An interesting development took place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earlier this week, and almost no one noticed it or noted its impact. Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a unilateral cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza, one that would put an end to rocket and missile attacks into Israel in order to pressure the Israelis to end its Gaza incursion and agree to a prisoner swap for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Abbas promised that the armed groups in the territories had agreed to honor this cessation of hostilities as a way to take Israeli pressure off of them in Gaza.
Unfortunately for Abbas, he couldn’t even get the armed wing of his own faction to accept this cease-fire. The Fatah leader who the United States and the West consider the best partner for peace in the region had to cancel orders to deploy Palestinian security personnel into the northern Gaza region where most of the rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad originate. Fatah’s own in-house lunatics, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, refused to stop attacking Israel, demonstrating the lack of power held by the West’s partner for peace.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas was the only group that had accepted Abbas’ cease-fire. When his own band of militants refused to carry out Abbas’ orders, the deal fell apart. The lack of influence on Abbas’ part shows a disturbing development in the territories: the lack of mandate for anything short of annihilation of Israel and the lack of authority in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.
Outside influences in Gaza and the West Bank used to come primarily from Hamas, based in Damascus, and Saddam Hussein. Now, Hezbollah has begun to take over the AAMB, providing funds and political direction to the Fatah terrorists and disconnecting them from Fatah’spolitical leadership. This provides at least an indirect connection to Iran, and in this context one can see some coordination between the action in Lebanon and the activity in Gaza.
Israel and the United States have held Mahmoud Abbas up as a rational partner for peace. They presume that Abbas controls Fatah in the same manner as Yasser Arafat before him, and that Fatah is still a voice for secular rule. Increasingly, that is no longer true, and Abbas has become more marginalized through his attempts to negotiate with the Israelis. This outcome has been entirely predictable ever since the Palestinians elected Hamas to a parliamentary majority. The Palestinians do not want peace — they want a war of annihilation, and they keep proving this to everyone except the Western diplomats and leaders who refuse to accept it.
What options does this leave? Unfortunately, war appears to be the only option that the Palestinians will endorse. No Palestinian leader of any stripe will agree to an end of hostilities for anything short of Israel’s destruction while their constituents demand total victory, and no Palestinian can lead anywhere while the militias and terrorists run the Palestinian Authority’s foreign policy. We have reached the point where the West cannot and should not shield them from the consequences of their decisions any longer. Perhaps the resulting destruction will convince them of the futility of their policies of annihilation, because nothing else seems to work.
The United States and its Western partners need to recognize the growing reality of the Iranian and Syrian proxy status of the Palestinians, and recognize that no real partner for peace exists while the Palestinians still pursue annihilation as a goal. Until the Palestinians organize for peaceful coexistence and produce leaders who have the mandate to make those agreements, statehood and peace initiatives are bound to fail.