What Israeli policy should be

By Barry Rubin


This dose of reality brings us to Plan B. Forget about grandiose plans and don’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: “Let’s save that wonderful moderate Abbas who is eager for peace.” But rather: “Mr. Abbas and colleagues, you are on the verge of extinction. Give us some reason to save you if you want our help.”

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 Fatah’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 Abbas’s survival. If Israel and the United States is patronizing about this—poor guy, he just cannot help it—the situation will spiral into a new catastrophe.

It is for Mr. Abbas’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?

Israel’s former national security advisor Giora Eiland is precisely right in proposing that Israel should clearly define the Hamas regime in Gaza as “an enemy political entity….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 naïve wishful thinking and a tough-minded realism in which cooperation is based on deeds and not just words. That’s the way countries are supposed to function, isn’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:

June 26, 2007 | 4 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. I like Rubin but even he holds out the carrot of mutual cooperation and recognition if the Arabs and Abbas produce some of the goods he his using as political linkage. The linkage is where he falters as no short term concession will ever be honored and continued once the short term gains are pocketed by the Arabs. He is assuming that what we want is what they want and here he falls again. He too differentiates between
    Fatah and Hamas. In this he too falls in his conception. Our goal should be one of liquidating the political foundations of both Fatah and Hamas, developing new or restoring old ideas for how to proceed and then pursue them with vigor.

  2. What we see clearly, the State Department sees just as clearly.

    One must conclude that the present activity is to give the impression or appearance that the process is on. My guess the real work is going on behind the scene to negotiate a final settlement. If both sides can agree, then they must decide how to go forward with the agreement. Can Abbas just sign on the dotted line to make a deal or must it go to the Palestinian Council or perhaps a referendum is possible.

    They will probably get support from the key players in the Arab League and the EU. Abbas can’t go it alone and the Arabs won’t show much flexibility if any.

    So is there any hope? I don’t thin k so.

  3. The Bush administration is not only in denial about Abbas/Fatah, they have based their Israel-Palestinian policy of supporting Abbas/Fatah by declaring them as moderatate. Based on those much repeated declarations of Abbas’/Fatah’s moderation they are giving financial aid to Abbas/Fatah for the West Bank Palestinians to shore up support for them while expecting that aid will weaken Hamas and make the Gazan Palestinians will reject Hamas when they see it is Abbas/Fatah that gets them aid while Hamas gets them nothing.

    Neither America nor Israel have asked for any concessions from Abbas/Fatah for this aid for they know Abbas/Fatah have nothing to give. What they refuse to see is that Abbas/Fatah would not give any tangible concession even if it was in their power to give.

    No better example can be found to reveal the brainlessness of the Bush administration and the delusions of Condi Rice, one of the leading voices that showers praise on Abbas/ Fatah as moderates. Hopefully Olmert is mouthing those same words for show and not for real.

    For Abbas to declare that he and Fatah are in authority and Hamas’s claim to authority is illegitimate is so much bluster.

    If Abbas is counting on Israel to do his dirty work for him and attack and destroy Hamas, that had better not happen. As a consequence of the success of pro-Palestinian propaganda, Israel is at all times reined in to make no more military response then is proportionate according to the impossible proportionality standards of the double standard the world has imposed on Israel.

    If Israel were to unleash its power in Gaza to destroy Hamas, there would be many civilian casualties. Even if Israel so acted with the blessing or the world turning a blind eye to the notion of disproportionality, you can rest assured that Abbas/Fatah would denounce Israel as being cruel inhuman oppressors of the Palestinian people to try to gain the support of the Gazan Palestinians. You can also rest assured that the West would immediately fall into line. Do do otherwise and support such a measure by Israel would again be to undermine the illusory authority Abbas has and the illusion that he is a moderate.

    Israel knows this.

    Opinion polls over the last few years clearly show Palestinian support for Hamas’ goal of continuing war to destroy Israel run at about 75%. If one looks to the views of Palestinian youth, that percentage climbs to about 90%. Those polls were not conducted only in Gaza.

    If Abbas were to move to put al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad out of business, it would be an act of suicide given the broad Palestinian support for all efforts to destroy Israel.

    As things now stand, Abbas/Fatah have with American and Israeli help, been put up on a very shaky pedestal and is being propped up by them.

    It will not take much for that pedestal to come tumbling down.

  4. I would take Rubin’s cogent (as always) analysis one step further by insisting that Fatah use its considerable manpower and army to eliminate (militarily) Hamas and terrorism in its own ranks.

    Why is everyone so anxious to build up Fatah with weapons if they are meant to be used: (a) in a defensive posture against Hamas (which has not and will not work) or (b) to fire upon Israelis?

    If the US and Israel is going to the drastic measures of shoring up the Fatah army then there must be a military objective that helps rather than hurts Israel. Why not work to unleash the pigs of terror on themselves?

Comments are closed.