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September 13, 2006
Palestinians May Walk Away From Self-Government

The Washington Post reports that the newly-declared unity government might not last very long if its leaders cannot convince Israel and the West to lift economic sanctions imposed after Hamas took power earlier this year. More Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Authority should collapse if it cannot meet its payroll:

Created a dozen years ago to administer the occupied Palestinian territories, the frail political system called the Palestinian Authority is now broke, paralyzed by months of partisan infighting and depleted by Israeli arrests. A growing number of Palestinians -- a group that has expanded in recent months from a core of secular intellectuals to include officials from the leading political movements -- have begun advocating openly for the authority's dissolution.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, facing a strike by civil servants over unpaid wages, agreed this week to form a power-sharing government with Fatah and other factions in hopes of restoring international aid. Whether a new government will revive foreign financial support, which accounts for nearly half the authority's budget, could help determine whether the authority itself remains viable in the face of mounting unrest and disillusion in the territories.

The unity government platform would commit Hamas to accept past agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization that recognize Israel. It would mark the first time that Hamas, which does not belong to the PLO and has long opposed the 1993 Oslo peace accords that created the Palestinian Authority, would tacitly accept a two-state solution to the conflict.

But Hamas has so far refused to renounce violence or explicitly recognize the Jewish state -- two of the three conditions set by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union for a renewal of aid. Israeli officials indicated Tuesday that Israel would not release hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority or support an easing of international sanctions against it unless those terms were met.

Israel has little to gain from recognizing an entity that refuses to recognize it. The tax revenues flow directly from the Oslo agreement, and the new Hamas government rejected Oslo as soon as it took office. In fact, Hamas rejected every agreement between the PA and Israel -- and then stood by in wonder as its international financing dried up. While it's getting more difficult to predict whether Israel will pursue appeasement these days -- it seems to be Ehud Olmert's new hobby -- it would be political suicide to release tax revenues to the PA while it still refused to abide by all treaties and agreements, including the Olso requirement to recognize Israel's legitimacy.

The Palestinians want to force Israel to start paying for its occupation directly rather than channeling the money through the PA. They argue that dissolving the PA would force Israel to spend billions on health care and the rebuilding of Palestinian infrastructure under international law governing occupations. The total cost of ignoring the territories would create so much economic pressure on Israel that they would be forced to give massive concessions to the Palestinians to rid themselves of the white elephant.

If the Palestinians implement this strategy, they may find themselves in for a shock. Israel pulled out of Gaza on its own, leaving behind a political mess for the Palestinians to fix. They no longer occupy Gaza. The Israelis can do the same thing to the West Bank, if necessary, and let the Palestinians figure it out on their own there, too. And as long as terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to attack Israel, they will continue to respond, only without the restrictions of an occupation to limit their wartime tactics. The Palestinians saw how that worked in Gaza this summer, and Israel isn't around to pick up the pieces.

They may provoke another reaction by bailing out of the PA. Western nations, including the US, have pushed for a two-state solution for a generation and argued that the PA formed the nucleus of a state. Without the PA, without popular support for its existence, the two-state solution vanishes as well, and the Palestinians wind up at Square One all over again. Western nations surely will not transfer aid to Fatah and Hamas without a legitimate government structure, nor will they abide Israel's funding of either group, even for an occupation.

The Palestinians prove that they are the worst-led people on the planet. Rather than abandon the PA, they would be much better served by voting for statesmen and not terrorists of any stripe. Instead, they're looking to abdicate responsibility ... again.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 13, 2006 6:41 AM

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Tracked on September 13, 2006 8:28 AM

» Where Are the Palestinian Statesmen? from Kowabunga
Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters, responded to an article in the Washington Post on the current state of the Palestinian Authority. Israel has little to gain from recognizing an entity that refuses to recognize it. The tax revenues flow directly... [Read More]

Tracked on September 13, 2006 5:41 PM


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