[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


October 28, 2005


This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



Mahmoud Abbas and future options


Nobody denies the peaceful intentions of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abu Mazen has been adamant in his outspoken position against the militarization of the Intifada, even before assuming the office of Prime Minister then later as President. At the same time, he is against the use of force to stamp out lawlessness prevailing in the PA. In his opinion, it would lead to an internal civil war. Yet the present Israeli policy of unilateralism undermines his attempt to move back to the negotiations and to the Road Map process. Unilateralism only attempts to manage the conflict, it is not the road to conflict resolution, which must be the two-state solution. Unilateralism is not going to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees and the future of Israeli settlements.


As a result, and with the growing realization, that violence and counter violence are not going to subside, further preventing leaders in Israel and Palestine from concluding a meaningful settlement, two new options are slowly cropping back, out of despair, as the alternative to the dismal present.


1. The bi-national state


Palestinian intellectuals, observing the continuous nibbling away of the West Bank by the separation wall and barrier, the expansion of settlements, and the many by-pass roads, doubt the possibility of the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. These elites have started reconsidering their backing of a two-state solution and instead are advocating the principle of one man one vote, and one bi-national state for both peoples. This trend is growing by the day among the intellectuals and eventually will spill over to the Palestinian public at large, as the only worthwhile deliverance from the hopelessness of ever achieving an equitable two-state solution.

2. Return to the pre-1967 situation


The other option which is not likely to be embraced by the intellectuals, but a likely outcome of the present impasse, is reverting back to what existed on the ground prior to 1967. Egypt is already deeply involved in the affairs and the future of the Gaza Strip. Egyptian officials are permanently stationed there. A group of Egyptian officers, headed by the Deputy of Minister Omar Suleiman, General Mustapha Al-Buhairi is feverishly attempting to save the internal Palestinian dialogue and the ceasefire. The upsurge of violence and counter violence is threatening to undermine these efforts. About 750 Egyptian border police troops are monitoring the Egypt-Gaza border and the crossing points. If the deterioration continues, as the cycle of violence deepens, it is a matter of time before public opinion in Gaza will call on President Mubarak and Egypt to revert to is former role as it existed up to June 1967.


In the West Bank, an undercurrent within the Palestinian public has been murmuring about the good old days of the Jordanian administration. The public deplores the inability of the PA, as demonstrated in the debates ongoing in the Palestinian Legislative Council. They also deplore the inability of the PA to enforce basic law and order. During a recent trip abroad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee mentioned in his lecture that Jordan could easily enter the scene to provide stability.


Thus a growing trend can be observed taking hold within the Palestinian public to accept going back to what existed on the ground in the West Bank prior to 1967. Jordan has the ability to provide security. Jordan and Israel today have functioning security and intelligence cooperation and warm and friendly relations that would allow Israel to forego the separation wall. Jordan, through the Waqf-Islamic Trust has a presence in Jerusalem and runs the Holy Sanctuary of Al-Aksa and Dome of the Rock mosques.


Although Jordanian officials are fearful of openly advocating a return to what formerly existed, when pressed on the issue, and alternatively told that Egypt could also assume in the West Bank a similar job to its role in Gaza, only then Jordanian officials openly say that the West Bank falls under their influence.


These options cannot provide a final settlement supported for the long term, but are the outcome of the inability of the present leaderships in Israel and Palestine to confront entrenched forces in their societies. Sharon cannot dismantle the settlements policies and the uproot all of the illegal outposts and Abbas cannot disarm and dismantle the Hamas and the Jihad.