The belief that settlements are the main obstacle to ending the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and the related assumption that withdrawal from the disputed territories would bring peace, represents a narrative strongly ingrained in the political imagination of Israel’s critics. Indeed, much like any faith, such assumptions are often impervious to contradictory evidence.
The Guardian’s coverage of the region is constantly colored by such assumptions.
Among the many problems with the land-for-peace religion is Israel’s history since Oslo.
Israel’s military withdrawal from major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank (representing a total of 40% of the territory), per the Oslo Accords, resulted in a dramatic increase in Palestinian terrorism, and served as an incubus for the 2nd Intifada.
Per journalist Martin Krossel:
“In the first 31 months following the signing of first Oslo Accords, Palestinian terrorists murdered 213 Israelis. That was the largest number of fatalities for any time period of the same length in the country’s history to that point. The attacks on Israel only ended after 2002, when Israel reoccupied parts of the territory that it had abandoned in 1993, a move which allowed it pursue individual terrorists and the heads of terrorist network who had found sanctuary within the lands controlled by the PA.”
The 2nd Intifada killed over 1100 Israelis.
Israel’s withdrawal from their buffer zone in South Lebanon, contrary to the predictions of most analysts, only emboldened the Iranian backed Islamist terror group, Hezbollah, whose political power and military might expanded dramatically as a result.
A report in UPI stated:
[Hezbollah’s current arsenal represents] more than three times the number of missiles Hezbollah had at the outset of the 34-day war in July-August 2006. Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets and missiles, or around 200 a day, into Israel’s northern Galilee region during that conflict. That was the heaviest bombardment Israel’s civilian population endured since the state was founded in 1948.
Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal is larger than that of most national armies.”
After Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, driving thousands of settlers from their homes by force, Hamas claimed it was a victory over Israel, and then started firing Kassam rockets (and more sophisticated Grads) from Gaza into southern Israeli cities. Subsequently, Hamas took over the entire Gaza strip from the Palestinian Authority, violently expelling all Fatah opposition, and has been ruling there ever since.
Since 2005, terrorists in Gaza have fired over 8,000 rockets into Israel, killing 45 Israelis and injuring over 1500.
Faith in the efficacy of withdrawal.
While most proponents of Israeli withdrawal claimed that such moves would weaken the more radical Palestinian movements (by taking away their major raison d’être, resisting “the occupation”), the ascendancy of Hezbollah and Hamas since Israel’s disengagement demonstrates the inherent fallacy of this theory.
So, it seems reasonable to ask why we should assume that history wouldn’t indeed repeat itself in the event that Israel withdrawals from the entire West Bank (and possibly “East” Jerusalem), and a new Palestinian state is born.
The impassioned proponents of Israeli withdrawal, and the creation of a Palestinian state, rarely seem to so much as acknowledge the history of such retreats since Oslo, and the dangers inherent in further territorial concessions.
And, they equally rarely spend much time thinking about what kind of Palestinian state will be born.
Will Palestine be democratic and progressive in even the broadest sense of these words? But, more importantly, will the Palestinians elect leaders who will finally declare an end to their conflict with the Jewish state or, rather, use the mechanisms of their sovereign state to continue a conflict without end?
The Free Beacon reported on a new poll of Palestinian public opinion, which certainly isn’t promising regarding the future direction of such a state, demonstrating that Palestinians would vote into the presidency Marwan Barghouti, the terrorist currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail.
The Free Beacon reports:
“Asked whom they would support if a presidential election were held today, Marwan Barghouti—a career terrorist and Fatah Party leader jailed since 2002 over his prominent role in directing suicide bombings against Israelis who headed the Tanzim militia and founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades—garnered the most votes.
Israel’s indictment of Barghouti states that he oversaw 37 terrorist attacks that resulted in the murder of 26 Israelis.
In a three-way race between Barghouti, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, and Mahmoud Abbas (the current president), the vote would be split 37, 33, and 25 respectively. In a direct matchup between Barghouti and Haniya, the former would win overwhelmingly, 60-34.”
Of course, anyone familiar with Palestinian society wouldn’t be surprised by such results, as they seem to accurately reflect a culture, and government, which glorifies terrorism, promotes antisemitism and rejects the very idea of peace and co-existence with the Zionists.
Indeed, another poll in 2010, by Stanley Greenberg, found that almost two-thirds of Palestinians (59 percent in the West Bank and 63 percent in Gaza) support the two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) but eventually hope that one state − Palestine − will prevail. Only 23 percent said they believed in Israel’s right to exist as the national homeland of the Jews.
“Palestine”, beyond the abstraction
So, while most Israelis support, in principle, a two-state solution, many also fear that such an outcome would be dangerous given the current PA leadership, and broader Palestinian political culture.
To much of the Western Left, which unconditionally supports the immediate fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations, the question of what kind of state will be created (if it is pondered at all) does not seem to weigh heavily. A Palestinian state, much like Palestinians themselves, remains, for many, merely a political abstraction.
Israelis, who will have to deal with the reality of this new polity, however, don’t have the luxury of entertaining fanciful notions of the imminent arrival of a newly progressive, suddenly peaceful Palestinian neighbor.
If those of us who are citizens of the Jewish state, and therefore necessarily wed to its destiny, are to take our critics seriously, we must be convinced that they have soberly and honestly wrestled with the real world consequences of Palestinian independence – what happens when Palestine is born.
And, what will happen the day after?
- Oxfam Distorts, BBC Reports: Jews Stealing land and water from Palestinians (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian obit on Yitzhak Shamir reduces sum of former PM’s moral life to Palestinian litmus test (cifwatch.com)