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Responding to the Biden Initiative: Revitalized PA as a Permanent Status


Policy Paper


Overview

 

Having failed to present its own political initiative for the day after, Israel now finds itself in a reactive position, responding to initiatives proposed by others. This includes a reported US initiative that seeks to establish a Palestinian state, potentially without Israeli consent. Despite diminishing support for a Palestinian state within Israel following October 7th, the idea is doing a 'comeback’ on the international stage. The Israeli government, as anticipated, has voiced its apprehensions. However, Israel is wary of the repercussions of opposing this initiative, concerned about its potential impact on US support and the broader implications for forming a regional coalition against Iran. The initiative is still in its preliminary phase, providing Israel with a crucial opportunity to initiate its own strategy rather than being passively led by others.


This document outlines a framework for an Israeli agenda that is security-centric, politically feasible, and capable of potentially garnering international legitimacy. It particularly considers the divisive effect of societal polarization in Israel on political actions as a primary limitation.


Conclusion: The proposed Israeli strategy should be founded on three core principles:

opposition to the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state, assertion of security control over Gaza, and the delegation of civilian governance in Gaza to a Palestinian entity

 

Soldiers grafiti

This Palestinian entity, potentially recognized as a 'state', would practically be a revitalized Palestinian Authority, encapsulating a compromise: Sovereignty elements threatening Israeli national security would be curtailed under strict oversight, including security and legal jurisdictions. Simultaneously, this entity would be granted full sovereignty in previously restricted areas, notably in economic management.




israel harbors concerns that acknowledging a Palestinian state could inadvertently portray Hamas as victorious in the eyes of Palestinians, which would be tantamount to rewarding terrorism. But under specific prerequisites, such recognition could be perceived as a profound defeat for Hamas: ensuring the Palestinian entity's constitution bars Hamas involvement; dismantling UNRWA to effectively negate the Right of Return; Israel engaging in state-level dealings directly (bypassing the PLO to prevent Hamas infiltration); and forging an American-supported regional anti-Iran coalition, inclusive of normalization with Saudi Arabia, would significantly undermine the resistance ideology.


Introduction

 

Despite international pressure, Israel's leadership has resisted formulating a clear ‘post-Hamas' political strategy. Presently, Israel must respond to a Biden-led initiative, supported by various Arab countries, advocating for a Palestinian state, and not through negotiations.


In our assessment the current political and societal climate in Israel precludes acceptance of a Palestinian state, and its establishment without Israeli cooperation is deemed unfeasible. Nevertheless, Israel is apprehensive that refusal might weaken US support, crucial for Israel's military endeavors. Consequently, the US initiative could force Israel to confront a critical national security dilemma at a most inopportune junctur

 

At present, the details of the supposed plan are unknown (or perhaps even yet determined), leaving a narrow window for Israel to propose its own preferred political direction, rather than responding to a strategy formulated in Washington and Riyadh. Presenting such a vision could bolster Israel's military and diplomatic standing.


Three Strategic Considerations for Policy Development


We present several anchors for shaping a strategic objective in the absence of a unified Israeli vision and a politically divided society.


Consideration 1: Understanding the Dual Nature of the Palestinian Threat


Israel faces two distinct threats from Palestinians:

  • A military threat, highlighting fears that any Palestinian-governed territory could serve as a base for attacks against Israel. This threat was vividly demonstrated on October 7th.

  • A political threat, centered on the ramifications of governing millions of Palestinians, which could undermine Israel's international legitimacy and potentially lead to conflicts with allies, including the US.


The Israeli conundrum is that the military logic mandates maximal territorial control for defense, while the political logic suggests minimizing control.


Israel oscillates between prioritizing military and political threats. The Oslo Accords (1993)

emerged from demographic concerns, while their failure (2000) underscored the military threat, exemplified by the Second Intifada's terror. International condemnation during the 2005 Gaza disengagement spotlighted political pressure. Since Hamas' 2007 Gaza takeover, the consistent military threat has occasionally been overshadowed by political crises (e.g., the 2009 Goldstone Report, the 2010 Gaza Flotilla, or recent actions by South Africa at the International Court in The Hague).


