What Abbas Wants

(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies/Bar-Ilan University) Hillel Frisch - Hamas, and to a much lesser extent, Islamic Jihad, remain a substantial threat to Abbas, and the threat of a Hamas takeover in the West Bank has yet to dissipate. Dealing with this threat entails good security cooperation between Abbas and Israeli security forces - an arrangement in which Israel deals with the Hamas terrorist infrastructure by night while Abbas' security forces harass Hamas terrorists by day - as well as the dismantling of social infrastructure that Hamas has created painstakingly over the years. Abbas is essentially using the IDF to gain the kind of political and security foothold Arab leaders recognize as being essential to the art of ruling. He is assuming the role of the traditional Arab ruler - controlling all the funds, avoiding elections (which will only be held if the outcome is a foregone conclusion), allowing no opposition, and making sure that his picture appears daily on the front page of the media. Such security cooperation can hardly take place once any kind of peace arrangement is achieved. At that point, Israeli security presence in the West Bank would have to cease. This would leave Abbas' security forces to face Hamas alone. So Abbas prefers not to make progress in the peace talks until the terrorist swamp is more effectively dried up. A Hamas takeover in the West Bank must be averted at all costs. This means that no substantial progress in the peace talks can be made before such a danger is dealt with. At the same time, the pretense of peace talks is essential to placating the "Arab street" - to prevent it from threatening the moderate governments or feeding the ranks of the radicals - and to create the kind of political environment that would allow the U.S. and Israel to deal with the far more imminent Iranian nuclear threat. The writer is associate professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

2010-09-06 08:01:09

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