The day after Abbas

Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, May 27, 2016.

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Netanyahu should capitalize on his broadened government, and the coming transitions in Palestinian and American politics, to reset the diplomatic table. He can outline the acceptable contours of a conflict amelioration process in which Israel can pragmatically participate.


The day Mahmoud Abbas departs his post as president of the Palestinian Authority, or is deposed from his dictatorial perch, could be a watershed moment. It could and should force a reassessment of conventional thinking about the feasible contours of accommodating Palestinian independence.

That moment may be coming soon. Abbas is old, sick and tired. He has little to show for his incorrigible effort at isolating Israel diplomatically or forcing Israel into hasty withdrawals. His regime is viewed as utterly corrupt by 95.5 percent of Palestinians (according to a recent Palestinian poll). The tens of billions of dollars in international aid he has swallowed have failed to build any real institutional basis for good or democratic Palestinian government.

Abbas’ thuggish underlings are jockeying aggressively around him for pole position in the battle to succeed him as West Bank despot. Hamas, too, smells blood.

On the diplomatic front, Abbas leaves scorched ground. He has fled from real negotiation and compromise with Israel, espoused maximalist positions, stoked hatred of Israelis and Jews, venerated terrorists, and pushed the criminalization of Israel internationally. He basically convinced most Israelis that there is no reasonable deal with the Palestinians to be had.

And yet, the Obama administration and much of the global community nonsensically still considers Abbas and his gang as partners for a two-state peace arrangement. What will it take for them to move beyond this rotten reliance on Fatah leadership and the creaky two-state construct?

NEVERTHELESS, most Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, still seek to move towards some clarity of borders, stability, and improved quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

They seek to do so without embarking on insane Israeli withdrawals that would likely lead to establishment of a second “Hamastan” in the West Bank, or worse – an ISIS type regime.

So it’s time for Israel to re-articulate its thinking about the possibilities of an Israeli-Palestinian modus vivendi. Netanyahu should capitalize on his broadened government, and the coming transitions in Palestinian and American politics, to reset the diplomatic table. He can outline the acceptable contours of a conflict amelioration process in which Israel can pragmatically participate.

Doing so is especially urgent since the Obama administration is, in extremis, not-so-subtly readying to move the global goal posts father away from Israel. This, of course, would only further infantilize and brutalize Palestinian positions, and make the likelihood of Palestinian compromise with Israel even more remote.

Here are some guidelines and red lines that the fifth Netanyahu administration could adopt:

* Regional solutions: Unconventional alternatives to the struggling two-state paradigm must be on the table, including: a Palestinian-Jordanian federation; shared sovereignty with Israel in the West Bank; a three- or four-way land swap involving Egypt and Jordan; and, possibly, a combination of all these approaches.

The major Western powers must be willing to drive serious exploration of such alternatives. Arab states too can take responsibility for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and consider investment of tangible resources in “regional” solutions.

* Baseline: Israel’s position at the outset of talks should be that 100 percent of the West Bank belongs to Israel, by historical right, and that this right is richly buttressed by political experience, legitimate settlement, and security necessity. Only then can Israel hope to obtain a sensible compromise.

Talks should not begin from a 68 year old armistice line forced upon Israel by Arab aggression; nor “from the point that talks last left off” eight years ago under a previous, defeatist Israeli government; nor from the defensive security fence line forced upon Israel by Palestinian terrorism; nor from any borders highhandedly dictated in advance by Obama or the international community.

* Security: The radical Islamic winter buffeting this region, and its inroads into the Palestinian national movement, means that the security envelope encompassing Israeli and Palestinian areas must be militarily controlled by the IDF, fully and indefinitely. This includes the Jordan Valley and the mountain ridges on both sides of Judea and Samaria.

* The Temple Mount: One way in which to wring Palestinian recognition of the Jewish People’s ancient ties to this holy land is to insist on Jewish prayer on “Har HaBayit.” This can be modestly facilitated either through a time-sharing arrangement (similar to that in place at the Machpela Cave in Hebron), or through a small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the vast Temple Mount plaza (which won’t overshadow the two large Moslem structures on the Mount).

Palestinian denial of Jewish religious, historical and national rights in Israel is the essence of the conflict. It is time to tackle this head-on, cautiously but candidly, at the core – in Jerusalem.

In sum, Netanyahu should leverage this turning point to re-frame the parameters of how Israel can live astride the very problematic Palestinian national movement.

The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies will hold a conference on “The Day after Abbas” on June 1.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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