FLAG

Traditionally, left/right political alignments in Israel could be predicted by the perceived primacy of these threats. Post-October 7, however, consensus leans towards the necessity of long-term security control around Gaza, setting aside ideological debates. Two security perspectives emerge for "the day after":


First security perspective: Without control, security is compromised:


Advocates for a military rule over Gaza argue that only total security control can ensure security, citing the Gaza Disengagement as a grave error that enabled the October 7 disaster. This view supports maintaining a military rule in Gaza, potentially reintroducing a Civil Administration. Variants of this view include:


  • a military-only presence (akin to the previous security zone in southern Lebanon)

  • or resettling civilians in Gaza to legitimize IDF actions and compel ongoing military commitment.


Second security perspective: Without political separation, security is unattainable: 


This perspective suggests ceding civilian governance in Gaza to a 'moderate' Palestinian entity. While Israel would like to see apolitical Palestinian service providers lacking national aspirations, practical options include transferring authority to the Palestinian Authority, a revitalized PA, or a new political framework.

walk grafiti

Proponents argue that despite its flaws, the PA has met key Israeli security needs, with

ongoing coordination in Judea and Samaria. Handing over control could help Israel address both political and demographic threats.

 

Critics, however, warn that any Palestinian political entity might eventually push for an independent state, an outcome many Israelis oppose post-October 7. They also highlight incitement within the PA's educational system, its anti-Israel stances in international forums, payments to terrorists' families, and the involvement of some PA policemen in terrorism.


Consideration 2: Strategic Disadvantage against Iran and Its Allies

 

The IDF's operations in Gaza showcase adaptability, innovation, and bravery, yet its achievements are merely tactical. Israel faces a strategic inferiority against the "axis of resistance" led by Iran.


Iran and its proxies, including Hamas, possess a clear vision for Israel's demise, advocating for a Palestinian Islamic state in its place. They've devised an effective strategy that leverages their demographic and geographic advantages, employing suppression tactics to dominate their operational areas. This vision translates into concrete goals for the current conflict in Gaza and the north: ensuring survival and continuing to lead the ethos of Palestinian struggle. Achieving these goals would mark the conflict as a significant step towards their overarching vision.

 

Despite its military powers, Israel lacks the conventional capability to deal with the threat posed by Iran and its allies from such a broad area. In the absence of this ability, Israel's defense strategy must encompass:

  • Forming regional alliances with Sunni nations to counterbalance the resistance axis.

  • Fostering international cooperation, particularly strategic coordination with the US and NATO.

  • Cultivating national resilience through social cohesion.


Consideration 3: Preserving Social Cohesion and National Resilience

The war with Hamas erupted amidst Israel's looming constitutional crisis and deep societal divisions. Although the war temporarily blurred these divisions, underlying tensions threaten to resurface and further fragment Israeli society.

explusion

The left and right in Israel hold divergent views on the causes of the October 7 attack. The left criticizes the bolstering of Hamas at the expense of the PA, while the right highlights the dangers of Palestinian sovereignty. This political divide, centered around "the day after," risks plunging Israeli society back into deep division.


To avert this, an Israeli agenda that commands broad domestic support and minimally impacts social cohesion and national resilience is desirable


Israel's Strategic Paradoxes


Following Saudi Arabia's declaration that normalization with Israel hinges on Palestinian statehood,Israel faces two critical strategic paradoxes:

  • The Catch-22 of the conflict with Iran: On one hand, a permanent military presence in Gaza could improve Israel's security posture but might isolate it in the broader struggle against Iran and its allies. On the other, ceding control of Gaza to a Palestinian entity could pose strategic security risks from Gaza, yet potentially enable Israel to forge a regional alliance and secure US and NATO support.

