Friday, April 02, 2010

Revisiting the elephants in the room, plus one more

PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was interviewed in Ha'aretz where he went into some detail about his plan to unilaterally declare a Palestinian Arab state next year.

His plan has dovetailed with noises coming out of the White House and the EU, and there seems to be growing enthusiasm for this move.

A couple of times over the past two years I published lists of "elephants in the room" that the wishful thinkers like to ignore. Fayyad is saying all the right things for Western consumption, but how do his statements hold up against the elephants?

Elephant 1: Hamas controls Gaza
Fayyad dismisses this in two paragraphs that don't say anything of substance:
People in Gaza are looking at us as well, and saying they also want to have a better life. Look at how fragmented we are in the West Bank, but Gaza you can cover from north, south, east, and west 10-20 times a day. What took us a year to do in the West Bank can be accomplished in two months in Gaza.

"Who would have thought a couple years ago there would be this transformation in the mind-set? Not many thought that possible. All you have to do is travel beyond Ramallah and see for yourself. It's a changed reality.
He is ignoring Hamas completely, implying that a declared state will magically make Hamas disappear and melt into the PA. The only problem is that there is no basis to believe that in reality. His declared "state" would include a territory that is ruled by terrorists, and he would demand that the world recognize it as if it was under PA control.

In addition, the only change in PalArab West Bank mindset, as far as I could tell, is economic, not political. I have yet to see a single example of Arabic comments on stories about Gaza aggression that are remotely peaceful. Plenty of people hate Hamas but no one is against killing Jews to the extent that they would say so publicly.

And the economic boom in the West Bank is because of Netanyahu, not Fayyad.

Elephant 2: Palestinian Arabs elected a terror government
Elephant 3: The current PA government was not elected
Elephant 4: The current PA government has almost no power
Elephant 5: The PA is being kept alive by artificial methods

All of these issues are continuously ignored. There are no elections on the horizon. The last elections not only chose Hamas for a national government but also for practically every local government outside Ramallah. The legality of the current PA is questionable even within the PA's own laws. And the PA still gets the bulk of its support from the West, not from its own people.

Fayyad has been working on building institutions, a move that was decades overdue. But he has no political support from within. He has no following. He is not a member of Fatah, and in the end, Fatah is the power behind the PA - and the PA is not independent but it answers to the PLO, another little fact that the West is unaware of or ignores.

Elephant 6: Fatah remains a terrorist group paid by the PA

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has been keeping a lower profile but it has not been dismantled. In Gaza, Hamas has arrested much of its leadership, but in the West Bank it is simply waiting for the opportunity to re-emerge.

Elephant 7: The first - and second - stages of the roadmap were never implemented

Fayyad's plan is explicitly rejecting the roadmap and is a unilateral action. This means, of course, that Israel could do the same. If Israel annexes the large settlement blocs - a move that the vast majority of Israelis support - then the declared Palestinian Arab state would start off without any borders.

Elephant 8: The PA's goal remains the destruction of Israel

I don't believe that this is Fayyad's goal, but it is Abbas' goal, as can be seen by his actions. It is Fatah's goal and it is the PLO's goal. And in the end, Abbas is Fayyad's boss.

Elephant 9: Jerusalem

It might have moved to the forefront, so it is not as ignored as it was, but it remains the major point of disagreement. The PA's requirements on Jerusalem is an indication that a state is not its goal, as a state could function just fine with Ramallah as its capital. Their insistence on Jerusalem is simply meant to disassociate Jerusalem from Judaism.

Elephant 10: What happened to Gaza when Israel withdrew

Gaza could have become a Singapore when Israel left. Instead, it became Afghanistan. The only thing that has kept the West Bank relatively stable over the past few years has been the presence and threat of the IDF - but the world has forgotten what the West Bank was like while the intifada raged and the "peaceful" PA was in charge.

Elephant 11: Palestinian Arab "unity"

Unless the PA gives up on Gaza, Hamas has effective veto power over any moves made by the PA. Any "unification" agreement - which is no closer today than it was last year or two years ago - would inevitably mean that the PA positions would harden to accommodate Hamas. And Hamas is never going to give up on its desire for destroying Israel sooner rather than later. Just they would then have access to more American weapons.

Elephant 12: The Palestinian Arab "diaspora" and Arab intransigence

Fayyad states that his state would welcome Palestinian "refugees." This means that the Arab policy of not granting statehood to those who choose not to move to "Palestine" would become untenable. This would mean that Arab nations like Syria and Lebanon would have a choice: offer citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of "Palestinians" who live within their borders, or force them all to move to "Palestine" where they would quickly overwhelm the existing infrastructure.

And very possibly radicalize the minority who really does accept Israel.

This elephant will grow large indeed.

Elephant 13: Economics

This is something that has improved. Even so, the Palestinian Arab economy is far from self-sustaining and the attitude of entitlement is still there, especially in the camps that many still live in - even under PA control. Add the thousands of new residents and we have a big problem.

Elephant 14: Gaza demographics

Gazans are still having lots of kids, and nowhere to put them. Most will not want to move to the West Bank, where the culture is different, and Egypt won't take them. they will continue to use this to pressure Israel even if somehow Gaza comes under the PA.

Elephant 15: Palestinian Arab leaders never showed interest in independence

If we take Fayyad at his word, then exactly one has. As mentioned, he has no constituency within his own people. He was never even elected.

And it is hard to take Fayyad at his word, when he answers a question this vaguely:

Q: What are you doing to stop incitement against Israel?

A: Incitement can take the form of many things - things said, things done, provocations - but there are ways for dealing with this. We are dealing with this.
Too bad he cannot give a single example.

Fayyad points to another very large elephant that hadn't been mentioned:

Elephant 16: A unilateral Palestinian Arab state would be militarized

In the interview Fayyad says the Palestinians want an independent and sovereign state, emphasizing they are "not looking for a state of leftovers - a Mickey Mouse state."

This is a codeword for a full army and full control over airspace. Fayyad's state would allow him or his radical successor to invite Syria to position anti-aircraft weapons within its territory; to shoot missiles at El Al planes landing a few miles from the Green Line, or to get a few thousand tanks poised to cut Israel in half.

Iran already effectively controls Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. They would use the nascent state of Palestine to position themselves on the West Bank as well. Just like the PA ran away from Gaza at the first sign of trouble, so would they abandon their state to Iranian proxies and Islamic terrorists.

Their will to defend themselves is not nearly as strong as their will to destroy Israel, a desire that has been inculcated in them for generations. Palestinian Arab nationalism is a fundamentally weak and externally-imposed construct. Iran is poised and anxious to take advantage of the chaos that would follow a unilaterally declared state.

But the West is ready to risk Israel for that elephant as well.