With PA fortunes at a low point, Israel should use its diplomatic resources to further weaken and delegitimize the hostile entity, rather than paying lip service to the two-state paradigm – a losing proposition. Jerusalem should encourage greater involvement by Egypt and Jordan in Palestinian affairs. These states have signed peace treaties with Jerusalem and behave more responsibly than the PA leadership. If they refuse, the prevailing chaos will inflict pain primarily on the Palestinians. Under the current circumstances such a consequence may be useful in influencing the Palestinian learning curve.
Alas, there are people that learn only the hard way.
The writer is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.