No Convergence without a Palestinian Address

In light of what seems to be an attempt to overthrow the Hamas government, the Reut Institute contends that a Palestinian address is a necessary prerequisite for the implementation of the Convergence Plan.

The continuous firing of Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip and the raid on the IDF post in Kerem Shalom have led to Israel's military operation against the PA and Hamas. The operation has targeted the Hamas political leadership and has been interpreted as an attempt to overthrow the Hamas government.

The Re'ut Institute contends that a Palestinian address is a necessary, albeit insufficient, prerequisite for the implementation of the Convergence Plan. Yet, current Israeli actions may undermine the Convergence. Strengthening the PA as a Palestinian political address is the only way to serve the political goal behind the Convergence.

In this regard, a national unity agreement between Haniyeh and Abu-Mazen, based on the Document of National Accord (also known as the "Prisoners' Document") may serve to create a Palestinian address.

What is the Issue?

  • The Re'ut Institute defines "address" as a political entity which possesses the ability to implement policies it wishes to pursue. It includes the following components: (1) infrastructural and physical resources; (2) legitimacy; (3) constitutional authority; (4) political ability (See concepts: Address and Partner).

Palestinian Constitutional Crisis

  • Amendments made in 2003 to the Palestinian Basic Law have created an overlap between the powers and authorities of the Prime Minister (PM) and those of the President. (See: The Palestinian Elections – towards Institutional Dysfunction, 12/05).
  • Until 1/06 the PA was controlled by Fatah, while Hamas refused to participate in its institutions. As long as the PM and the Chairman were both Fatah members, this constitutional crisis was less noticeable. However, since Hamas' electoral victory, the institutional dysfunction is highly prominent as a result of the ideological rift between Fatah and Hamas.

The Rationale behind Convergence

  • The rationale behind Israeli unilateral steps – Disengagement from Gaza and Convergence in the West Bank – is based on the following assumptions:
  1. Ending control over the Palestinian population is an Israeli existential interest;
  2. Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian cities is not enough. Israel must end its responsibility over the Palestinian population, and the state of occupation;
  3. Currently, there is no Palestinian partner that can negotiate, sign and implement an agreement with Israel.
  • Therefore, the Convergence is aimed at creating sustainable separation with international backing between Israel and the Palestinians east of the security fence (though the original goal of establishing permanent borders is not attainable).

Why is this Important? Why Now?

  • Current Israeli policy should be coherent with Israel's national and strategic goal vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
  • Without conceding civilian authorities, the Convergence may be perceived as a further redeployment, as mentioned in the Interim Agreement (9/95), i.e. without any change in the PA's political status.
  • In order to end Israel's responsibility over the territories in the West Bank, Israel must end its military and civilian presence and transfer political, military, economical, and civilian powers and authorities to the PA.

The Qassam Attacks

  • Those elements who are committed to a military-political struggle against Israel, will aspire to continue the struggle from within the Palestinian territories or to work towards the establishment of a "one state" by willingly dismantling the PA (See: "One State Threat" and "The Ethos of Palestinian Struggle").
  • Israel has no military answer to the Qassams, and even if such an answer were to be found, the Palestinian resistance faction will find new ways to continue the struggle against Israel.
  • Furthermore, implementing the Convergence Plan will be difficult due to the proximity of the West Bank to central populated areas in Israel.
  • Therefore, in order to minimize terror and allow the implementation of the Convergence Plan the existence of a Palestinian address is necessary.

Chaos

  • According to the Interim Agreement (9/95) the PA is responsible for supplying basic governmental services to its residents. In reality, the international community is supplying many of these services through massive humanitarian and budgetary aid.
  • As long as Israel continues to control the external perimeter of the West Bank, the international community will hold Israel to be responsible for the well-being of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.
  • As derives from its status of an occupier, a collapse of the PA will require Israel to take responsibility over the Palestinian population.
  • As long as Israel carries more responsibilities, it will face more difficulties to unilaterally withdraw from the Palestinians territories.
  • Therefore, a Palestinian address is a precondition for the implementation of the Convergence, since this address whould fill the void created by the Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank.

Policy Options

  • The above analysis demonstrates that a Palestinian address is a prerequisite for the implementation of the Convergence.
  • Toppling or paralyzing the Hamas-led PA government may lead to the collapse of the PA (See: "Can Israel Overthrow the Hamas Government??"). This reality may force Israel to retake hold of Gaza so to minimize terror and Kassams firing. Such action will obstruct the Convergence.
  • Therefore, the possible outcome of the current military operation may undermine the Convergence. In contrast, an Israeli encouragement to establish a Palestinian address is the only valid move that is coherent with convergence.
  • Furthermore, An amendment in the Basic Law that confronts the institutional dysfunction is not likely. An agreement between Hamas and Fatah that regulates the division of authorities between the PM and the chairman, may be the sole possibility for the creation of a Palestinian address.
  • The Document of National Accord may serve as the basis of such an agreement between Hamas and Fatah and the creation of a Palestinian address.