No deal to be had with the PLO

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President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace team intends to publish its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians sometime next month, according to reports last week.

But recent events in the Palestinian Authority make clear that there is really no point in advancing any plans for peace.

Details of the peace plan are unclear. Reports of its purported contents published three weeks ago in the Israeli media were swiftly denied by senior U.S. officials.

But no matter what the details of the plan may be, they will not advance the cause of peace.

Indeed, it is far more likely that they will serve as kindling on the bonfire of Palestinian politics and contribute to the destabilization of Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and the Middle East more generally.

Two recent Palestinian developments show that peace plans, no matter how well-intentioned, are both doomed to fail and counterproductive.

First, there are Hamas’s concerted efforts to swarm Gaza’s border with Israel.

Since late March, Hamas has massed terrorists interspersed with civilians along the border. It has made repeated efforts – many successful – to destroy Israel’s border fence and penetrate Israeli territory. Hamas terror operatives have destroyed thousands of acresof Israeli farmland with incendiary devices flown over the border on kites and drones.

During operations to protect its territory, Israeli military forces have killed some one hundred Palestinians — the vast majority affiliated with the Hamas terror organization. Early Hamas reports of mass civilian casualties were later retracted.

For the U.S., the main strategic implication of Hamas’s ongoing operation is that the terror group, sponsored by both Iran and Turkey, is firmly in control of Gaza.

With Gaza operating as a miniature Taliban-controlled Afghanistan at war against Israel and Egypt — America’s two most powerful Middle East allies – the notion that there is any chance of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians is absurd.

If the Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs an autonomous Palestinian regime in Judea and Samaria (otherwise known as the West Bank) were ever to strike a deal with Israel, two things would happen. First, the Hamas regime in Gaza would open major hostilities against Israel. And second, the thousands of Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria would immediately rise up against the PA.

In other words, so long as Hamas controls Gaza, it has the power to veto any peace deal, and it can be expected to use its power to achieve that goal.

The second development in recent weeks that lays bare the futility of any prospective U.S. push for peace is the medical condition of PA leader-for-life Mahmoud Abbas.

On Monday, Abbas was released from his third hospitalization this month. He was being treated for pneumonia. Although he walked out of the hospital with no assistance, and announced he would be returning to work the following day, Israeli and Palestinian officials acknowledge quietly that the 83-year-old leader, with a history of heart disease and prostate cancer, is not long for this world.

Abbas served as Yassir Arafat’s deputy in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for forty years before succeeding Arafat in power after his death in 2004. Like Arafat before him, Abbas controls all the power centers in the PA. He serves as chairman of the PLO, chairman of the PLO’s ruling Fatah party, and as chairman of the PA. He was elected to the latter position for a four-year team in 2005. He controls the international donor funds and the American- and European-trained-and-financed Palestinian security services.

The U.S. has supported Abbas’s decision to cling to power and block new elections ever since his legal term ended nine years ago. Successive U.S. administrations have accepted Abbas’s position that new elections are liable to see a Hamas candidate elected to succeed him. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Although it generally polls behind Abbas’s Fatah party in Palestinian polls, international polling indicates that popular support for Hamas is greater than support for Fatah. (Support for violence against Israel is overwhelming.)

Hamas’s popularity, despite years ongoing counterterror efforts by Israel, frequently assisted by Abbas’s security forces, is a testament not only to the jihadist movement’s popularity, but to the unpopularity of Abbas and the PA he rules.

Although Abbas presents himself to the U.S. and to the Israeli left as a moderate leader in comparison to Hamas, the fact is that he has never given anyone any real cause to believe that he is interested in making peace with Israel.

In 2008, Abbas rejected then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s detailed offer of Palestinian statehood and peace, which included an Israeli withdrawal not only from the vast majority of Judea and Samaria but from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and Arab neighborhoods in eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem. In 2014, Abbas rejectedthen-President Barack Obama’s even more expansive peace offer.

Abbas has used the mosques, the Palestinian school system, and the PA’ media organs to incite and indoctrinate the Palestinians to hate Israel, Jews and the United States, and to seek to destroy the Jewish state. He embraces and extols terrorists; he pays terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons and their families generous salaries; he incites terror attacks against Israel; and he engages in rank antisemitic propaganda and incitement on a routine basis.

His repeated rejections of peace offers, and his antisemitic incitement, have set precedents of Palestinian rejectionism and radicalism that any successor would be hard-pressed to abandon even if he did not have Hamas breathing down his back.

Despite the fact that the international community has given the Palestinians more financial assistance per capita than any people on earth have ever received, Abbas has failed to build a stable, functioning governing system. Instead he maintained the corrupt mafia-terror regime Arafat created with the establishment of the PA in 1994.

Like Arafat and his cronies, Abbas and his cronies have grown fantastically rich by siphoning off billions in donor funds to their personal bank accounts while repressing the Palestinian people into silence and deflecting their frustration onto Israel.

Which brings us back to Abbas’s health crisis.

It is possible that Abbas will return to work this week and continue on for the next several months or so. But at some point in the foreseeable future, Abbas will die. And because he has no agreed successor, because he never set up governing institutions that stand in their own right, and because he has left a record of anti-Jewish bigotry and rejection of compromise with Israel that no would-be Palestinian leader in his right mind would disavow, it is clear that all possible scenarios for the day after Abbas’s departure are problematic, and certainly not conducive to peace.

With variations, leaving Hamas-controlled Gaza out of the equation, there are effectively four possible scenarios of what will happen in the PA in Judea and Samaria after Abbas departs the scene.

The first possibility is that he will be replaced by another old-time PLO leader in his 70s or 80s. If the PLO Executive Committee or Fatah Central Committee are unable to agree on a successor, it is also possible that, as happened when Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982, Abbas will be replaced initially by a committee, or a sort of PLO politburo comprised of several geriatric leaders.

Under that scenario, things will go on more or less as they have for a year or so. The donor funds will continue to pour in and Abbas’s successor or successors will use them for their personal enrichment and to pay off the warlords — that is, security officials — deployed in the various sectors of Judea and Samaria.

The second possibility is that a younger leader, perhaps one of Abbas’s sons or another younger Fatah leader, will take over. This scenario is unlikely because it is hard to see the PLO and Fatah leadership agreeing on a successor. If a candidate is selected, in all likelihood, his ascension to power will be challenged in a bloody, violent manner. In all likelihood, that violence will be deflected to Israel by the various warring factions to prove their anti-Israel “authenticity.” Israel will be forced to quell the violence and its response could be a pretext for Hamas and Hezbollah to strike.

The third possibility is that in the absence of a widely accepted leader of the entire PA, power will devolve to the various warlords and militia leaders deployed throughout the area. This scenario could be conducive to stability — or it could create instability, depending on whether and to what degree the militia bosses are funded and who is funding them, and whether they accept a division of authority among them and among the apparatchiks in what will be left of Abbas’s fiefdom in Ramallah.

Finally, it is possible the Palestinian towns and cities in the areas will descend into utter chaos after Abbas passes away. Under that scenario, Israel will be required to intervene militarily with no clear endpoint in sight.

With Hamas in charge of Gaza, and no prospect of a well-governed post-Abbas Palestinian Authority, there is no scenario one can envision in which the Palestinian population of Gaza, Judea, and Samaria would rally behind a Palestinian leader willing and able to reach and implement a realistic peace accord with Israel.

Obviously, it does no one any good to orient policy around fantasies of peace and reconciliation. Given these circumstances, the Trump administration is well advised to shelve its peace plans indefinitely.

Originally published at


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