UPDATE: The Israeli offensive against Hamas may be reestablishing the deterrent in the Arab world.
Al Jazeera’s reportage yesterday avoided interviewing ordinary Gazans. Arab sources in Gaza confided that the public anger is not directed at Israel any more than it is at Hamas. Al Jazeera, doing a superb job as PR agents for Iran’s proxies, likely wanted to avoid risking those types of reactions from the battlefield.
The present Gaza situation seems to be one more chapter in an insoluble problem. There are, however, some other options that are beginning to be considered. Daniel Pipes has some potential solutions that we know won’t work:
1. Israeli control. Neither side wishes to continue the situation that began in 1967, when the Israel Defense Forces took control of a population that is religiously, culturally, economically, and politically different and hostile.
2. A Palestinian state. The 1993 Oslo Accords began this process but a toxic brew of anarchy, ideological extremism, antisemitism, jihadism, and warlordism led to complete Palestinian failure.
3. A binational state: Given the two populations’ mutual antipathy, the prospect of a combined Israel-Palestine (what Muammar al-Qaddafi calls “Israstine”) is as absurd as it seems.
What is left ? What was the situation before 1967 ?
Shared Jordanian-Egyptian rule: Amman rules the West Bank and Cairo runs Gaza.
Jordan ruled the West Bank and Egypt ruled Gaza.
Not everyone agrees that it is a good idea, but that was five years ago.
In 2007, there was new interest in the idea.
Call it retro geopolitics, or history repeating itself, but the idea of the Palestinian territories – at least the West Bank – rejoining the Hashemite Kingdom to form some kind of confederation seems to be gaining traction on both sides of the Jordan River.
The concept has been raised quietly before but was deemed taboo, in part because Palestinian leaders feared it could squelch their larger aspirations for an independent state.
But given the deteriorating security in the Palestinian territories amid an ongoing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, some Palestinians are again looking east to Jordan – a country whose majority population is of Palestinian descent. Jordan’s King Abdullah II – concerned about a full collapse of the Palestinian Authority as well as unilateral Israeli moves in the West Bank – is increasingly involved in bringing opinion-shapers and would-be peacemakers together to reconsider the idea.
The last time Jordan and the Palestinians tried to live together, it ended in Black September, when Jordan expelled the PLO from its territory.
In February 1969, Arafat (who remained the leader of Al Fatah) became head of the PLO. By early 1970, at least seven guerrilla organizations were identified in Jordan. One of the most important organizations was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) led by George Habash. Although the PLO sought to integrate these various groups and announced from time to time that this process had occurred, they were never effectively united (see The Palestinians and the Palestine Liberation Organization , ch. 4).
At first by conviction and then by political necessity, Hussein sought accommodation with the fedayeen and provided training sites and assistance. In Jordan’s internal politics, however, the main issue between 1967 and 1971 was the struggle between the government and the guerrilla organizations for political control of the country. Based in the refugee camps, the fedayeen virtually developed a state within a state, easily obtaining funds and arms from both the Arab states and Eastern Europe and openly flouting Jordanian law.
The result was a short war that expelled the PLO. The “Black September” terrorist group took its name from this event. What has changed ? Arafat is no longer alive and the Palestinians have had 37 years to learn how well they are ruled by terrorist gangs.
Is Jordan interested in another attempt to rule the West Bank ? There is evidence that they are.
Hamas’s landslide victory in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections is the latest sign of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) failure. The collapse of the West Bank into civil chaos and jihadist control would pose a security dilemma not only for Israel but also for Jordan. It is a scenario that increasingly occupies the Jordanian government’s strategic thinking.
Jordan’s interest in the West Bank is long-standing. The Jordanian army occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1948 but was ousted by the Israeli Defense Forces in the 1967 Six-Day war. King Hussein continued to claim sovereignty until July 31, 1988, when, in the midst of the first Palestinian intifada, he renounced Jordan’s official administrative and legal roles in the territory. His motives were not entirely altruistic or sparked by commitment to Palestinian nationalism; rather, he feared the spread of Palestinian unrest to the East Bank.
The king could not, however, renounce all Jordanian interests in the territory because the economic, social, and familial links were too strong. Hussein also remained committed to Jordan’s traditional custodial role for the Haram al-Sharif mosque in Jerusalem even as Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) worked to undermine Jordanian control there. Despite Jordan’s unilateral disengagement from the West Bank, the kingdom continued to issue two-year Jordanian passports to West Bankers, down from the standard five-year passports they had previously received.
Israel may be ready to negotiate with Jordan to take over the West Bank and rule the Palestinians. It would require some decision about West Bank settlements but the solution would be preferable to the status quo and there is little prospect that the “two state solution” is viable 15 years after Oslo. Even the Palestinians seem ready to see Jordan take over.
“Everything has been ruined for us — we’ve been fighting for 60 years and nothing is left,” Mr. Khalil said, speaking of the Palestinian cause. Just weeks earlier, he might have been speaking enthusiastically to his friends here, in their usual hangout, about resistance, of fighting for his rights as a Palestinian and of one day returning to a Palestinian state.
Last Wednesday, however, he spoke of what he saw as a less satisfying goal for the Palestinians here and one that raises concerns for many other Jordanians: Palestinian union with Jordan.
“It would be better if Jordan ran things in Palestine, if King Abdullah could take control of the West Bank,” Mr. Khalil said, as his friends nodded. “The issue would be over if Jordan just took control.”
What about Gaza ? Mubarak says they do not want Gaza (who would?), but not all Egyptians agree.
The state-owned media rarely mention Egypt’s role in restricting the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza. Instead they highlight the aid Egypt sends to Gaza and its occasional decisions to open the border for humanitarian cases.
But Egyptians interested in regional affairs have easy access through the internet, satellite television and the independent local press to information about the suffering in Gaza and their government’s role there.
So why does Egypt continue to restrict access to Gaza?
THE BURDEN OF GAZA — Cairo believes that if it left the Egypt-Gaza border wide open Israel would wash its hands of responsibility for ensuring the Gazans receive enough to keep them alive — food, water, medical supplies, electricity and other essentials. Egyptian diplomats say that Israel would seal the border with Gaza on its side, diverting all trade and traffic through Egypt.
The burden would be a drain on Egyptian resources and the authorities might find it hard to prevent an influx of Gaza Palestinians seeking work and housing.
What about the history ?
Gaza is arguably more a part of Egypt than of “Palestine.” During most of the Islamic period, it was either controlled by Cairo or part of Egypt administratively. Gazan colloquial Arabic is identical to what Egyptians living in Sinai speak. Economically, Gaza has most connections to Egypt. Hamas itself derives from the Muslim Brethren, an Egyptian organization. Is it time to think of Gazans as Egyptians?
Egypt worries that Israel may push the Gaza problem onto their shoulders with a unilateral action. The “blockade” that stimulates the complaints in the world news media should force Egypt to assume more and more of the burden of Gaza. Instead, Egyptian border guards shoot first when Palestinians try to cross, a development that gets very little attention. This has been going on for years, and is not a consequence of the Israeli attack on Gaza the past week. The Egyptians do not want Gaza. Still, there might be a way to work this out and it would be a better solution than the present course.
UPDATE: The Fatah people are not supporting Hamas.
“I’m happy to see them eradicated,” he said, blaming Hamas for the carnage and destruction now taking place in Gaza.
Mahmoud as-Shatat, 23, a former student leader for Fatah, agrees. “Hamas consider us infidels,” he said. “They brutalized us, their own people. I have no sympathy for them.