Expensive futility

News item:

The United States signed an agreement on Wednesday to give 150 million dollars to Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank government, Agence France Presse reported.

The funds are the first installment of 555 million dollars pledged by Western countries at a donors’ conference in Paris late last year intended to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and underpin recently revived peace talks.

The money will go directly to the government’s budget to help fill a massive fiscal shortfall left in the wake of a seven-year uprising and will contribute to a plan by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in his plans to reform the failing Palestinian economy…

A statement from the US Consulate in Jerusalem stated that American aid to the Palestinians in 2008 now totals over $700 million and exceeds the amount the US pledged at a donors conference in December 2007.

I see the US and Israel stuck between a rock and a hard place here.

If we do not support the Abbas/Fayad PA — and if the IDF doesn’t fight on its behalf — Hamas will replace it as the power in control of the West Bank and will be the de facto ‘government’ of the Palestinians. On the other hand, this closeness to the US and Israel makes it impossible for the PA to get real support from the Palestinian ‘street’, which tends to prefer the leadership that best displays its militant credentials.

In this connection, the Fatah party of Abbas and Fayad finds it necessary to keep up militant appearances by not disarming its al-Aqsa brigade terrorists. And no Palestinian leadership can even think about giving up on the demand for a right of return to Israel for all the 4-5 million people now claiming refugee status. So even this very marginal PA can’t agree to two-state peace deal with Israel.

And yet, the Bush administration, both US presidential candidates and the Israeli government seem to believe that this is the best hope — or the only hope — of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is what they are trying to do

  • Pump money and arms into the PA so that it doesn’t collapse
  • Somehow solve the insoluble problem of ‘right of return’  — and the slightly less difficult problems of borders, Jerusalem and security — so there can be a two-state agreement between Israel and the PA along the lines of the ‘Clinton ideas’ of 2000
  • Somehow keep Hamas from taking over once there is such an agreement and the IDF is out of the West Bank
  • Somehow deal with the political and economic upheaval in Israel caused by uprooting tens of thousands of West Bank residents outside the final border
  • Somehow find the money to pay for the creation of a Palestinian economy and the compensation or resettlement of ‘refugees’ — both Palestinians, and West-bank Israelis
  • Figure out what to do about Hamas and Gaza in the long term

Difficult? Impossible, in my view. And the Iranian threat, which is embodied in Hezbollah, Syrian missiles and soon nuclear weapons, will not make it easier. This approach is in essence an attempt to do Camp David over again and get it right, but history has moved on and the opportunity was missed. What might have worked in the ’90’s or even 2000 is not practical today since the rise of Hamas and the massive military buildups of the Iranian proxies.

As long as Israel is under the joint threats of Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, the Palestinians can maintain their maximal demands, feeling time on their side. And as long as Hamas is in the equation, no peace deal of any kind could be expected to stick.

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