Israel Must Make Peace With the PA Before the Takeover of Iran-backed Hamas

A peace agreement that receives international legitimization and the backing of the Arab League will to a great extent block the possibility of Abbas' successors voiding it.

One of the threats posed by the transformation of Iran into a nuclear state is how this may affect the makeup of the Palestinian leadership, possibly leading to the cancellation of the recognition of Israel and the agreements with it by the Arab and Muslim world, and their return to armed struggle.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Oct 14 AP

Iran sees its nuclearization as a means of strengthening its regional position and ensuring the survivability of its regime. To this end it is working to create outposts of support by Islamist organizations worldwide. Since the Oslo Accords and more so since the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon, Iran has had a hand in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization still see themselves as part of the regional alliance of pro-Western Arab states against the Iranian-Syrian axis. In contrast, Hamas, whose top priority is the Islamic project in Gaza, sees the position of its patron Iran as a critical element in securing this project.

For Hamas, Iran has the Islamic strategic depth to ensure its survivability in the struggle against Israel and the pro-Western Arab states, led by Egypt. Hamas is displaying politeness toward Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but in practice it is broadening its dependence on non-Arab Islamic elements, led by Iran and Turkey, in order to create a counterweight to the plans to topple it.

The Arab League is currently giving backing and recognition to the PLO and refuses to actively assist Hamas. But nuclear arms will strengthen Iran's regional influence and enable it to compel additional neighbors to give political backing to Hamas. This change could enhance the religious dimension of the conflict and help Hamas take over the PLO or create a "new PLO."

Abbas wants to achieve a final status agreement with Israel on the basis of the decisions of the Arab League and the United Nations before Iranian hegemony puts Hamas in the driver's seat.

An agreement that receives international legitimization and the backing of the Arab League will to a great extent block the possibility of Abbas' successors voiding it.

The team of experts formed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should take these considerations into account. Israel should take advantage of the diplomatic window of opportunity as long as the PLO is led in the spirit of Abbas and is still considered the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Netanyahu's policy is diplomatically blind to the threats posed by these trends to the chance for regional stability. It is based on a conception that fails to link Israel's deeds and failings to its chances of bringing about stability and normalization with the Arab world. It prefers to see deterrent military superiority as a sufficient condition for stability and security, and does not seek to add the necessary conditions of political agreements that have international legitimacy, economic cooperation and the like.

This conception, which revives the fatalist ideas of "a nation that dwells alone," could become a self-fulfilling prophecy for those in Israel who believe that its destruction is an unchanging need of the Arab and Muslim world. But this doctrine is nothing other than a revival of the sad story of Masada, of which Menachem Begin said: "We must learn from Masada how not to reach it."