With the terrible news that the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers were found, some voices in Israel and abroad started calling for the disengagement from the West Bank as soon as possible, saying that the separation and a two-state solution would bring to an end of the violence in the area. Israeli-Arab MKs of the Raam-Taal political party called for the immediate reinstatement of the peace talks and are appealing to Israel to release the fourth round of Palestinian prisoners.
I argue that in the current state of affairs in the Middle East, not only is this a bad solution for Israel, but also Abbas would be among the first to see the dangers of a two-state solution. Moreover, the “current state of affairs” may span for quite a long period and have wide-ranging ramifications unless the USA does something, as I suggested in my last post when I discussed “linkage vs spillover.”
Despite the unity government, Abbas has always been and continues being extremely vulnerable to Hamas. Let’s consider for a moment that Abbas is the moderate Palestinian who wants to reach an agreement with Israel – given certain conditions. We all know that Hamas is totally opposed to the existence of Israel, and won’t accept any kind of agreements. Furthermore, if one looks at what ISIL stands for, it won’t be so difficult to come to the conclusion that philosophically Hamas is very close to ISIL: Hamas is a violent group which seeks to replace the Palestinian Authority with an Islamic state. Now, what is ISIL about? It’s in their own name: an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. A reminder: Levant includes Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel’s fundamental position in its discussions with the Palestinians is that any agreement should make Israel safer. Israel will not make any concessions when it comes to its security.
If this were true before the ISIL made its advances in Iraq and Syria – becoming a big threat to Jordan – this is even truer under the current circumstances.
Abbas is, therefore, between a rock and a hard place: while he will not give up on a) Palestine being a demilitarized country and b) Israel removing its military from the Jordan Valley, he now knows that the implementation of these conditions would be his own death sentence.
Abbas knows that if a Palestinian state were to be created under these conditions, Hamas and the ISIL would immediately topple him and the West Bank would become part of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would become the first victims of this two-state solution.
Abbas understands the current situation so well that in his June 18th speech to the foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Countries he dared to say that “Security coordination between us and Israel is in our interest to protect our people. …” which came as a shocker to the audience.
Given the turmoil in the Middle East, can you imagine the situation that Israel would have been in now if it had returned the Golan Heights to Syria, and if it had entered an agreement with the Palestinians accepting their demand that no Israeli military remain along the Jordan Valley?
For now – and the foreseeable future – it is clear that the status-quo is in the best interest of Abbas and Netanyahu, and any movement pressuring Israelis or Palestinians towards an agreement leading to a two-state solution, would be misguided and short-sighted.