  • While domestic support for a Palestinian state wanes, the concept is resurging internationally. Israel, expecting more understanding of its sovereignty concerns, finds itself increasingly at odds with its traditional allies, risking isolation.

Israel's strategic dilemma arises from its conflicting security interests: It aims to safeguard its

regional security interests and prevent a Palestinian state's establishment while striving to avoid control over Palestinians and seeking a regional alliance with American and international backing against Iran.


Proposed Directions for the Israeli Agenda


Conclusions: Foundational Principles for the Agenda

Our analysis suggests an optimal political agenda for "the day after," aiming to preserve Israel's security interests, win broad domestic support, gain international legitimacy, and maintain Israel's regional military-political leverage vis-à-vis Iran, should adhere to three fundamental principles:


  • At this stage, Israeli consent to a fully sovereign Palestinian state is politically inviable.

  • Israeli security control in Gaza, without a predefined timeline, is necessitated by reality, pending changes in security conditions.

  • A Palestinian entity serving Gaza's Palestinian population is preferable, with Israel having no interest in reinstating direct control over Palestinian,


From statements of European, American, and Arab leaders, it's inferred that all share a tacit working assumption that the Palestinian state's sovereignty might not be absolute. The demilitarization principle, in particular, is frequently mentioned in this context.


Israel's outright rejection of the US initiative could thwart the Palestinian state's establishment but would likely lead Israel into a confrontation with the US, risking political and military isolation in the fight against the "Iranian octopus."


Therefore, Israel should avoid a binary response to the Palestinian state concept. Instead, it should actively shape the essence of the permanent-status of the Palestinian entity and seek a comprehensive security and political package from the US.


 The ‘Revitalized PA' as a Permanent Status


We propose that the Palestinian state effectively be a revitalized PA (more here), designed to address Israel's concerns and interests.


The 'Palestinian State' would represent a trade-off: Certain sovereignty aspects threatening Israeli security would be limited, while the 'State' would gain authority in areas previously constrained by the Oslo Accords. Limited sovereignty aspects would include:

  • Security: Israel would retain exclusive military jurisdiction in the region, necessitating the demilitarization of the Palestinian entity and strict control over Gaza's entry and exit points. Militias and terrorist organizations would be disarmed, with the 'state' armed solely with police weaponry.

  • Legal and constitutional framework: International oversight is essential in developing the Palestinian legal system to ensure its future constitution does not advocate Israel's destruction or permit entities like Hamas to participate in elections or operate within its territory.

  • Education: The Palestinian education system requires a de-radicalization process under international supervision, as it currently serves as a breeding ground for incitement and indoctrination against Israel.

  • Budget: Mechanisms must be established to prevent funding to terrorist families or for terrorist activities.

  • International status: The 'state's' international standing should be limited for several years to prevent conflicts with Israel in international forums.


Successful implementation of this strategy requires:

  • Retirement of Abu Mazen and cooperation with new leadership committed to the aforementioned principles.

  • Transition to direct political dealings between Israel and the international community with the Palestinian 'state', bypassing the PLO to mitigate the risk of Hamas infiltration.

  • Deferred discussions on final borders and other unresolved issues between the two states.


A Complementary Security & Political Package

 

Israel must advocate for measures that enhance its geostrategic position against regional threats, preventing Hamas the resistance axis from claiming victory. Key actions include:

  • Dissolving UNRWA, which perpetuates the refugee problem and the Palestinian ethos of struggle (more here), should be integral to any political resolution. This move effectively nullifies the right of return and prevents Hamas from claiming victory, even if it survives the conflict.

  • Establishing an updated, effective security regime with Egypt, including control over Gaza's periphery, in light of the current situation.

  • Forming an effective regional alliance under American and international auspices, including normalization with Saudi Arabia, could serve as a potent counterbalance to the Iranian proxy axis.



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