BLOG 303 May 23, 2016
With the outrageous rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Clinton and Sanders deadlock, the media has lately said little about the continuing struggle in the Holy Land. But we need to know more.
Knife attacks by Palestinians inside Israel have subsided somewhat and Israel has become more competent at stopping lone wolf assaults before they happen. However, more is going on behind the scenes.
Why should you care? Because any settlement (or lack of it) has consequences for Europe, America, and the rest of the Middle East. The festering problem of the Palestinians has infected many other Arab communities. Prospects for genuine peace across the Middle East depend on some form of reconciliation.
Why can’t this problem get solved? Because Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas don’t want it done. Netanyahu rightly says the Palestinians won’t recognize the right of Israel to exist. He fears the creation of another armed Arab country with guns aimed at Israel. An independent Palestine could become another Islamic dictatorship. On the other hand, Abbas’s attempts to achieve statehood through diplomacy and wiggling his way into the United Nations have totally sunk. Because Abbas has continually failed, he has lost credibility at home. What can he achieve now by renewed negotiations with Israel?
Many voices continually speak of the “almost” collapsing Palestinian Authority (PA). While this is probably unlike, it reflects the deterioration in the West Bank. If the PA did implode, Israel would be forced to step in to restore order and take over a virtually bankrupted state. The headaches for Israel would be endless. Abbas understands this and the possibility gives him some leverage.
The big problem for the Palestinians is leadership. Abbas is 80-years old. A decade ago he was elected to a four-year term and there’s been no election since. He is now seen as an authority with no authority. When his leadership has been threatened, Abbas’s response has generally been suppression. Among the names at the top of today’s list to succeed him is Marwan Barghoutin. The big problem is that he is currently serving five life sentences from an Israel Court for leading two uprisings and for murder. He’s a little like electing Al Capone for Attorney General. Not much promise there!
A recent poll by the Ramallah based Arab World for Research and Development indicated that today the Palestinians have little faith in violent resistance and are more concerned about personal income and safety. In the Gaza Strip’s summer war, Hamas lost 2,100 Palestinians while Israel lost only 67 soldiers. The Palestinians are beginning to figure out that violence goes nowhere – but to a cemetery.
So, keep your eye on what Mahmoud Abbas does next (if anything). Hopeful Palestine will not be plunged into period of chaos. At this point, there are no promises.