By Vic Rosenthal
US and Israeli diplomats have suggested that the Saudi plan might be a good starting point for peace negotiations with some modifications — for example, the demand for a right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel has to be removed.
The problem is a lot deeper than that, though. The Palestinians and other Arabs view any compromise as a defeat, and would only agree to it as a temporary tactical move. In their view, Israel is totally at fault for the history of conflict in the region, the situation of the refugees, etc. So any peace agreement has to include Israel completely undoing the ‘unnatural’ situation by giving up any territory taken from Arab hands, restoring all that they lost to the refugees, etc. Naturally, an independent state of Israel would not survive such a deal.
Today, after the second Lebanon war, the Arabs smell victory and are even less prepared to compromise, even tactically. They understand how much the fighting ability of the IDF was eroded by the constant attrition of the struggle to prevent terrorism from the territories. They see how the ‘struggle’ caused Israel to get up and leave Gaza, despite the pain this caused to the uprooted settlers. They think that they can keep up the pressure and that soon Israel will leave the West Bank. Then, little by little, using rockets like those of Hezbollah (and maybe under an Iranian umbrella), they think they can make much of Israel almost uninhabitable like they’ve done to Sderot.
In the meantime, they present ‘peace’ plans that are certain to be unacceptable so they can say “see how Israel doesn’t want peace” while they use the time to build bunkers and assemble rockets. And they insist that the world must force Israel to ‘end the occupation’ because the occupation is the reason that there isn’t peace. And they fight a diplomatic offensive against anything that might help Israel defend herself against the terrorist attrition, like the security fence.
I want to suggest that Israel will not win this struggle by reacting to Arab and Palestinian actions. Israel needs to develop a plan by which they can direct the momentum of events, and not be always responding to them. Such a plan, like the Arab plan, must have diplomatic and military parts.
The diplomatic part should include a peace plan that embodies the Israeli narrative of events. In this narrative, the cause of the conflict lies primarily with the refusal of the Palestinians and the Arab nations to accept, once and for all, that the Jewish state is a legitimate fact. Although it’s necessary to negotiate the final borders of this state and the governance of the areas that may move from Israeli to Arab control in such a negotiation, the right of such a state to exist must be accepted.
Now the Arabs will never accept this, not in a million years, because it means that either they have to deny the most important part of their mythology, namely that a bunch of European Jews came and stole their land and kicked them out, or they have to admit that they have been humiliated — by Jews.
But this should not be our problem, because our version of the story is objectively true. We can’t compromise on the justice of Israel’s creation because it would be false to do so and because the end result would be that there should not be an Israel. And if the Palestinians and Arab nations don’t accept this, then the problem is that they are not prepared to be at peace with us.
Our peace plan could then continue with the usual requirements that terrorism and incitement be stopped, and ultimately end with a negotiation over borders and governance. It’s important that Israel must not make any concrete concessions of land, etc., until terrorism actually stops. Otherwise instead of a peace negotiation we have simple extortion.
Now, what about the other part, the military part of the plan?
There are several external threats, such as Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, etc. Obviously the army must be prepared to meet these threats, and must maintain a posture of deterrence. But I’m more interested in the other threat, the attrition of Israel’s strength, readiness, and resolve caused by terrorism.
First of all, it’s unacceptable to allow the terrorists to depopulate a part of Israel, like Sderot, by rocket fire. Apparently the army is not able to respond massively because of the likelihood of civilian casualties and the resultant complaints from Europe and the US. So the asymmetric warfare continues. I suggest that Israel should put everyone on notice — the PA, the terrorist militias, the US, the EU, the UN — that Israel considers herself existentially threatened by terrorism and will respond by destroying whatever is near the launch site. And this is true, it is an existential threat. It’s not an all-at-once threat like an atomic bomb, but if allowed to continue it will destroy the state. So it has to be stopped.
Second, its unacceptable to allow the terrorists to murder Israelis and then be released the next time they kidnap someone. Either Israel should never negotiate the release of prisoners with blood on their hands, or she should institute a death penalty for terrorist murderers, and apply it.
Third, if the security fence is effective at stopping terrorist infiltration, then it should be finished. Period. Israel should do her best to keep it from being a burden on Palestinians, but this must not slow it down. If there need to be more checkpoints and openings in the barrier, they can be added. But now, just build it.
Finally, fight the terrorists. If they are the same as the Palestinian ‘security’ forces, then arrest them and disarm the militias. Certainly Israel should not provide arms (or encourage the US to do so) to one or another of the militias. Why do the Palestinians need so many ‘security’ forces anyway?
Israel doesn’t need to apologize for being here. If the consequences of the conflict are bad for the Palestinians and their allies, then they can stop it. It’s up to them.
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