The day after: What's next for the Palestinians?

Both sides are consolidating power today. Hamas is rounding up Fatah in Gaza and Fatah is rounding up Hamas in the West Bank. Abbas has also appointed a new, independent prime minister; Hamas naturally calls it a coup and insists Haniyeh is still the rightful PM. The west has a hard enough time dealing with one Palestinian authority, let alone two, so the plan is to get rid of one of them somehow, ideally by bringing Gaza back under Fatah’s control. Israel’s foreign minister suggests a multinational force but only to prevent weapons smuggling, not to dislodge the new regime. It’s a non-starter anyway: even if a force of peacekeepers could be raised, UN soldiers as a rule don’t do much soldiering so they’re not going to “fight Hamas” per her request. The other option is for the IDF to invade and reinstall Fatah by force, but that would leave Abbas looking like a Zionist puppet and destroy his credibility, which could unsettle the West Bank too.

So force won’t work. Will jealousy?

Some State Department officials argue that the administration could only support such a separation if Israel agreed to make political concessions to Mr. Abbas in the West Bank, with the goal of undermining Hamas in the eyes of Palestinians by improving life in the West Bank…

Among Middle East experts, the possibility of trying to establish a diplomatic separation between Gaza and the West Bank and lavishing benefits on the West Bank — an idea that seemed remote a week ago — is now being discussed. “This is as close they can come to taking a sow’s ear and trying to turn it into a silk purse,” said Martin S. Indyk, former American ambassador to Israel and director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Indyk takes it a step further in WaPo: Israeli withdrawal from, and Palestinian statehood for, the West Bank coupled with tough sanctions on Gaza to make the locals fume with envy at how much better life could be if they just got rid of Hamas. Another, less likely alternative being debated by “Palestinian intellectuals” is dissolving the Palestinian Authority entirely and putting themselves back under Israeli sovereignty. It’s a transparent ruse to claim some truncated form of Israeli citizenship, which will then be used later to claim full Israeli citizenship and ultimately result in a “one-state solution,” which ultimately ends in a Final Solution when Arabs overtake Jews demographically.

There’s one other alternative. Also highly unlikely, but highly intriguing:

Debate has begun in Palestinian and Jordanian newspapers – and in official circles on both sides of the Jordan river – over a plan to incorporate West Bank Palestinians into a confederation with Jordan, creating a kind of bi-national state with two governing assemblies…

First, an increasing number of Palestinian officials appear willing to concede that deterioration of conditions in the occupied territories ensures that a two-state solution may no longer be viable. In addition, the violent internal power struggle between Fatah and Hamas has created profound insecurity among West Bank Palestinians. As a result, even a plan that would effectively end the dream of Palestine in all but name garnered 30 percent support in a recent poll conducted by the Near East Counseling Institution in Ramallah.

Second, Palestinians see Jordan’s relative stability and affluence. They don’t trust their own leaders to provide either and fear that it’s the Israelis who will continue to dictate their future. That’s why dozens of Palestinian business leaders, elected officials, and opinion-makers accepted King Abdullah’s invitation to join Jordanians and Israelis in Aqaba last month to discuss peace plans for the region – and why confederation reportedly figured prominently in their discussion.

As for the Jordanians, former Prime Minister Abdel Salam Al Majali now argues that confederation would solve one of the kingdom’s most pressing internal problems: A majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian descent, a fact that often draws Jordan into the maelstrom of Palestinian politics. The new state would feature two legislative assemblies. The first, based in the West Bank, would represent all Palestinians – including those who already live inside Jordan and hold Jordanian citizenship. The country’s current assembly would be reserved for East Bank Jordanians, members of tribes which generally support the monarchy.

It’s hard to believe Arafat’s party would be the first to abandon the dream of Palestinian statehood, which of course was never really Arafat’s dream but to which he paid enough lip service as to ensure plenty of resistance to any change of course. The question is, what happens to Gaza? The author of the IHT piece suggests it might be absorbed by Egypt but the last thing Mubarak wants, given the pressure he’s under from Islamists in Cairo, is responsibility for two million Hamas zombies. The likelier result is that it would stay sui generis, with the whole “peace process” nightmare of the last several decades playing itself out in Gaza. Except this time, every time things got hairy between Israel and Hamas, Jordan would be at risk for an uprising among its own confederated Palestinian population whose “passions” would be inflamed by the suffering being experienced by their brothers etc etc etc.

Exit question: What’s the answer? Let’s solve the Middle East crisis. Right here, right now.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on February 02, 2023