Starting with Yasser Arafat following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel and the US have a long record of choosing “pragmatic” Palestinian leaders, attempting to prop them up, and watching with dismay as the guns and butter invested are squandered and turned against Israel.
Now, like true gluttons for punishment, we are trying the same tactic again, this time with the same discredited leader. Abbas never did anything about corruption, would not confront Hamas, and failed to touch the Fatah old guard that so discredited him among the Palestinian people. It was this failure to reform that convinced Palestinians to vote for Hamas, and ultimately caused the collapse of Fatah’s numerically stronger forces in Gaza when Hamas made its move a few weeks ago.
Accordingly Israel has agreed to temporarily stop hunting some 200 wanted Fatah terrorists who sign a statement saying they will not return to terrorist activity. In the past, the majority of prisoners who have signed such statements have in fact returned to terrorism after their release. In addition, Israel has agreed to allow Nayef Hawatmeh, the leader of the PLO faction that committed the 1974 Ma’alot massacre of 26 Israelis, most of them children, to come from Damascus to Ramallah for a PLO meeting.
If the Palestinians became serious about state building rather than war fighting, the shift would be obvious. Instead of rejecting every Israeli effort to create joint economic projects, such as joint industrial zones, the Palestinian leadership would welcome them and protect them from attack. Instead of using its media to foment hatred and promote “martyrdom” against Israel, the Palestinian leadership would start undoing the years of education for war and begin educating for peace. And instead of cultivating Arafat’s culture of divide and rule, all militias would be eliminated and Abbas’s “one gun” promise would be implemented.
The risks that Israel is taking to give the Palestinians yet another chance to take such a course should not be minimized. Based on the record, such risks are difficult if not impossible to justify.
For the Palestinians, however, the stakes are even higher. They must choose whether to allow the Islamification of Gaza to spread to the West Bank, or to move in the opposite direction, toward peace with Israel.
There is a limit to what Israel, the US or anyone else can do to help Palestinian leaders make this choice. Ultimately, it is their own. They must decide if they want the state they claim to have been fighting for, or not. If so, they will have to begin waging peace rather than war, and will have to focus inward on building, rather than outward on attacking. As usual, all of us will lose if they make the wrong choice.
Mere på Jerusalem Post. Tip: GG