Several years ago, I traveled to Ramallah with a group of Israeli leaders. We met key people in Palestinian society and a representative of the Palestinian authority. These were not peace talks, but rather an attempt to understand better the Palestinian mindset and the challenges they face. I asked the PA representative about her plans for a future Palestinian state. Everyone could see the growing support for Hamas. What will she do? This woman with a modern Western appearance, facing a murderous fundamentalist organization? It will be fine, we will deal with it, the problem is the Israeli occupation and not Hamas’, she replied. I pushed her to articulate a strategy – after all, without one she could be one of the first to be thrown to her death from a rooftop under the rule of an extremist fundamentalist body, as were her PA colleagues in Gaza. Sadly, I didn’t get a substantive answer.
Anyone who has talked to Palestinians about the conflict recognizes the conduct. Palestinians come with their pains and Israelis come with their plans. The Israelis hear the Palestinian pain, and the Palestinians criticize the Israeli plans. This dynamic has to change.
One of the plans being suggested for the day after the war is handing over Gaza to be governed by the Palestinian Authority. In my opinion this is a mistake. If the Palestinian Authority wants to get some kind of status, it needs to come up with a plan. Not criticize Israeli plans, but bring their own plans. And without a plan to eradicate terrorism, the PA cannot be trusted.
I have always avoided the fruitless debate about whether there is a “Palestinian people”. Let them define themselves however they want. It’s none of our business. It is time Palestinians themselves decide if they are one people. What makes Jews a people? It is that Jewish Israelis can conduct a heated debate, with hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating every week, and then, instantly, mobilize together for joint army service and social volunteering. We are not afraid of criticism, because we are one people. Even a difficult and ongoing political debate does not come at the expense of shared responsibility and unity. Can Palestinians do this? They fear that criticism could tear them apart and lead to bloodshed. They’re probably right, but that’s no answer. They need a plan. How do they function as one unit, which knows how to deal with its own internal problems and not just ignore them by blaming others. And how do they, how can they, provide an alternative to the murderous, barbaric, unmitigated terrorism the world witnessed on October 7th.
For a better future, something has to change. Everyone working with Palestinians should demand to hear their plans. Everyone who sees themselves as belonging to the Palestinian people should tell us how they see their future. How will they deal with the many murderous terrorist bodies that have grown within their society. How will moderate voices prevail. They should not do it for us, but for themselves. Not as a favor to Israel, but for themselves. Otherwise a Palestinian civil war will look no different than the horrific reality we saw on October 7th. Maybe there are Palestinians who are already dealing with these questions. I would love to hear or receive references to such voices. They need plans. And we need to start demanding them.