Message to the Prime Minister in Washington

[Ed. Note: this is part of a series about the demise of the Palestinian experiment in self-government and the implications for U.S. policy in the region.]

[Ed. Note: this is part of a series about the demise of the Palestinian experiment in self-government and the implications for U.S. policy in the region.]

The pattern of non-state actors filling vacuums left in weak states has created havoc for Israel and for the United States. Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza created terrorist entities on your borders, and chaos in Iraq has allowed Iranian and al-Qaeda-supported forces to undermine the elected government’s ability to provide services and security to the people. You and President Bush must foreclose that possibility on the West Bank even as you deal with the consequences in other theaters.

This is the crisis and it should sidetrack any discussion of Syria.

Surely neither of you believes Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyed can manage security control of the West Bank, even if you continue to funnel arms and money to them. It only ensures that Hamas will move the fight to a new venue. Hamas wants it all and has already been enriched by 50,000 rifles and pistols, plus ammunition and thousands of mortars and rocket propelled grenades captured from Fatah in Gaza, according to The Jerusalem Post. Surely neither of you thinks the future stability of the region will be improved if you talk about political horizons and peace processes.

The West Bank has not descended (yet?) into the chaos of Gaza in part because Israeli security services have remained fully engaged and in part because there are still family, business and other connections to Jordan. Jordan and Israel have an equal interest in controlling the land and the people – even though Jordan is reluctant to admit it.

But if the King can’t say it, you can, and the President might listen to you if you make the case plain: The U.S. and Israel should agree to formal withdrawal from the failed Oslo Accords with their unsustainable promise of a one-day independent Palestinian State. What is left is Israeli and Jordanian control of the assets, the territory and the people with the promise of the restoration of security, and the civil and human rights subverted and denied under the PA. Smart Palestinians should look upon it as a lifeline.

Mr. Olmert – you wisely decided not to have the IDF involved in the Hamas-Fatah civil war in Gaza. Israel was gone and couldn’t come back. You are, however, in the West Bank. You have to ensure that everyone believes Israel will stay there to defend the interests of the Israeli public, and to work with Jordan – your security partner – to defend the interests of the King as well.

People who blame us for everything are already blaming Israel and the U.S. for the war in Gaza. “If only Israel had … If only the U.S. hadn’t … ,” they say. Whatever. It isn’t our fault that the Palestinians threw away the generosity of the world on a combination of venality and international Islamic fervor. Knowing what we know today, to allow Hamas to conquer the West Bank because we couldn’t admit our failures and act on our admission, future disaster will indeed be our fault. No comfort there.

There is a lot to do, but planning for new political conversation with Syria while Gaza burns and the West Bank trembles would be a mistake of enormous proportions.