EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: For over a decade, Israel has avoided deciding whether its interests are better served by maintaining the current “two Palestinian states” status quo, or by seeing Gaza rejoin the Palestinian Authority. The result is an untenable, chronic-crisis situation that empowers Mahmoud Abbas and is a lose-lose for Israel.
In January 2006, the residents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) went to the polls on the insistence of the Bush administration, which wanted elections to be held there as part of its policy to democratize the Middle East. The Americans’ thinking was that the Palestinians, who had, by Arab standards, a relatively large and well-educated middle class, were good candidates for democratization. The hope was that if the Palestinians, who were traditional lightweights in the Arab world, could successfully democratize their society, it would be a catalyst for similarly successful democratization of the Arab world’s heavyweights, such as Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.
Both Israel and several Arab states, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, recommended postponing the elections on the grounds that there was a real danger that Hamas would win. They made it clear to the US administration that Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, promoted a radical jihadist agenda. The Americans insisted the elections go ahead, and since neither Israel nor the Arab states wanted to oppose the US, they acquiesced in what they viewed as a bad decision.