Israel Needs a Palestinian Entity

by Maskil on 19 Oct 2009

Checkpoint before entering Jericho, 2005.

I think there needs to be a Palestinian state (or a Palestinian entity that’s something less than a state). Not because the Palestinians desire or deserve it; they don’t (there has never been a less deserving people). Rather, because Israel deserves it. What do I mean by this? Palestinian autonomy (or independence in all but military affairs) is probably Israel’s last chance to become something resembling a normal, respectable country, with normal (if somewhat constricted) borders, normal (if somewhat homicidal) neighbours, normal diplomatic and foreign relations and a normal (kind of) internal agenda and concerns.

I’m not suggesting (as most of Israel’s enemies and many of her friends do) that The Occupation is the greatest single obstacle to peace in the region. It’s not. What I am affirming, however, is that even if all other obstacles were to be removed, peace would still not be possible without real Palestinian autonomy. Even if and when Israel manages to make peace with all neighbouring Arab states, she will not have peace until the Palestinian Civil War (the real one) between Arab and Jew has ended. (If one needs evidence of this, Israel has peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan, and has not fought a conventional war with another state since 1982. And yet, peace appears further away than ever.)

Ending the occupation of the West Bank does not mean the withdrawal of Israel’s military from the territories. While I’m not in favour of The Settlements (actually I think they’re a monkey on Israel’s back), there are sound defensive, geopolitical and strategic reasons why Israel needs to maintain a military presence in Judea and Samaria indefinitely; perhaps for generations. The mistake of a total withdrawal as per the Gaza model should not be repeated; the IDF needs complete freedom of movement within Israel’s security envelope.

(For their part, the settlements – and the refusal of successive Israeli governments to curb their expansion – gives the lie to the glib assertion that Israel is ready to evacuate the territories at the drop of a shtreimel in return for peace. Nobody is fooled by this any longer, except perhaps the blindest of Israel’s friends.)

Unfortunately, the pseudo-Halachic claptrap around the concept of the Land of Israel has clouded the issues and undermined Israel’s strategic and geopolitical case for adjusting her borders with rump Palestine (something that will be further complicated by the need to retain the Settlement Blocs contiguous with Israel) and maintaining a presence elsewhere, e.g. overlooking the Jordan valley along its entire length. Even in the era of apparent post-conventional warfare, defensible borders should still be seen as a requirement. In addition, as both the victim and the victor in the war in which the territories were captured, I see no moral reason why Israel should offer or be obliged to offer an exchange for any areas annexed.

I’m all in favour of “peace for peace” rather than “land for peace”, nor do I believe that there should be a “price for peace” that Israel needs to pay. In this case, however, the “land for peace” is inhabited. Unless we want to carry on with our unwinnable demographic war against Palestine, and end up with a Jewish majority nowhere in the world, we need to give up the land. We need to take our responsibilities as the Occupying Power seriously and hold the territories in trust for its inhabitants, until such time as they’re ready for the responsibility. Not for their sake, but for our own. For the sake of generations to come, and for the sake of the entire Jewish people, who are harmed the most by the phenomena of “The Occupation” and “The Settlements”.

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