The Hamas rocket fire had barely stopped, Israelis were still dusting themselves off or examining the damage to their houses, exhausted soldiers were packing up their Iron Dome batteries for the next time, when the same old chorus began.
“All we have to do to make peace is…”
Let’s fill in that blank a few times, but not until we recognize that in all the theories, the “we” is Israel.
Here’s a basic truth that peace advocates need to understand: There are two sides to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and not everything depends on what Israel does.
Oh, but Israel is the strong side! Israel has all the advanced weapons! Israel has the strongest economy in the Middle East! The poor Palestinians have none of these! So of course, Israel has to make peace!
Fine, but Israel has done all it can in peace negotiations.
It is essential to know that the Palestinians turned down two concrete Israeli offers of peace according to their own demands (in 2000 and 2008), ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state. That’s to say, the vaunted, holy peace process reached its logical conclusion, but it did not result in peace. Twice.
By rejecting these offers, the Palestinians destroyed the Israeli peace camp. Support for the two-state solution, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace, has dropped to its lowest level among Israelis, 42%. Zionist Israeli political parties built on the idea of peace with the Palestinians scramble to remake their images but still poll in single digits. That includes Labor, which ruled Israel practically unchallenged for the first three decades of its existence. Whatever government emerges from Israel’s current political mess will not have peace with the Palestinians anywhere near the top of its agenda. The issue will continue to be a club to bash political opponents with, no more.
By turning down Israel’s offers in 2000 and 2008, the Palestinians betrayed their Israeli backers, creating instead a whole new classification: the Oslo-disappointed – a reference to the 1993 and 1995 accords between Israel and the Palestinians that were supposed to have led to a two-state solution but failed.
Yet the chorus continues. Here are some of the options of “all Israel has to do”:
- Pull out of the West Bank
- Create a federation with Palestine and Jordan
- Grant full citizenship to the Palestinians in the West Bank
- Allow unlimited humanitarian aid to enter Gaza
Let’s look at these, one by one:
- Israel pulled out of Gaza unconditionally, removing its 8,500 settlers and its military, in 2005. The hope was that Gaza would be a hub of international trade, progress, and enlightenment. Instead, it became a hub of Hamas terrorism, repression, and rocket attacks. No one in their right mind would expect Israel to just up and pull out of the West Bank after that, leaving its main population centers less than 10 miles from the border.
- A federation with Palestine and Jordan would create a state with a huge majority of Arabs and a minority of Jews. The Jews would get a Bantustan formerly known as Israel, and the overriding Arab majority in the joint government would … well, just imagine.
- There are those who believe that we should all just be citizens of some state no longer, or not for long, called Israel, and we’ll just live happily ever after. Among the advocates are Jews who believe that the biblical land of Israel belongs to the Jews, and Arabs who believe that this is the most efficient way to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel. Guess who’s right.
- Humanitarian aid is already moving into Gaza, and the turf wars over who will control it are afoot. The new US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, says it will weaken Hamas and presumably lead toward peace. He probably knows better. We’ve been here before. Hamas controls Gaza and Hamas will control the aid and the building supplies, siphoning them off for its own “needs”—primarily rebuilding the tunnels and weapons workshops destroyed in 11 days of Israeli airstrikes.
That brings us to the distortions. First, when in the history of the world was the side that was attacked with more than 4,000 rockets pressured to stop its own military operation, acknowledged as accurately hitting Hamas targets and not so many civilians by no less than the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency, the obsolete and hate-mongering UN Palestinian refugee organization, after just 11 days? How long did the US carry out military operations in Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands, with little pressure from the world to stop, and little or no evidence that anyone there actually attacked the US? Israel appears to be in a whole new category of nations with its own very special set of rules. But we knew that.
And most importantly: What are the Palestinians supposed to contribute to this? After all, they’re getting either a state or a piece of an Arab-majority confederation or unlimited aid. Where, in all these formulas, is the place where the Palestinians actually have to do something?
If you have concluded that I am a charter member of the Oslo-disappointed crowd, you’re right. Oslo was not a complete failure – it saved the lives of many Israeli soldiers and civilians – but it didn’t produce peace.
I still believe that, for the sake of Israel as well as the Palestinians, a two-state solution is best. But I have despaired of ever seeing it negotiated. I have written here  that one day it might be imposed. Otherwise, we will continue with the current situation, including a flare-up every few years, and that will be our reality. There is no magic formula of Israeli moves to change that.
It’s a bad neighborhood. As an Israeli, I call it part of the price we must pay for the privilege of living in the Holy Land.