Every once in a while, I’m reminded that it’s necessary to restate some things that I think are obvious, because they are clearly not obvious to everyone. I had a conversation the other day with someone who said something like this:
Why don’t you just give the Palestinians what they want? Israel is a military and economic superpower and the powerless Palestinians have been kicked around for years. Remove the settlements and let them have their state in the ‘West Bank’. That will take the wind out of the sails of the terrorists.
My goodness…where can I start?
Let’s take some of my friends’ explicit statements and implicit assumptions one at a time.
Israel is a superpower. It’s true that Israel has the most powerful military force in the Middle East. But there are several reasons that this is less important than it looks. First of all, there are severe constraints on Israel’s use of this power. Almost every war or operation undertaken by Israel since its beginning has been terminated by an imposed cease-fire, sometimes to Israel’s great disadvantage. Success in war usually means not being destroyed, rather than changing the overall situation in a permanent way. The withdrawal from the Sinai in 1956, the escape of Yasser Arafat and his men in 1982, and the toothless UN resolution that ended the second Lebanon war in 2006 are a few examples among many.
Another problem is Israel’s vulnerability. Tiny, with little or no strategic depth, with all of its population centers in easy rocket range of its enemies, Israel can’t afford to lose battles and can’t hold out in a long conflict without outside help. Israel is presently almost surrounded by hostile entities, with tens of thousands of short and long-range missiles aimed at it from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.
The conflict is with the Palestinians. The conflict is only partly with the Palestinians. The entire Arab world — and now Iran — sees Israel as an alien body in a Muslim Middle East. Even those countries supposedly at ‘peace’ continue to educate their youth to yearn for the day that Israel can be eliminated. Saudi Arabia has historically employed its economic and political muscle first to try to prevent the creation of Israel and then to weaken it and crush it. Iran threatens it with nuclear weapons and supports nasty proxy armies on its northern border and in Gaza. The Arabs and Iran support and encourage Palestinian terrorists to attack Jewish targets. It’s not incorrect to say that the Palestinian Arabs are really just the point of the spear.
The Palestinians want something Israel can give them. The PLO/Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority does not want a state in Judea/Samaria that will live at peace alongside Israel. They want a combination of things that include a complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice line including all of East Jerusalem, they want the right to militarize their state, and a ‘right of return’ for millions of Arabs who claim ‘refugee status’ into Israel. Even if they get these things — which would involve uprooting hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes and the conversion of Israel into an Arab majority state — they are not prepared to give up their claim against all of Israel or admit that it belongs to the Jewish people.
It seems absurd when stated that way, but that’s the deal they are offering. Give us almost everything, and we will … demand the rest. This doesn’t even mention the fact that Hamas, with a written program similar to Hitler’s, controls almost half of the Palestinian population and accepts no ‘solution’ except a genocidal one.
Terrorism would end if they had a state. Arab terrorism started when Jews came to the land of Israel, and has continued ever since. Offers of a Palestinian Arab state in (at least) 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008 were rejected, usually with accompanying terrorism as punctuation. Terrorism clearly has nothing to do with the desire for a state or even the desire to end the ‘occupation’ of 1967 — the return of the Sinai to Egypt and Gaza to the Palestinian Arabs resulted in more, not less, terrorism.
The problem is not that the Palestinians need a state, it’s that the entire Muslim world can’t abide a Jewish one.
There is a solution, but the Obama Administration and the Europeans have it backwards. The solution cannot be imposed on Israel because Israel isn’t the problem. It must be imposed on the Arabs and Iran:
Support for terrorist proxies and armed aggression against Israel must stop.
Support for Palestinian terrorist factions must stop.
Incitement of hatred against Jews and Israel — in the Muslim world and among the Palestinians — must stop.
The principle that Israel is the state of the Jewish people must be accepted by all parties as a prerequisite for any negotiation leading to a Palestinian state.
In today’s world, this probably won’t happen until Iran gets a new regime. If my friend is as concerned for the Palestinians as much as he says, perhaps he should be working on this.