Friday, April 29, 2011

Fresh Roadkill: "Palestine 2011 or Bust"

If you really, absolutely, positively did not wish to see a State of Palestine created this year, for whatever reason, then this has been a very good week. Just when you thought Israel was on its last diplomatic legs, facing a united international community and an American President reluctant to stand in the way of Palestinian statehood, the Palestinians not only make it rain, they helpfully shoot themselves in both feet and nose dive off a cliff, for effect. Before we allow the excitement to rush to our heads, however, let's all calm down and think this through.

By signing a political reconciliation between the secular Fatah and the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has thrown his centrist supporters in Europe and the United States under a bus, and then lobbed a few hand grenades to finish the job. Instead of building international support for a Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN in September, Palestinian diplomats and Western advocates are now going to be spending the bulk of the summer trying to ensure that Western aid, totaling some $500 Million from the US and $1 Billion from Europe, annually, give or take, will continue to flow, keeping afloat the Palestinian government and economy. Then there's the matter of payments which Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, which amount to several hundred million more, and which the Israeli government will absolutely not release to a Palestinian government in which Hamas takes part.

Were any of this aid to cease, even temporarily, it would result in a swift fiscal crisis in Ramallah, cascading through the growing middle class of civil servants into the rest of the economy, and impacting the one Palestinian political party which owes much of its popularity and credibility to drawing in Western largess - Fatah - and just before national elections!

In fact, this is likely the argument that Abbas will use to avert a cut-off of aid, claiming that doing so will all but ensure Hamas' domination in next year's anticipated Palestinian elections. However, his arguments will ring all the more hollow, because the one individual actually trusted by Western officials, the man who best represents Western hopes for a peaceful, prosperous and secular Palestinian future, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is slated to be booted from office under the terms of Palestinian reconciliation, at Hamas insistence!

So, not only is a Palestinian government that includes an unrepentant Hamas incompatible with Western political and financial support, but the one capable Palestinian technocrat trusted by the West who could have allayed Western concerns regarding not funneling American and European tax dollars towards Hamas' terrorist infrastructure is being eliminated from the equation. As Jeffrey Goldberg put it...

It is not Hamas that is changing. It is the Palestinian Authority, which is sidelining Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man most responsible for bringing the Authority the international credibility it needs to declare independence.
It's very difficult to put a limit on the damage done to the Palestinian national cause in Western eyes by Fayaad's dismissal, and at the hands of Hamas, to boot! This man is a Western darling, the Palestinian Messiah, on whom praise is heaped without end. If Fayaad for all his prestige can get the axe, then any Western-backed or Western-leaning Palestinian can now be removed from office by Islamist pressure. How can the Americans and Europeans build trust in Palestinian partners when the fates of these individuals are at the mercy of an Iranian and Syrian sponsored Islamist terror group?

But wait, there's more! Jennifer Rubin, quoting Jonathan Schanzer at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes that...
Press reports suggest that Hamas is melding its operation into the PLO, the entity that does business and has offices in the United States. (In fact the Obama administration recently forked over more funds to upgrade these in anticipation of a peace agreement.) If this is correct, the offices would have to be closed and its representatives ejected from the country.
Whether or not this actually happens is immaterial. The fact that the option - some would call it a legal obligation - to eject Palestinian representatives from the US is suddenly on the table is a dramatic setback for half a decade of smart Palestinian diplomacy in Washington, setting the clock back to the 1980s, when official PLO representatives were formally forbidden from stepping foot on US soil.

Even Europe, which may buckle and continue financial aid to the PA by one mechanism or another, instead of confidently building consensus for Palestinian statehood, will now face policy chaos and push-back on political support for a UN statehood resolution. A Palestinian Islamist party, Hamas, soon to be represented in the official Palestinian governing structure, rejects the right of Israel to exists and maintains an active state of war with the Jewish state. For Europeans, who are interested in bolstering secular and anti-Islamist forces in the region - which is Europe's primary rationale for getting involved in building a secular Palestinian state to begin with - this is just about the worst outcome possible.

The only way out of this mess, for pro-Palestinian Western advocates, is either Hamas undergoes a fundamental transformation, which it has failed to do during five years of international pressure, war, isolation and sanctions, or Fatah defeats it overwhelmingly in Palestinian national elections next year - both highly improbable outcomes. Until either of these outcomes magically materializes, and whatever Palestinian supporters may claim in the meantime, we're all going to be having Palestine Roadkill for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bon Appetit.

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