Monday 21 April 2014

Palestinian Confusion?

An Israeli newspaper has reported that Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that he is considering dismantling the Palestinian Authority.  This was the body that was set up under the Oslo Accords to govern the Palestinians and their affairs in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority lost control of Gaza in 2007 when Hamas seized control there.  They have, however, continued to rule over the West Bank, and has been the body officially tasked with negotiating a peace agreement with Israel.  Having been a governing authority for the past 20 years, what would prompt Mahmoud Abbas to take the seemingly extreme step to dismantle it?

I interpret the threat by Mahmoud Abbas to be simply another tactic to attempt to weaken Israel's standing in the international community, and to create embarrassment and difficulty for Israel.  I cannot imagine that a leader that is determined to lead his people to an independent existence in peace and security, would behave in this way.  It is difficult for me to understand how dismantling the Palestinian Authority would serve the purpose of the Palestinian people in their publicly-stated quest to be counted amongst the legitimate nations of the world.

The first leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, was outed as a fraud who did little to further the cause of the two-state solution as envisaged by the Oslo Accords.  Instead, it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he encouraged the intifadas against Israel, organised and financed suicide bombings and other terrorist atrocities committed against Israeli civilians, and negotiated with Israeli leaders in bad faith while being feted as an international leader around the world.  He was also personally pocketing billions of dollars of aid money donated by the international community, which was intended to assist the building of a Palestinian state and help the Palestinian people.  While Mahmoud Abbas does not quite have the same notorious track record, his true intentions as the current leader of the Palestinian Authority and people has not been made clear.  Is he a leader in the mould of Yasser Arafat, whose primary intentions were to destroy Israel and to build a personal empire for himself, or are his intentions more honourable in wishing to build a viable state and nation for his people?  It is true that there has been no intifada under Abbas's watch (despite numerous threats to launch one), and that the level of terror activities has been lower.  We have also not observed negotiations with Israel in good faith to create a long-term peace for the two-state solution.

For those people who promote Abbas as a genuine leader who would be prepared to live side-by-side in peace with Israel under the right conditions, it seems to be difficult to explain why he would take any steps towards dismantling the Palestinian Authority.  While this governing body has not achieved all that was hoped for it when the Oslo Accords were signed 20 years ago, it has undoubtedly achieved a much greater level of independence for the Palestinian people.  If the leaders had pursued this model more honestly, much more may have been achieved.  If, at 79 years of age, Abbas feels he is tired and no longer has the energy and drive to continue to lead this effort, he should stand aside and allow the younger generation to take it forward.  Surely dismantling the model would do more harm than good for the independence of the Palestinian people?

For those who promote Abbas as a true heir of the legacy left to him by Arafat, the act of dismantling the Palestinian Authority is entirely consistent with other attempts to destroy Israel.  In 1948, when the State of Israel was established, Israel's enemies thought that the brute force of the Arab armies would be enough to destroy a Jewish state without any real army.  When it was proved to them that this tactic was not working and would not work, they changed their tactic to waging a "people's" war.  This involved training soldiers to operate under the cover of private civilians, and from civilian areas.  They fired missiles from the living rooms of homes that housed women and children, often using them as human shields, and initiated two intifadas.  While these tactics tested Israel's determination to adhere to moral warfare to the maximum, it has not succeded in testing Israel's determination to exist and to build a state.  When this was shown to be inaffective, a new tactic was employed.  This is to use pressure exerted by the international community and by international bodies to beat Israel into submission and destruction.  The actions at the United Nations in recent years, and particularly in recent months, show clear evidence of this.

The threat to dismantle the Palestinian Authority is entirely consistent with the latest tactic adopted.  By declaring that the Palestinian Authority as an "occupied government", the Palestinians can annul the Oslo Accords.  This would effectively return the rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank to the responsibility of the Israeli government.  Such a move would open a whole new opportunity for the Palestinians to bring their resistance directly to the Israeli government, and to present Israel as a pariah state in the international community.

By building a powerful military machine to defend her existence, Israel has created an unfavourable situation for herself in the international community.  The international community prefers to favour the underdog, and Israel's formidable army means that she is not regarded as such by the international community.  The balance of sympathy has shifted to the Palestinians, in spite of the acts of terror carried out by them, and in spite of the clear links that the leadership has to these acts of terror.  The idea of creating further embarrassment and discomfort for Israel, by forcing the Israeli government to rule directly over the Palestinians in the West Bank, is likely to enhance the situation enjoyed by the Palestinians in the international community.

It is unfortunate that the Palestinians have worked harder to discredit Israel than they have to build their own nation and state.  If they had devoted as much time and energy to positive efforts of building a state as they had to destroying Israel it is highly unlikely that they would be considering the possibility of returning rule to Israel at this time.  While some may regard this tactic as being somewhat inconsistent and confused, what they are trying to achieve seems quite clear to me.

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