Regionalization of the Palestinian Conflict

An increasing number of regional actors are drawn to and involved in the internal struggle in the PA. The Reut Institute identifies a number of topics that are systemically connected to the internal confrontation in the PA and have strategic ramifications for Israel.
Yesterday, it was reported that Israel was considering allowing Abu Mazen to bring thousands of troops from the PLO's Jordan-based Badr Brigade into the territories, in order to counter the growing strength of Hamas. At the same time, Iran's foreign minister Manoucheh Mottaki met with Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal at the Iranian embassy in Damascus.

The increasing "regionalization" of the struggle in the PA is liable to have strategic ramifications for Israel:

  • The Proxy Phenomenon: the connection of Mashaal to Iran and Syria and the increasing reliance of Abu Mazen on the US and the moderate Arab states creates in the PA a situation in which a system of actors is activated and instigated for foreign interests.

  • The Issue of Palestinian Representation: Although the PLO is the "Sole Legitimate Representative of the Palestinian People", its status in recent years has declined as the center of gravity of the Paletsinian political system shifted to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Now it appears as if the center of gravity is sliding partially "outside" to Mashaal and external Hamas leadership in Damascus.

  • The Principle of Demilitarization: Due to the internal struggle in the PA, significant amounts of arms are being smuggled into the territories to Fatah and Hamas. Some of the weapons that arrive to Fatah are transferred with permission of or under the blind eye of Israel and the US. The reality of a proliferation of independent militias currently in the territories undermines the principle of Demilitarized Palestinian State (See A Militarized Palestinian State).

  • The Competing Axes of the Middle East: The War in Lebanon, the internal struggle in the PA and the Iranian nuclear threat reflect a division in the Middle East to new axes of influence. Seemingly, Hamas is supported by the "Shi'ite Axis" - Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, while Fatah is supported by the "Moderate Sunni Axis" led by countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.