Written by Michael Slackman, whose dateline is Cairo, the piece presents the idea that Israel’s counter-offensive against Hamas terrorists in Gaza is hurting the prospects of a peaceful solution to the conflict via “an independent Palestinian state co-existing with Israel.”
Egypt and Jordan fear that they will be pressed to absorb the Palestinian populations now living beyond their borders. If Israel does not assume responsibility for humanitarian aid in Gaza, for example, pressure could compel Egypt to fill the vacuum; Jordan, in turn, worries that Israel will try to push Palestinians from the West Bank into its territory.
In that case, both states fear, they could become responsible for policing the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, undermining their peace treaties with Israel.
While I don’t doubt that this is the spin Slackman is getting from official circles in Cairo, it couldn’t be more misleading. First, floating the idea that Israel “will try to push Palestinians from the West Bank into its territory” is a canard.
Israel has never sought to do that and such an idea has no support from its government or any of the leading parties. It’s a lie, pure and simple, and allowing it to be mentioned even as a possibility on the front page of the Times is an act of irresponsibility on behalf of the newspaper’s editors.
Second, the only possible chance the two-state solution has requires Hamas to be defeated by Israel. So long as Gaza is controlled by Hamas (which makes the current situation a de-facto three-state solution with Hamas-run Gaza alongside Israel and the West Bank under the nominal control of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority) any sort of peace is impossible since Hamas is unwilling to even lie about its willingness to live in peace with Israel (which Fatah does sometimes). No rational Israeli government will give up more territory so as to enable the creation of another Hamasistan in the West Bank.
It’s not clear that the two-state idea is actually still alive. Fatah (whose pro-peace credentials are far from impeccable) is on life support and survives more on foreign aid than domestic popularity. It may be that there is nothing that Israel or the West can do to enable it to retake control of Gaza. But if a deal with the so-called “moderates” of Fatah is ever to be reached, it will have to be prefaced by the defeat of Hamas.
More interesting is the fact that Slackman’s Egyptian sources are openly worrying about the possibility of being asked to take responsibility for Gaza. Of course, nothing would please Israel more. It has been widely reported that during the negotiations for the Israel-Egypt peace treaty Prime Minister Menachem Begin asked Anwar Sadat to take Gaza back along with all of the Sinai. Sadat, who was no dummy, said “no thanks.”
The idea that somehow Jordan can be compelled to take back the West Bank and Egypt, the Gaza strip is a tempting goal for Israel. Unfortunately, the chances of getting the Palestinians, the Egyptians, or the Jordanians to agree to this are nonexistent.
The Palestinians don’t wish to return to the pre-June 1967 situation where they were oppressed by their fellow Arabs. Doing so would mean that the world would no longer care about their plight since no one cared about what happened to them so long as they were not under the control of the Jews. And, as Slackman rightly reports, Egypt and Jordan have good reason to fear being forced to deal with Hamas.
Two days earlier, on Saturday, Slackman reported that the Egyptian government is now allowing its state-sponsored imams to preach the sort of open Jew-hatred that is commonplace in mosques controlled by both Hamas and Fatah.
He concludes his “analysis” today by writing about the continuing Egyptian support for a two-state solution despite the anger on the “Egyptian street” about supposed Israeli atrocities. But what he fails to add is that this is also why Cairo is privately hoping for a decisive defeat of Hamas at the hands of the Israelis.