In the wake of this week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out, quite correctly, that the international community is now engaged in “a global war against terror.”
Having made this pertinent observation, Netanyahu careened off course by making a causal link between Islamic State barbarism and Palestinian terrorism.
As he put it at a press conference in Jerusalem on March 23, “I (have) already said many times that terrorism is caused not by occupation and despair, but by hope — the hope of Islamic State terrorists to establish an Islamic caliphate in all of Europe (and) the hope of Palestinian terrorists (of) establishing a Palestinian state in the entire territory of the State of Israel.”
He went on to say that terrorism stems not from “deprivation” or “frustration,” but from “a murderous ideology — the desire to destroy the enemy and uproot him.”
We’ve heard this rationalization from Netanyahu before.
Netanyahu trotted out this facile, self-serving argument last November, following a series of coordinated attacks in Paris by Islamic State which claimed the lives of 130 Parisians and foreigners. And now, with Belgium having been plunged into mourning after the worst peacetime attack on its soil in its history, Netanyahu has done it again.
It’s grotesque to link Islamic State with the Palestinian national movement. Islamic State seeks to upend the territorial status quo in the Arab world by creating a single Islamic state governed by the dictates of Shariah law. Mainstream Palestinians, as exemplified by the Palestinian Authority leadership, are driven by the goal of creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly spoken in favor of a two-state solution. The PA’s rival in Gaza, Hamas, has explicitly called for Israel’s destruction and its replacement by an Islamic state within the historic borders of Palestine.
Judging by his most recent comments, this distinction is of no concern to Netanyahu. As far as he’s concerned, all Palestinians are the same — a murderous lot of terrorists plotting to destroy Israel by every conceivable means.
Cynically, or out of sheer ignorance, he deliberately conflates the hopes and aims of the PA with that of Hamas. It’s an opportunistic, counter-productive ploy that will earn him applause in right-wing Israeli circles, but will do Israel little good in the long run.
Netanyahu’s suggestion that Palestinian terrorism is not rooted in either despair or occupation is a cheap tactic designed to justify and prolong Israel’s presence in the West Bank and to absolve Israel of the obligation to negotiate with the Palestinians in good faith.
His argument doesn’t fly, except in Israel’s national religious camp and in American evangelical circles closely aligned with the retrogressive Ted Cruz brand of Republican Party politics.
As I have previously written, Netanyahu is not even remotely interested in a fair and equitable resolution of Israel’s long and bitter conflict with the Palestinians. He would rather preserve the unsustainable status quo than give up territory and settlements in the West Bank to reach a just agreement with the PA.
As always, Netanyahu strives for conflict management rather than conflict resolution.
Israel will pay the steep price for such myopic policies.
Netanyahu’s stalling tactics are well known to observers of the Arab-Israeli dispute. He can fool some of the people some of the time, but he will not be able to fool all of the people all of the time.