Home inFocus A Palestinian State? (Fall 2011) A Post Palestinian State Simulation

A Post Palestinian State Simulation

Aaron Lerner Fall 2011

Simulations are important tools for policymakers. And there certainly have been numerous simulations of what may happen after the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. The problem with simulations, however, is that they are, by their nature, driven by the assumptions made regarding the goals and interests of the various players. Of course, assumptions have to be made, but there is the danger that the outcome of the simulation may then take on a life of its own without the caveat that it is dependent on those assumed goals.

Take for example a simulation organized last May 16 by the Lauder School of Government to consider, among other things, how a nuclear Iran would act. Former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Maj. Gen (res.) Zeevi Farkash participated in that simulation playing the role of Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei is a “Twelver Shiite”—as is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and as such believes that incinerating Israel with nuclear weapons—even if followed by the incineration of Iran—would be a positive thing because the apocalyptic result would bring the return of the Hidden Imam.

But Farkash apparently maintains that deep down inside Ayatollah Khamenei actually subscribes to some sort of universal value system that considers the incineration of Iran an unacceptable outcome rather than a reasonable price to pay for the return of the Mahdi. As a result, the simulation found that Iran would only brandish its nukes for deterrence and never actually use them. As Farkash put it, “Iran would regard its bomb as a means of self-defense and strategic balance.”

Was Farkash’s critical assumption correct? Perhaps a more responsible approach would have been to run the simulation both ways to see how things play out in a world where the leaders of Iran genuinely believe what they claim to believe. It might have turned out that the results were so catastrophic that even if there were only a 10 percent chance that these Twelvers are true believers, policymakers would have to adjust their recommendations to account for it.

A Palestinian Simulation

What is a reasonable assumption regarding the goals of the Palestinians? Is it indeed the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, or is such a state no more than a step towards reaching the ultimate goal of replacing Israel with a Palestinian state spanning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River? The evidence weighs heavily in favor of the latter.

Former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat made no bones about his true view of the purpose of the Oslo Agreements. He flew straight to South Africa after the May 4, 1994 Agreement On The Gaza Strip And The Jericho Area signing ceremony in Cairo where, in a Johannesburg mosque, he explained that “I am not considering this agreement more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammad and Quraysh,” known as the Treaty of Hudaybiya. Yes, Islam holds that the treaty was violated, but Arafat’s audience also knew that Muhammad exploited the treaty to decimate the Quraysh tribe. And that is exactly what he did when he amassed enough strength and a treaty violation afforded him the excuse to cancel the deal.

Simply put, the agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel are no more than a temporary ceasefire to facilitate preparations to destroy the Jewish state. When victory can be assured, the Palestinians will call the peace deal off, citing some kind of trumped up Israeli violation of the agreement, and proceed to the next stage in the plan. This ongoing attitude is reflected in the fact that, to this day, the PLO Charter that sets as its goal the destruction of the Jewish state has yet to be amended—this despite the December 14, 1998 Clinton-Arafat Gaza photo op hand-wave.

And as Palestinian pollsters consistently find, the Palestinian street concurs. For example, the June 22-July 8, 2011 Palestinian Center for Public Opinion poll commissioned by The Israel Project found that 66 percent of Palestinians believe: “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.”

Realizing the Goal

How could the Palestinian leadership exploit the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state to realize their ultimate goal? There are two basic ways to advance the goal: One is to make life inside Israel so untenable that the Jews (who the Palestinians view as temporary foreign interlopers—no more than modern day crusaders) leave en mass. The other is to create conditions conducive to Israel being defeated on the battlefield.

A sovereign Palestinian state could readily facilitate an ongoing proxy war of attrition against the Jewish state. By facilitating, it would not openly organize and direct the hostilities. In fact, the leadership of the sovereign Palestinian state could officially take the position that it opposes the attacks against Israel and even issue press releases against particularly high profile terror attacks. Thus, the Palestinian state could present itself as a victim of the attacks against Israel rather than as having any responsibility for them, with photo ops showing Palestinian security forces earnestly seeking for the perpetrators of the attacks.

The spin would be clear: The true purpose of the terror attacks in Israel is to undermine the ruling Palestinian leadership by evoking Israeli security activities inside the Palestinian state. The dead Israelis are just a byproduct. Israel would be urged to stand down and let the Palestinians take care of the “problem” on their own. The international observers in the area would position themselves as human shields to prevent Israeli operations in violation of Palestinian sovereignty. This while they issue glowing reports about the performance of the Palestinian security forces and recommend that they be given more weapons and other equipment.

