The algorithms of the Israeli peace camp, no matter how you look at it, take as an obvious assumption that the Fatah movement in general and Mahmoud Abbas in particular aspire to bring about an end to what we call the “occupation,” in other words the Israel military rule over the Arabs on the West Bank.
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This is the basis for the rest of their calculations. But maybe we need to examine this fundamental assumption every once in a while, because the Palestinians have rejected every realistic proposal to end the occupation and they have not proposed any realistic offer of their own – of course with the exception of the demand that Israel joyfully commit suicide by accepting what they call “the right of return.”
It is possible to assume, as the Israeli right commonly does, that this is an irrational thirst for blood, blind hatred and a culture that sanctifies death. I would not rule out this assumption, which it seems has a certain amount of factual basis. But it would also be appropriate to look beyond it at the cold interests, from which we can also learn something about the chances that the Abbas regime will bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
First of all, if the Israeli center and left camp is correct in its claims that one state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea means drowning Zionism in binationalism, then why should Abbas volunteer to save Zionism? And, in fact, those who do not insist on basing things on a slim handful of selective quotes (“After all, Abbas said he will not return to Safed”) can gain the impression that the Palestinians have not given up on their dream to eradicate Zionism. They have only changed the weapons with which they are dreaming to do so. Not a sudden military apocalypse but a slowly emerging demographic wave. The effectiveness of the demographic weapon depends, of course, on preventing the partition of the land, thus if the occupation comes to an end this weapon will be defused.
Secondly, it is completely clear that a Palestinian leader who gives up on the right of return, the cornerstone of the Palestinian national identity, will be considered a heretic. It is possible that Yasser Arafat’s renown could have enabled him to steer the heavy ship of the Palestinian national ethos onto a new course, but Abbas’ standing among Palestinians is so much lower. It seems such a concession would mark him for eternity as a traitor, and serve as a death warrant.
Third, the shaky dictatorship that is the Palestinian Authority is held up by the bayonets of the IDF. There are occasionally all sorts of ad hoc alliances with Hamas – now is one example – but they stem from a temporary confluence of circumstances.
Abbas certainly will find it difficult to forget what happened to Fatah’s people in Gaza in 2007 when Hamas felt it was strong enough. So it is clear to him that the only stable guarantee he has to keep his people from being thrown off the roofs of buildings with their eyes blindfolded is the Israeli occupation. If Israel leaves the West Bank it is almost certain that it will not be long before Hamas deposes the corrupt PA – and it is likely to do so in the same barbaric way it acted in Gaza.
Fourth, the material survival of the Fatah dictatorship does not depend on developing the economy, which it has consistently neglected – except for the short period when Salam Fayyad served as PA prime minister. It is built on handouts given to the PA based on the Palestinians continuing to remain in the status of the occupation’s victims. This flow of money will most likely thin out if the PA is forced to replace the occupation with independence, and victimhood with responsibility.
For the peace camp’s algorithms to go on supplying hope for a peace agreement it needs to assume that: 1. Abbas will volunteer to save Zionism; 2. He will agree to go down in history as a traitor to his own people; 3. He will give up on Fatah rule and place his own neck on the executioner’s block; 4. He will give up on the Palestinians’ status as victims; 5. He will try to saw off the economic branch he has seated himself upon.
It seems to me to be a bit much to ask even from a great leader, all the more so from a drab dictator.