By Barry Rubin
This dose of reality brings us to Plan B. Forget about grandiose plans and donâ€™t be intoxicated with wishful thinking. It is in the common interest of the West, Israel , and certainly Fatah itself to keep the current regime in power in the West Bank . Of course, this is premised on two things. First, the reality that there is nothing better available as an alternative since there is no real moderate force of any importance in Palestinian politics.
Second, there is the very large possibility that Fatah, or at least large elements in it which Abbas will not even try to control or persuade otherwise, will continue to view attacking Israel as its top priority and indeed principle reason for existence. Third, there is a very high likelihood that Fatah will once again act in a suicidal manner, a pattern which has characterized its history.
What is needed as an experiment is limited cooperation based on practical issues. The message should not be: â€œLetâ€™s save that wonderful moderate Abbas who is eager for peace.â€ But rather: â€œMr. Abbas and colleagues, you are on the verge of extinction. Give us some reason to save you if you want our help.â€
The way this issue is being presented in Washington and Jerusalem , however, would make one believe that Abbas is so wonderful that he is doing everyone a favor by accepting their money and support. Such a fantasy will lead to a continuation of Fatahâ€™s habitual blindness and smugness, guaranteeing its intransigent behavior and eventual downfall.
Aid should be contingent. Stop incitement in the PA media which Abbas controls; act decisively to stop cross-border attacks, and on that basis help can be provided. What happens if Fatah elements, including the al-Aqsa Brigades, continue cross-border attacks on Israel? Will politicians desperately fight to preserve the idea that Fatah is moderate even if this is a myth?
To test the new strategy even more stringently is what Hamas will do on the West Bank. One of several elements of chronic stupidity in forming Middle East policies also to be factored in here is that enemies are sure to seek to sabotage them. No doubt, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will redouble their efforts to launch terrorist attacks on Israel in order to sabotage Abbasâ€™s survival. If Israel and the United States is patronizing about thisâ€”poor guy, he just cannot help itâ€”the situation will spiral into a new catastrophe.
It is for Mr. Abbasâ€™s own good that he be held accountable. He must clamp down on the terrorists (including members of his own group) and the incitement that makes people become suicide bombers or get the same treatment as Hamas receives from victims.
And that brings us to another key element of strategy. Hamas, which Abbas now himself labels as terrorists, must be isolated, denied aid, and treated severely. If, after all, the West coddles and seeks engagement with Hamas, this would show Palestinians, and other Arabs, that the Hamas way works and one can have both genocidal antisemitic terrorism plus intolerant Islamism along with success and Western acceptance. If that is true, who needs Abbas and Fatah?
Israelâ€™s former national security advisor Giora Eiland is precisely right in proposing that Israel should clearly define the Hamas regime in Gaza as â€œan enemy political entityâ€¦.If we give Gaza all it needs, and Hamas is able to keep firing and keep rearming, we are left with no leverage.”
The choice for policymakers, including Abbas, is between a naÃ¯ve wishful thinking and a tough-minded realism in which cooperation is based on deeds and not just words. Thatâ€™s the way countries are supposed to function, isnâ€™t it?
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and author of the just-published, The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To order: