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Return to 2006 Reconsolidation – With an Islamist Twist

 

06 September 2008

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Several major moves are underway concerning Israel and the Palestinians, most of them without an overwhelming amount of publicity, but they are crucial events nonetheless. PM Ehud Olmert is on his way out, although that might take months and hence he is pushing his “consolidation” or “realignment” agenda openly without fear of condemnation or of losing votes in what appears to be the upcoming election. The Palestinians are not sitting still either.

In Gaza the Hamas is being replaced by the more radical adherents of Al-Qaeda, even if they do not take orders from bin Laden personally. The Islamic revolution in Gaza is pushing towards the pinnacle of extremism forcing Ismail Haniyah’s government into a corner by demanding an end to the calm or “tahadiyah” with Israel along the Negev frontier. Hamas is now viewed as moderates when speaking in revolutionary terms and will be confronted with the choice of eradicating the Al-Qaeda types or of further radicalizing their own stance. Call it “beat them or join them.” Either way the process bodes ill both for Israel and Abu Mazen’s (Mahmoud Abbas) Palestinian Authority and secular Fatah faction.

Deputy PM Haim Ramon (Kadima) is to introduce legislation this week to compensate any Israeli family living east of the security fence being built between Israel and the Palestinians. Much of the fence runs along the 1949 – 67 Armistice Line but parts cross over into the western areas of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) where there is a sizable Jewish population. The security fence is taking on more political significance daily. Should the compensation law pass it will be a clear indication that Israel is unilaterally willing to implement a two-state solution in line with Kadima’s party platform of 2006 calling for a separation from the West Bank. The 2005 Gaza Disengagement began to halt the slide into a bi-national one state solution and here is its continuation. Ramon wants to prevent the debacle of the 2005 evacuees and give everyone the choice of reorganizing their lives at their own pace without the trauma of three years ago.

This puts pressure on the Israeli Right with both the religious parties and the secular Likud objecting. However it will take the Likud off the hook should they win the next elections as they too know the geo-political and demographic situation may slide into a bi-national situation. Unlike the Kadima government, the Likud could never begin such a process and remain Israel’s secular right wing leader. Likud leader Benyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu can follow up the process (as finance minister he helped fund the fence for two and a half years) claiming he has no choice since the law already passed. He signed the Wye Agreement (1998) with Yasir Arafat knowing full well it was a continuation of the Oslo Accords which he and the Likud objected to so vehemently. With Oslo as the conduit towards “peace” he had little maneuver especially with the pressure from Washington.

Should Netanyahu form the next government which appears likely, such a law will force him to take in Kadima, Labor and Yisrael Beitainu instead of right wing religious factions such as the National Religious Party and National Union who will demand he repeal the law. Kadima is doing his dirty work while hoping to join in the next coalition.

On the other hand PA President Mahmoud Abbas is under pressure to come to an agreement with Olmert before he is out of office. The PM may face criminal charges on three different accounts as early as this week. Should Abbas, who controls the West Bank with the help of the Israeli Army and hefty American support, turn down Olmert’s proposals for a two-state solution Israel will begin implementing without his consent. The idea is to simultaneously corner Fatah and Abbas while marginalizing the settler movement in the West Bank.

If Abbas takes the deal he would be “empowered” by Israel, the Americans, the moderate secular Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt and gain international stature while helping to isolate the Hamas and other Islamic extremists in the Gaza Strip. As far as many in the West are concerned the true battle is between Islam and secular Arab nationalism. Israel’s clash with the Palestinians is a side-show irritant deflecting everyone from the real issue of whether the Middle East will be ruled by extremist Islamic leaders in the not too distant future.

In a way it all sounds fairly simple, just that everyone is forgetting the rather weighty factor known as the Palestinian People who prefer Hamas in the West Bank much more than they support Fatah. There are to be Palestinian elections in January 2009 (or so is said) as Abbas completes a four year term. Should Hamas win they will control not only the Palestinian Legislature but the presidency as well.

On the Israeli side there is the question of legitimacy for any peace agreement while the PM is under police investigation. In essence he has announced his resignation and everyone is waiting for elections. And how is the government to handle the tens of thousands of Jewish residents who will not agree to be compensated by the new law proposed by Ramon? This settlement group is much larger and more radical than the Gaza evacuees.

To conclude:

Gaza can be expected to go through its most extreme revolutionary stage shortly. The next step will be to break the calm and go to war with Israel using even longer range and more effective rockets.

Fatah, the PA and Abbas are facing the quandary of making peace with Israel or facing a unilateral solution. Internationally they will have support for the two state solution, nationally they will be reviled. Even should it work Gaza will be the Islamist institutionalized opposition over whom they have no control. A war emanating from Gaza could bring about their overthrow if they do not join the battle against Israel.

In Israel Kadima and the center will be isolating the religious Right giving them options of capitulating now or fighting later. But most important will be the security arrangements in the West Bank. If Israel were to leave completely the chance of an Islamic overthrow will increase dramatically. Should this be the case, Israel will have removed settlements, agreed to a two-state solution (with indefensible borders) but be back at war, only this time with an Islamic entity in the West Bank.

Israel must navigate its way between the dangers of a bi-national state on the one hand and the possibility of a West Bank Islamic entity joining the one in Gaza. The ramifications of either scenario would be catastrophic.