Jerusalem Issue Brief Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Former Chief of Staff, Israel Defense Forces
Solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says mainstream public opinion, and the rest will follow. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many afflicting the Middle East, and it is by no means the dominant one.
The Palestinian leadership continues to evade accountability. Today the watchword is “weakness.” The image of political impotence has become a precious asset in the Palestinian strategy. The problem is not Abbas’ actual capabilities. The problem is his unwillingness and lack of determination to create and govern a viable and accountable state.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others have called for more foreign assistance for the Palestinians. This strategy has no chance of success if it is not linked to reforms. Unless the Palestinians are first convinced through education to give up the extremism which informs their
national and religious aspirations, they cannot be expected to be full partners in building a vibrant Palestinian economy.
The central conflict of the Middle East is not territorial but ideological; not about borders but about Islamic Jihadism and Western liberty. No ideology, least of all radical Islam, can be defeated by concessions, which encourage, energize, and inspire Jihadists. Those who wish for peace must face and assimilate this fact, and realize that territorial concessions, or any concessions in any realm in the struggle against militant Islam, have been consistently counterproductive.
From Oslo to Annapolis, we have engaged in a top-down strategy. We aimed to reach a political horizon or a final settlement agreement with the Palestinian leadership, hoping that political reform among Palestinians would follow. I propose we replace this approach with a bottom-up strategy in which the PA first proves its willingness and ability to govern.