- - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the Middle East, truth is often counter-intuitive. Contrary to the prevailing conventional wisdom, the most significant barrier to Palestinian statehood is not Israel.

It is, rather, an entirely foreseeable assortment of Arab forces, especially the Islamic State, or ISIS.

How so? Looking ahead, even if the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas should somehow secure Jerusalem’s full agreement with their insistent statehood claims, no Palestinian state could expect to remain standing in the face of near certain ISIS aggressions. In the final analysis, therefore, the unrelenting Palestinian war against Israeli schools, restaurants, buses and synagogues is ultimately being waged on behalf of ISIS.

Literally nothing about this unwittingly lethal surrogacy is understood in Washington or in the major European capitals. This should come as no real surprise, at a time when five Taliban terror leaders briefly “safeguarded” in Qatar could be released into the Dar al Harb, the “World of War.” In short order, Washington notwithstanding, the “Taliban 5” might be back in their doctrinally blessed business of systematically murdering Americans.

What else might anyone have expected?

During the many years that Fatah and Hamas terrorists were busily slaughtering each other as well as Israelis, Jerusalem’s persistent warnings that Israel had no single authoritative Palestinian party with which it could negotiate was swept under the diplomatic rug. Not even after Sept. 11, 2001, when both Fatah and Hamas had enthusiastically celebrated America’s misfortune, did this country or its allies dare to re-evaluate their traditional support of “Palestine.”

Now, irony of ironies, both Hamas and Israel are threatened by ISIS movements toward Gaza. Lately, various jihadi groups loyal to ISIS have exchanged gun- and rocket-fire with Hamas fighters, planted bombs in public Palestinian buildings, and prepared for all-out war with the Hamas government. When, recently, Hamas reportedly blew up a mosque believed to be a base for ISIS loyalists, a group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem offered the following statement: “In light of Hamas‘ latest action, we renew our allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and call on him to strengthen his influence, to open up a war in Palestine in order to unite together in a war against the Jews and their accomplices.”

If you like ISIS, you will love “Palestine.” It’s that simple.

ISIS “junior varsity” has expanded far beyond Iraq and Syria, into Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Egypt. In Egypt, Israel and the United States already have substantially reasonable fears about any resurgence of Muslim Brotherhood power. The Brotherhood, of course, is different from both ISIS and Taliban, is the parent organization of the prevailing Gaza authority, Hamas, which is also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement.

What does all of this really mean for regional stability and global geopolitics? In essence, it suggests that in order to solidify its control over Palestinian Gaza, Hamas will sometime have to become even more brutal than ISIS. Can it “succeed?”

In the best case scenario, a fully barbarous Hamas might well be able to fend off ISIS, but only after it had first expressed an utterly unconstrained willingness and capacity to murder indiscriminately.

In the worst case scenario, which is tactically more plausible, ISIS will prove itself more capable than Hamas, if not necessarily more barbarous, and thus make abundantly fast work of all indigenous Palestinian authorities on the Strip.

ISIS is already operating in parts of Syria that could bring it to the borders of Israel’s Golan Heights (this is not of any direct concern to Palestinians); it has also set its operational sights on Jordan and West Bank (Judea-Samaria). Over the next several months, while the Palestinian Authority continues to orchestrate new terror attacks on Israelis, ISIS will begin its planned march westward, across Jordan, ending up at the eastern boundaries of West Bank — that is, at the territorial margins of what PA-Fatah recognize as the geographic core of any impending state of “Palestine.”

Here, Palestinian forces, primarily Fatah, will quickly yield to ISIS and its local allies. In the end, Fatah will likely have to choose between pleading with Israel to become a Palestinian ally against a now-common foe, or simply leaving all residual military operations directly to the Israel Defense Forces.

Credo quia absurdum, we read in the ancient Latin authors. “I believe because it is absurd.” Without IDF assistance in such circumstances, “Palestine” won’t stand a chance.

There is one exquisitely final irony to be noted. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long made his acceptance of any Palestinian state contingent upon prior Palestinian “demilitarization.” Still, should the Palestinian Authority and Hamas actually accede to this expectation — not very likely, to be sure — it would make ISIS‘ predictable destructions in the area that much easier. In other words, a “Palestine” that had properly stood by its pre-state legal concessions to Israel would actually heighten the overall existential danger to both Palestinians and Israelis.

What about the state of Jordan in all of this? Under pertinent international law, the Hashemite Kingdom has incurred certain precise obligations to Israel regarding joint cooperation against terrorism. These express responsibilities are codified primarily at the 1994 Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Could this Treaty have any genuine effect upon the Jordanian military capacity to block anticipated ISIS advances?

Of course not.

In the Middle East, as elsewhere, power trumps law. Furthermore, truth here may often be counter-intuitive. On those notoriously perplexing matters concerning Palestinian statehood, it’s time to understand that “Palestine‘s” core adversary in the region is not Israel, but rather a sordid variety of Islamist Arab forces. Going forward, therefore, any conceivable Palestinian gains toward statehood will likely be to the tactical advantage of ISIS and its allies.

The only prudent way to prevent an eventual ISIS takeover of “Palestine” would be for both the PA and Hamas to cease their incessant and plainly useless terror against Israel, and, instead, to conspicuously acknowledge a shared Israeli-Palestinian opposition to calculated ISIS aggressions.

Louis Rene Beres is emeritus professor of international law at Purdue University.

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