Israeli Minister seeks Palestinian clans rather than Palestinian state
Faced with the scenario of the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli Transport Minister Israel Katz heads to the West Bank, with the Shabak in tow, to talk with local leaders about the possibility of setting up village councils rather than an autonomous state
Israel Katz, Israeli Transport Minister
The Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood, submitted to the United Nations in September, was a last-ditch attempt to break the stalemate in the US-brokered peace process which began with the failure of the Camp David II negotiations of July 2000. While Israel rejects the UN bid, as do the major powers involved in the conflict, no one seems to have an alternative to the PA’s move. And then there is what some consider the worst possible scenario, an outcome of a failed UN bid: the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, as proposed by several Fatah and PLO leaders.
In light of this possibility, Israeli Transport Minister, Israel Katz, is promoting the idea of establishing several autonomies in the West Bank under the rule of local family leaders. These enclaves would resemble the “village leagues” that existed in Occupied Palestinian Territories during the 1980s.
Ariel Kahane, of the right wing newspaper Makor Rishon (First Source), claims that Katz and Hebron’s Sheikh Abu Khader Al Jabari met in September at the home of former Knesset Member (MK) Rafi Eitan. The purpose of the meeting—which reportedly included members of the General Security Service (Shin Bet or Shabak)—was to discuss alternatives in the event that the Palestinian Authority pushes the UN bid or a joint Hamas-Fatah government is established.
Sheikh Jabari maintains close contacts with Hebron’s Jewish settlers and has hosted the settlers’ leadership in his home several times. The Sheikh, who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, supports the creation of an autonomous Palestinian territory under Israeli rule. According to Makor Rishon, this scenario was discussed in the meeting and with Jabari insisting that Palestinians receive full Israeli citizenship if this possibility came to fruition.
Katz, however, made it clear that the Palestinians in the occupied territories will not be entitled to Israeli citizenship but said that Israel will be ready to cooperate with Jabari and his men in the event that the PA pursues the UN bid or further reconciliation with Hamas.
“If there is a change in the current situation and the PA will ‘break the dishes,’” Katz remarked, “I’ll lead an Israeli initiative to recognize autonomies of this kind. It seems to me a true and realistic response”.
In other words, this means returning to the idea of “village leagues,” which were established in the occupied territories with the encouragement of Ariel Sharon and Professor Menachem Milson. The military government adviser on Arab affairs in the West Bank, Milson, who later served as the chief of the Civil Administration, assumed that the leagues would replace the PLO.
“Village leagues” or similar institutions are not part of the right wing strategic thinking among officials close to the Prime Minister. For example, a report published by the Beguin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (BESA) on alternatives to a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 proposed annexation of the territories west of the separation wall and either the establishment of Palestinian-Jordanian federation, to which Israel will transfer lands in areas not adjacent to the West Bank, or a Palestinian-Egyptian-Israeli land swap in the Negev and Sinai to the south of the Gaza Strip.