FILE – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the PLO executive committee and a Fatah Central Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 12, 2021. Palestinian political factions on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, raged against dozens of Palestinian academics who had criticized Abbas’ recent remarks on the Holocaust that have drawn widespread accusations of antisemitism. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)
When it comes to the day after Israel defeats Hamas, the Biden administration and many American allies in Europe talk about immediately restarting negotiations for a two-states for two-people solution.
From 6,000 miles away, we don’t see, or we don’t want to see, that most Palestinians, including those in the West Bank, support Hamas and the atrocity it committed Oct. 7.
Reuters reports that the leading Palestinian pollster, the Palestinian Center for Policy Survey and Research, has studied this question. “Almost three in four Palestinians believe the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel was correct,” the report states, “and the ensuing Gaza war has lifted support for the Islamist group both there and in the West Bank.”
A high-ranking leader within Fatah, the party that has controlled the Palestinian Authority for more than 30 years, exemplifies this attitude. Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of Fatah’s central committee, eulogized Hamas’s Saleh al-Arouri, the terror group’s No. 2. He called al-Arouri, who masterminded a decade of terror attacks in the West Bank, an “extraordinary leader.” Rajoub added that he is “among the believers in his ideology, his way, and his activity. … His passing [is] a loss for Fatah just as it is a loss for Hamas.”
In August, al-Arouri called for total war with Israel to bring its economy to a standstill and destroy its seaports, electricity and water systems. This was less than two months before Oct. 7.
“Hamas (is) part of our (Fatah) political and social fabric and our struggle. … full of acts of heroism that Palestinian people have been waging for 75 years,” Rajoub said.
The Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization are all run by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. All three are committed in principle to a two-state solution involving a Jewish state next to an Arab state living in peace, as a United Nations Resolution 181 called for in 1949.
But look at the timeline Rajoub uses: 75 years. That dates back to Israel’s birth, not to the defensive war of 1967 after which Israel occupied the disputed territories. That was only 56 years ago. This senior Fatah official, then, is advocating a one-state solution with no Israel, from the river to the sea.
In this war, and for generations, it is not only Hamas but also Fatah who challenge Israel’s right to exist. If this were a territorial matter, as those who plead for an immediate return to two-state negotiations demand, then this conflict could have ended in 1949, or as recently as 2008, when Israel offered 100 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
This is not about two states for two peoples. The Palestinian version, even within the mainstream institutions, would demographically overrun or expel the Jews and turn Israel into the 23rd Arab state.
American national security interests would be upended if radical political Islam were to control the Levant. Even if Fatah wanted to create two states for two people, the indoctrination within Palestinian schools, mosques, media, and political discourse of hatred toward Jews would need at least a generation to undo.
Two days after the Oct. 7 massacre, a Fatah spokesman thanked God for the massacre, for “humiliating and defeating the Zionists” and claimed that the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades (Fatah militia) are “fighting with Hamas” in a joint operations room with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Remember, we in the West are told to differentiate between the secular Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Fatah) spokesman Abu Muhammad, posting on Telegram two days after the massacre, said, “Praise Allah, who strengthened and supported, humiliated and defeated … the Zionists … [we are] fighting with the rest of the resistance factions in ‘the Al-Aqsa Flood’ battle, by the power of Allah … until the occupation’s aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, our occupied lands, and everywhere in Palestine are stopped. This is a revolution until victory.”
A Wall Street Journal editorial highlighted that, according to Palestinian Authority law, terrorists from Oct. 7 will be compensated. The attacker who called home on Oct. 7 and told his mother, “I killed 10 Jews with my own hands,” is owed money under what the U.S. Congress has called the “Pay for Slay” program. The families of terrorists (martyrs, in the parlance of the Palestinian Authority) receive $400 a month for life. A terrorist who is imprisoned can make up to $3,300 a month. For context, the Palestinian territories’ gross domestic product per capita is less than $3,700 per year.
If Israel is prematurely forced back into negotiations, it will cost the U.S. its ability to project power and influence in the Middle East. If Israel is undermined, Saudi Arabia will move permanently toward China and Iran. The risk of regional wars will grow as Iran will dash to cross the line to a nuclear weapons state.
The very first thing to do after Hamas is destroyed is to change the Palestinian educational system toward one modeled on the Gulf Arab countries that have made peace with Israel. This must be coincident with any infrastructure rebuilding. As an Atlantic Council headline put it, “The UAE education system is pushing for peace and religious tolerance. The rest of the region should follow suit.”
Second, America, as the largest funder of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), which provides humanitarian aid and educational services, must insist it change. Otherwise, we must find another conduit for funding. The UNWRA policy of perpetuating this conflict by counting descendants of refugees as full-fledged refugees must end. Descendants of refugees must be treated as all other refugees in the world, the way the U.N. High Committee on Refugees (UNHCR) treats them, by trying to find them permanent homes and citizenship in countries where they have lived for generations.
As the UNHCR website states, “Resettlement enables refugees to relocate to another country which has agreed to admit them with a legal status ensuring international protection and ultimately permanent residence.”
Palestinian people deserve a better life and leadership. But it will take a generation for them to build the foundations of the rule of law and freedom to speak out without being tortured as collaborators for wanting to live in peace next to a Jewish neighbor.
This article appeared in The Hill on Jan. 12, 2024
Any premature move toward a two-state solution before this culture of incitement is eliminated will only meet a dead end.
Eric R. Mandel is director of the Middle East Political Information Network and senior security editor of the Jerusalem Report.