Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article was first published at INN and republished here with the author’s consent.
Assessing the Changing Future of the Palestinians
Israel’s recent peace agreements with three Muslim countries require major new assessments of the country’s strategic position. This will have to be carried out in conjunction with a re-verification of its political aims. Yet, very little of this can be seen so far in the Israeli public domain.
It would be a major mistake if in Israel the authorities do not simultaneously reflect on what these changes can mean for the future of the Palestinians. Only if Israel understands what may happen in the territories of these enemies can it best define its own actions.
The common wisdom producers, in particular in the Western world, keep repeating their ancient and poorly thought through mantras. The most frequent is: “Despite the peace agreement, Israel will still have to negotiate with the Palestinians about a two-state solution.”
One of the most ugly positions has been taken by the person who may soon be the democratic vice president of the United States – Kamala Harris. She has announced in an interview with the American Arab News that under a Biden administration, the US will renew its ties with the Palestinians.
That is not so problematic. Yet beyond that Harris has said that the Biden administration will oppose “Israeli unilateral actions that undermine a two-state solution.” Particularly foul is her statement that the Biden administration will take immediate steps to restore “economic and humanitarian assistance.”1 I
In practice this translates to the US giving again money to the Palestinian Authority, which financially awards murderers of Israelis — or their families if the terrorists are killed. Nor should Harris’ Jewish husband Douglas Emhoff be cleared from wrong-doing. He went out to convince Jewish voters to vote for the Democrats while knowing that his wife wants to reward murderers of Jews.2 American financial assistance to the Palestinians will also help them maintain their rejectionism.
Some hard-core common wisdom producers think that a two-state solution may take even more than a generation. It is important to understand how aberrant an idea that is. is a radical misjudgment to consider that in a dynamic world where changes are constantly occurring, the idea that this approach will be the dominant one for decades.
A number of other possibilities have become increasingly possible thanks to the peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. In their wake, Arab criticism of the actions and attitude of the Palestinians and in particular its leadership has increased. The mention of the Palestinian corruption at the top and the lack of interest in the fate of the Palestinian population is in some Arab circles no longer taboo.3
There may be changes in funding attitudes of the Palestinians by countries such as the UAE, and perhaps even Saudi Arabia. Why would they continue to fund the crooked rejectionists? Yet other countries such as Qatar may continue their funding. Iran and Turkey will continue to incite.
Another important issue to look at is whether important changes will take place in Palestinian society itself. Will major alternative voices be heard? At the time of the second Intifada, local Palestinian leaders would have liked to be the negotiators with Israel in what became known as the Oslo process.4 Yet they had to give priority to the overpowering figure of Yasser Arafat.
How shaky is the situation of Abbas, a man of 84 years old? He was elected for a 4-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority, and now is in his fifteenth year in this position. Is it conceivable that the PA will disintegrate as a result of the peace agreements? In various West Bank cities, local clans and tribes are powerful. Is it imaginable that Israel finds itself then confronted instead of with the PA with a number of such local leaders?
That may well create an interesting opportunity for Israel. For a number of years, scholar Mordechai Kedar has been promoting the idea of Palestinian “emirates.” Instead of a Palestinian state, a number of local Palestinian tribal entities should be created.5 This is becoming a somewhat more realistic possibility. It would also mean the death of the two state solution.
According to polls there is also substantial support in Palestinian society for a violent confrontation with Israel. 6 Hamas policy is not that diverse from that of Muslim terrorists who have recently again murdered in Europe. All these people think that Islam is the only valid ideology/religion and it has to conquer the world by the sword.
There is yet another factor. If there is unrest in the Palestinian Authority — and even more so perhaps even some chaos — will Jordan rethink its position toward the West Bank? It is, of course, far from ideal for the Jordanians to take responsibility for even more Palestinians than it already has in its own country. In a very unstable situation, it may have to choose between bad alternatives. Some other arrangements with Arab or international help are also possible, for instance, Palestinian autonomy with links to Jordan. 7
A study published in November 2020 by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation asked what alternatives there are under the assumption that a Palestinian state is not possible. Of the respondents in the Palestinian Authority 47% said that they are unsure. The second , most preferred option among the Palestinians was a binational Palestinian-Jordan state.8
There is a distinct possibility that there will be a push for a “one-state solution” by the Palestinians. It would be extremely unwise if Israel were to follow the wishes of its most extreme annexationists because that would make the one-state solution possible. That would also mean the end of the Jewish state. Today there is massive opposition to the one-state solution in Israel and hopefully that will remain so.
As time passes, we are likely to get more clues about what is developing in Palestinian society and in which direction it may be going. Yet, one can only use this to Israel’s advantage if one starts to map out, be it very roughly, the broad avenues of what may develop. This should be an essential part of developing Israel’s strategy.