Could security be the one thing that is preventing Palestine’s leadership from declaring independence?
Here are the clues:
1) Can Arab armies fight? An old joke about Saddam’s army is that Iraq bought tanks from France: one speed forward and four speeds reverse. The quickness of the U.S. capture of Baghdad did not surprise me in the least. I have read fictional accounts of the 1967 war that say the Arab armies–with the exception of the Jordanian Arab Legion, which trashed the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem–all ran away as soon as they met any resistance. Palestinian friends have confirmed this for me, saying, “I was in Palestine in 1967 and saw this with my own eyes.”
So much for the Palestinian Authority providing its own security.
2) What about Jordan? After all, Jordan has the only Arab army in the world that Israel is afraid of. Ah, but Jordan’s King Abdullah is not at all excited by the possibility. From the King’s 7-2-07 interview:
Al Ghad: The events in Palestine have revived the issue of confederation with Jordan, or the administrative annexation of the West Bank to Jordan as a way out of the crisis. Despite Jordan’s emphasis that confederation before independence is not an option, there are those who speak of Israeli and American pressure on Jordan to accept this arrangement.
King: We’ve grown tired of discussing this issue. Our position is clear and has been made public. No one can do anything to change it. We refuse the notion of confederation or federation. This proposal at this stage is a conspiracy against both Palestine and Jordan. Our position is clear and principled. We cannot accept these solutions, no matter what the pressures are. As for the future relationship with Palestine, it’s premature to discuss it. This will only be done after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian soil. The Jordanian and Palestinian people will decide the form of this relationship. Jordanians refuse any settlement of the Palestinian issue at their expense. I say clearly that the idea of confederation or federation, or what is called administrative responsibility, is a conspiracy against the Palestinian cause, and Jordan will not involve itself in it.
So what was all that about? The Palestinians separated from Jordan long ago, and King Hussein unhappily accepted the situation (and stopped paying pensions for Palestine’s retired soldiers) after much foot-dragging. And some say Jordan didn’t do all that much to develop Palestine economically–their airport remained second rate and they were considered the poor relation. Clearly King Abdullah doesn’t want to get mixed up in that issue again.
The Jordanian annexation issue is further illuminated by a July 8 guest editorial piece by Walid M. Sadi in the Jordan Times:
Israel had ample opportunity to negotiate with Jordan about ending its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, right after the 1967 war, but it aborted it. That opportunity was lost when Israel derailed all efforts to perform a complete withdrawal from all the West Bank territories, including East Jerusalem, in favour of Jordan.
Okay, we won’t talk about those little spats between Jordan and Palestine, or all those little assassination attempts against King Hussein, or the 1969 Fateh attempt to take over the Jordanian government, or how the 1969 bru-ha-ha allowed King Hussein to secure the Jordanian-Israeli border and stop cross-border raids from Jordan into Israel. It’s Israel’s fault and let’s talk about that.
3) Israel is cooperating with the PA to some extent and is currently supplying security for the PA. According to an AP piece published in the July 4 Jordan Times that describes renewed low-level security meetings between Israel and the PLO:
The common anti-Hamas strategies of Israel and the new Fateh-allied government in the West Bank were clearly seen this week.
On Monday morning, Israel’s Shin Bet security service announced it had arrested 11 Hamas fighters in Jerusalem over a period of months, charging them with channeling funds from abroad and laying the groundwork for a “pool” of recruits.
That afternoon, pro-Fateh Palestinian security officers arrested four more Hamas activists, including a former lawmaker, in the West Bank city of Nablus.
But this arrangement is seen as contrary to Palestinian interests:
But Israel’s interests and those of Abbas’ government don’t entirely coincide. Israel has continued pursuing Fateh gunmen — who nominally owe loyalty to Abbas — with raids like one in the town of Nablus last week, which left one Fateh man dead.
So if Palestine would become a state, who would provide for its security? 1) Not the Paletinian Authority–they couldn’t even prevent last month’s armed Hamas takeover of Gaza. 2) Not Jordan. That opportunity was lost at the end of the 1967 war. 3) Not Israel, their national interest is not the same as Palestine’s.
Perhaps the current choice is between Israel continuing to provide security or the complete takeover of Palestine by “Islamic” extremists backed by hidden powers. A choice between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know.