When will the occupation end?

By Vic Rosenthal

Ha’aretz reports today that Hamas may have ‘Sagger’ antitank missiles in Gaza. While these are old technology and not as dangerous as the missiles used by Hezbollah in Lebanon, they nevertheless represent an advance over the crude (but still dangerous) RPGs that they’ve had until now. The report continues:

Since the war in Lebanon, the Palestinians are busy learning the lessons of the conflict and they are using data and experts from Hezbollah.

In addition to the procurement of anti-tank missiles, the militant groups are making efforts to increase the range of their locally produced rockets. Current estimates hold that some Qassam rockets already have a range of 16 kilometers.

There are also extensive defensive preparations underway to repulse a possible IDF incursion into the Gaza Strip, including the construction of bunkers and tunnels. [They are also tunneling under the border with Israel — ed.]

The anti-tank missiles are a significant part of these defensive preparations because they are meant to deter the use of armored vehicles in the crowded urban confines of the Gaza Strip.

The IDF’s withdrawal from Gaza, particularly from the “Philadelphi Corridor” along the border with Egypt, made this possible. There are plenty of Hamas and Fatah militia members in the West Bank as well, but constant IDF activity has been able to prevent a similar buildup.

Those on the progressive end of the spectrum who make ‘end the occupation’ their slogan, and consider Israeli checkpoints and fences equivalent to Palestinian terrorism, need to understand what the stakes are. The next war may well have a southern front as vicious as the northern one; ‘end the occupation’ and there will also be an eastern front.

Even in ‘peacetime’, the occupation protects Israel. Today a potential bomber from Jenin was caught in possession of a large amount of explosives that he intended to detonate in the Tel Aviv bus station. The Shabak had specific information about where to find him. Does anyone think that the presence of security forces in the West Bank did not contribute to catching him?

Those who want to end the occupation say that peace is better than war and it would be better for both Israel and the Palestinians if we had peace. This is undeniable. But what evidence is there that leaving the West Bank would bring peace? The result of leaving Gaza is obviously not peace. Hamas doesn’t even pretend to want anything more peaceful than a temporary hudna (and this in return for unacceptable conditions) while they prepare for war.

So why do people who should know better (and I’m talking about those who still want there to be a Jewish state) insist that ending the occupation is a good idea?

I think it’s because the situation Israel finds herself in seems basically irrational. It’s completely certain that peace would be better for everyone, so why can’t there be peace? Why do we have to punish the Palestinians, who just want to go to work, with roadblocks? It would be better for everyone if we could live alongside a peaceful Palestinian state, so why can’t we? We’re tired of reserve duty, they’re tired of unemployment and poverty — it doesn’t make sense.

But if you start with a different set of assumptions, in particular that given enough time and perseverance anything can be undone, even 1948, then it does make sense. And Israel needs to understand that for the forseeable future there will not be peace, and Israelis will have to adjust their expectations and behavior to this fact. There will not be peace, and there will need to be an occupation for a long time, until the Palestinians change their assumptions.

It’s really up to them, unfortunately, not to Israel.

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