The day after Abbas

The day after Abbas, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, May 27, 2016

The day Mahmoud Abbas departs his post as president of the Palestinian Authority, or is deposed from his dictatorial perch, could be a watershed moment. It could and should force a reassessment of conventional thinking about the feasible contours of accommodating Palestinian independence.

That moment may be coming soon. Abbas is old, sick and tired. He has little to show for his persistent efforts to isolate Israel diplomatically and force Israel into hasty withdrawals. His regime is viewed as utterly corrupt by 95.5% of Palestinians (according to a recent Palestinian poll). The tens of billions of dollars in international aid he has swallowed have failed to build any real institutional basis for a good or democratic Palestinian government.

Abbas’ thuggish underlings are jockeying aggressively around him for pole position in the battle to succeed him as West Bank despot. Hamas, too, smells blood.

On the diplomatic front, Abbas’ departure will leave nothing behind but scorched earth. He has fled from real negotiation and compromise with Israel, espoused maximalist positions, stoked hatred toward Israelis and Jews, venerated terrorists and pushed the criminalization of Israel internationally. He basically convinced most Israelis that there is no reasonable peace deal to be had with the Palestinians.

And yet, the Obama administration and much of the global community nonsensically still considers Abbas and his gang to be viable partners for a two-state peace arrangement. What will it take for them to move beyond this rotten reliance on Fatah leadership and the creaky two-state construct?

Nevertheless, most Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, still seek to move toward some clarity of borders, stability, and improved quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

They seek to do so without embarking on insane Israeli withdrawals that would likely lead to the establishment of a second “Hamastan” in the West Bank, or worse, an Islamic State-type regime.

So it’s time for Israel to re-articulate its thinking about the possibilities of an Israeli-Palestinian modus vivendi. Netanyahu should capitalize on his newly broadened government, and the coming transitions in Palestinian and American politics, to reset the diplomatic table. He can outline the acceptable contours of a conflict amelioration process in which Israel can pragmatically participate.

Doing so is especially urgent since the Obama administration is, in extremis, not-so-subtly readying to move the global goal posts farther away from Israel. This, of course, will only make the likelihood of Palestinian compromise with Israel even more remote.

Here are some guidelines and red lines that the Israeli government may want to adopt:

• Regional solutions: Unconventional alternatives to the struggling two-state paradigm must be on the table, including: a Palestinian-Jordanian federation; shared sovereignty with Israel in the West Bank; a three- or four-way land swap involving Egypt and Jordan; and, possibly, a combination of all these approaches.

The major Western powers must be willing to drive serious exploration of such alternatives. Arab states too can take responsibility for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and consider investment of tangible resources in “regional” solutions.

• Baseline: Israel’s position at the outset of talks should be that 100% of the West Bank belongs to Israel, by historical right, and that this right is richly buttressed by political experience, legitimate settlement and security necessity. Only then can Israel hope to obtain a sensible compromise.

Talks should not begin from a 68-year-old armistice line forced upon Israel by Arab aggression; nor “from the point that talks last left off” eight years ago under a previous, defeatist Israeli government; nor from the defensive security fence line forced upon Israel by Palestinian terrorism; nor from any borders high-handedly dictated in advance by U.S. President Barack Obama or the international community.

• Security: The radical Islamic winter buffeting this region, and its inroads into the Palestinian national movement, means that the security envelope encompassing Israeli and Palestinian areas must be militarily controlled by the IDF, fully and indefinitely. This includes the Jordan Valley and the mountain ridges on both sides of Judea and Samaria.

• The Temple Mount: One way in which to wring Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people’s ancient ties to this holy land is to insist on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. This can be modestly facilitated either through a time-sharing arrangement (similar to that in place at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron), or through a small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the vast Temple Mount plaza (which won’t overshadow the two large Muslim structures on the Mount).

Palestinian denial of Jewish religious, historical and national rights in Israel is the essence of the conflict. It is time to tackle this head-on, cautiously but candidly, at the core — in Jerusalem.

In conclusion, Netanyahu should leverage this turning point to reframe the parameters of how Israel can live astride the very problematic Palestinian national movement.

Explore posts in the same categories: Abbas, Hamas, Israel, Israel borders, Israeli security, Obama and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian elections, Palestinians and Jews, Two state solution

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