To make matters worse, Israeli intelligence efforts against the perpetrators of the attacks would be seen first and foremost as a violation of Palestinian sovereignty. The Palestinians would use the Israeli intelligence information shared with them to ferret out the Palestinian “collaborators” who provided Israel with the information as opposed to using the intelligence to capture and close down the terrorists.

Thus, it would be possible for this war of attrition against Israel to continue essentially indefinitely. With tourism dead, an effective freeze on foreign investment and no end in sight, the Palestinians could certainly shed crocodile tears as they watch their Israeli neighbor crumble before their eyes. Yes, the deteriorating economic situation in Israel could be expected to have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. But that is a cost measured over months or years in order to reach a goal worthy of a generation of sacrifice.

Thinking Outside the Box

Critical elements in any simulation are the assumptions regarding the secondary players. Is a “ceteris paribus” (all other things equal) approach appropriate? Less than a year ago, much of the analysis prepared for policymakers assumed that Hosni Mubarak would rule Egypt forever. Are analysts more careful in the wake of the “Arab Spring?”

It is noteworthy that many of the very same experts who insisted that policymakers did not have to take into account the possibility of a revolution in Egypt continue to base their policy recommendations on the assumption that the current leadership of Jordan will remain in power in perpetuity. Suffice it to say that the formation of a radical Muslim Jordanian state could dramatically change the scenario—in particular if the current Hashemite Kingdom fell after the creation of the Palestinian state, with Jordan’s role in the state and its interaction with the state set when it was still viewed by Israel as a trusted moderating force rather than a threat.

Thus, in a world where Jordan and Egypt become unfriendly countries and decide to invade Israel—not such a far fetched idea today—the sovereign Palestinian state could function as a bridgehead for the invading Arab armies in an all-out war to destroy the Jewish state. Such an invasion could take place because it serves the interests of the leadership of the invading states or as a result of developments in Israel-Palestine that compel them to intervene. In the former case, the assault on Israel would be more a matter of domestic politics with the leadership opting to divert the rage of their masses towards Israel in order to avoid finding themselves hanging from the lamp post, rather than anything actually related to Israel or Palestine.

In the latter case, the Palestinians could manipulate events with an eye towards whipping up the Arab street to such a frenzy that the leadership feels that it has no choice but to join in the fray. To be clear: Regardless of how generous the arrangements on the ground are to the Palestinians, it would be child’s play for them to come up with an ever growing series of Israeli “crimes” and “injustices” threatening not just the Palestinians but the entire Muslim world. And with a Palestinian state created, Israel would be seen as significantly more vulnerable. The leaders of the Arab world would be considerably less deterred by fear over the consequences of joining in battle against the Jewish state.

Some Israeli analysts argue that for all practical purposes the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state has no relevance in simulations of the invasion of Israel since, in the event of foreign troop movements towards Israel, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) would simply roll through the Palestinian state as it deploys to stop the invading force before it even comes close to the Jordan River. But this optimistic assessment ignores that the Palestinians themselves will have many thousands of well-armed troops.

It is reasonable to assume, based on the gross failure of anti-weapons smuggling arrangements to date, that the “demilitarized” Palestinians will have ample stocks of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons—not to mention rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), mortars, rockets, and more. But even if they only had their regulation assault rifles, this sizeable Palestinian force, deployed within walking distance of most of Israel’s soft underbelly, could easily interfere with the IDF forces racing to the border while wreaking havoc on Israel’s vital infrastructure—this as literally hundreds of well trained and equipped assault teams swarm on targets across the country.

The potential outcome in this scenario would be complete and total chaos within Israel with Israeli security forces stretched beyond their limits—torn between adequately addressing the invading armies approaching from Jordan, Egypt, or elsewhere, and devoting more forces to the task of somehow clearing out a seemingly endless wave of Palestinian assault teams. All this as literally thousands of rockets slam into pre-selected Israeli targets from southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and in all likelihood from launching pads across the West Bank.

The Need for a Realistic Simulation

Is the above scenario an overly apocalyptic assessment? Perhaps. Then again, there is nothing in it that requires that the Palestinians acquire anything that they do not already have.

If the purpose of a simulation is to find comfort, then assume that the Palestinians want to live side by side in peace with Israel forever—just like the retired military Israeli intelligence head, who apparently sleeps well, is confident that the Twelvers leading Iran are faking their religious belief in the return of the Mahdi.

But if the purpose of the exercise is to make responsible policy decisions, there is no place for optimistically simplifying assumptions.

Dr. Aaron Lerner is director of IMRA, Independent Media Review and Analysis, www.imra.org.il