Palestinian Unity Before Peace

We must wait for a Palestinian leader who can unite all Palestinians around him and who honestly aspires to coexistence with the State of Israel.

Zvi Gabbay
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Palestinian President Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: AP
Zvi Gabbay

It appears that negotiations with the Palestinians, mediated by the Americans, are going on as if the Gaza Strip does not exist and won’t be included in the territory of the future Palestinian state, with which Israel is supposed to sign an agreement.

Hamas, which controls Gaza and has been an absentee participant in the talks, is in favor of genocide and has expressed its opposition to an agreement with Israel. One must suppose that if an agreement is signed, Hamas or Islamic Jihad (which is based in Gaza,) supported by Iran - which also opposes a deal with Israel – will continue to attack Israel with missiles and Kassam rockets.

Israel will certainly respond with force and Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, with which Israel would sign the deal, will threaten to cancel it, or will simply cancel it without threats. Would such a scenario be worth the Americans’ efforts, or Israel’s concessions of strategic assets?

Aside from some opposition remarks and commentators pushing the government to sign a deal, no serious thought has been given to the Gaza question. After an agreement is signed, will the Gaza Strip continue to exist as an independent Palestinian terrorist entity?

The current negotiations are completely cut off from both the reality of the Middle East and the Palestinian reality, which has two entities, one in Ramallah and one in Gaza, competing for supremacy on the Palestinian streets. Thus U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with all due admiration for his efforts, is about to join the long list of secretaries of state beginning with Henry Kissinger who tried, and failed, to solve the conflict. Despite the concessions made by former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, and despite concessions made by the current Israeli government as well as the European and American economic aid, Abbas has not shown any willingness to accommodate Israel.

The reason is clear: Abbas, who continues to serve as PA president, even though his term is up, is not the leader of all Palestinians. Although he sits in Ramallah, where the Palestinian government traditionally sits, he does not speak for all Palestinians. Therefore, he’s in no rush to seal the deal with Israel.

All of the Arabs in the territories are called Palestinians, bUt that doesn’t mean they are united. They managed to unify around a single goal - war on the Jewish presence in Israel - and they supported the Arab states in their opposition to the 1947 United Nations partition plan to create two states, Jewish and Arab. But they have not formed a consolidated political entity since Oslo in 1993.

According to the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, they are actually divided into three groups: West Bank residents, Gazans, and East Jerusalem residents. They did not build up their economy despite the generous Arab and Western support they’ve received. The U.S. alone provides $400 million every year, meant to support the Palestinian education system.

The Palestinians blame their economic and social failures on the Israeli occupation, which their leaders actually brought upon themselves. They created terror groups that acted against Israel and intervened in other Arab conflicts. Arab dictators utilized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to oppress their people. Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani accused them of turning Palestine into the goose that lays golden eggs, and Saudi commentator Abed Al-Salaam Al-Waeel has claimed that the purpose of the unending struggle against Israel was to enrich Palestinian leaders and ensure that their rule continues. The Palestinian problem became the only thing that could unite the otherwise split Arab world.

The goal of the Palestinian leaders, who are the descendants of the leaders of gangs that fought against the Jewish pioneers, is to uproot the Jewish state from the region. They are supported by Arab leaders who do not take responsibility for their peoples. Abbas proved his hostility to Jews when he denied the Holocaust, and spread lies about Mizrahi Jews’ emigration to Israel. His ambition to implement the right of return is behind his staunch opposition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

In light of this reality, making diplomatic suggestions to end the conflict must be done cautiously, as they are liable to cause severe damage, mostly to Israelis. As it is written, “never awaken love before it is ready,” (Song of Songs, Ch. 8 verse 4.) We must wait until a Palestinian leader arises who can unite all Palestinians around him; one that truly, honestly aspires to coexistence with the Jewish entity – the State of Israel. In the meantime, independent Palestinian government should be encouraged, in order to increase their quality of life and promote economic cooperation between the two peoples.

The writer is a former ambassador.

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