As long as the Palestinian world was divided into two separate entities only on the physical level, this could go on, yet in January this world will be divided into two on the legal front as well - a development that would mark the ultimate collapse of Palestinian politics.
What happened in 1936 and in 1948 is happening to the Palestinians this time around as well: On January 14, 2009, in about four months, 73-year-old Mahmoud Abbas’ term in office will end, and the storm shall start.
Hamas will not allow elections to be held in the Gaza Strip, most certainly when the presidential candidate is Abbas or another Fatah figure. As a result, it would be impossible to hold presidential elections. Hamas is waiting for this exact scenario to materialize in order to argue that according to the Palestinian constitution and election law, a retired president should be replaced by the parliament speaker.
The current parliament speaker is a Hamas man, Aziz Dweik, after Hamas has taken over the Palestinian parliament, which is not functioning in fact. Dweik has been detained by Israel, however, and therefore Hamas argues that the next president should be his deputy, Ahmed Bahar, who is of course also a Hamas man. This is how Hamas intends to fully take over the territories.
So what are the conclusions of these scenarios?
• Gaza constitutes the Palestinian state. It has complete sovereignty, even though it is isolated and unrecognized. Not only does it no longer maintain any connection with the Judea and Samaria kingdom, they are hostile entities at this time.
• The Israeli government’s desire to reach a diplomatic solution with Abbas by the end of the year is unfeasible. In the coming months, Abbas will become radical in respect to his words and deeds. It is no coincidence that he went to visit Samir Kuntar in Lebanon, and that he constantly declares that the refugees will return to Israel. Abbas will be radicalizing his statements and objectives so he is not accused of capitulating to Israel.
• All of the Palestinian Authority’s institutions are not functioning, a fact that turns it into an artificial entity, which is operating at the mercy of the terrible enemy, Israel, both in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria. Israel, and only Israel, is sparing the Palestinians a political, economic, and social collapse.
• We reached the absurd situation whereby everything hinges on Abbas at this time. Condoleezza Rice’s artificial support for Abbas has turned him into a major player: If he stays, there will seemingly be a diplomatic solution, yet if he goes, everything will collapse along with him. How absurd!
• This status, which grants Abbas great weight and importance, also reflects great weakness. How can we reach an agreement with him when he doesn’t represent a large part of his own Authority? How can we reach a deal with him when his future presidency is undemocratic? In practice, he has dissolved the parliament, established an illegal government without getting the required permission from parliament, and now he may extend his own term in office. And what will happen if at the same time we will see another Palestinian, and a Hamas man at that, assuming the role of president?
• And finally, once Hamas thwarts the prospect of elections it will end the Palestinian dreams of unity and make it clear that we are dealing with two peoples with two destinies. As such, the Palestinian vision will spread across four countries: Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jordan, and Israel – not bad for someone who doesn’t even have one state.
An almost sole outlet for the Palestinian distress may be a new type of Intifada or some kind of other military activity against Israel that would reunite Palestinian forces. Tzipi Livni’s term in office, should she become prime minister, would encourage them to do so as they would perceive Israel to be weakening. Are we ready for this? In the midst of the leadership vacuum that we are facing and our leaders’ shallowness, is anyone preparing for a Palestinian collapse, which will of course affect us too?