Israel finds itself in a Catch-22: The current spate of stabbings and stone-throwing requires extra security measures to ensure Israeli citizens’ immediate safety, but some of these measures may increase Palestinian animosity against Israel, thereby putting Israeli citizens in long-term danger. For example: Israel has deployed an increased police presence in certain areas. If Palestinians riot against the police, it will force the police to take measures to protect themselves that could result in Palestinians getting hurt, increasing Palestinian animosity towards Israel — and the likelihood of more attacks.
That’s not to say that Israel shouldn’t defend itself — on the contrary, Israel is morally obligated to protect its citizens. But Prime Minister Netanyahu is wise not to give in to pressure from the extreme right, calling for a military invasion and Draconian measures. Ideally, alongside the security measures to increase Israelis’ immediate safety, the Netanyahu government would also take policy steps to increase Israelis’ long-term security, which would include setting up meetings with the Palestinian Authority to discuss renewing peace negotiations, and stopping settlement expansion. These gestures would help show both the international community and the Palestinians that Israel is serious about peace and about a Palestinian state.
There has been a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security forces to try to restore calm, but there are a few reasons why Netanyahu is hesitant about reforging ties with the Palestinian Authority:
- Such a move would be extremely unpopular within his own party.
- Netanyahu has picked up on the international community’s double-standard when it comes to Israel, as a result of which, he does not trust that peace overtures by Israel will actually have any impact on Israel’s international standing.
- Netanyahu does not trust Mahmoud Abbas.
I want to focus on issue #3. The levels of hatred and incitement to violence happening in Palestinian society right now are quite high. There is no doubt that much of that rhetoric is coming from the Palestinian political leadership, including Mahmoud Abbas, who falsely accused Israel of an attack against the Al Aqsa mosque and announced that the Palestinian Authority is no longer bound by the Oslo Accords. (There has been incitement in Israeli Arab society as well; Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, refused to condemn Palestinian use of stone-throwing and firebombing).
This means that even if Israel were to stop all settlement construction and sign a peace deal tomorrow, the seeds of hate have already been planted, and will not disappear overnight. Additionally, much of the rhetoric regarding the Temple Mount has had a distinctly religious bent, in which the issue is not so much one of national identity and statehood, as much as religious pride — and that is something much less conducive to negotiations. When the issue is political and geographic boundaries, each side has its goals, and together they can find middle ground — literally. When it comes to something purely emotional, such as feeling that your holy place has been slighted, or believing a conspiracy theory that the other side wants to destroy your place of worship, what is the basis for negotiation?
That being said, the Palestinian Authority is continuing to cooperate with Israeli intelligence in order to help apprehend Palestinian terrorists. That continued cooperation is vital to Israeli security, meaning it would be wise of Netanyahu to throw in some carrots, especially when the stick of extremely unhappy Palestinians is already tapping Mahmoud Abbas on the shoulder. A large part of Palestinian dissatisfaction with Mahmoud Abbas’s reign lies with the Palestinian Authority’s corruption, however, the fact that Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t managed to gain any meaningful Israeli concessions is not really helping his popularity.
And once more, Israel is in a Catch-22: It’s in Israel’s best interest to prop up a corrupt, dictatorial government that engages in hateful anti-Israel rhetoric, because a new government that replaces the current one is likely to be much more dangerous for Israel, and just as corrupt and oppressive towards Palestinians.
This whole situation is a bunch of Catch-22s that are entwined, like the threads of a finely crocheted kippah. (For the sake of full disclosure: I have never crocheted a kippah.) That’s why it will take complex solutions. It’s time for the left to stop shifting all the blame onto Netanyahu, and for the right to stop shifting all the blame onto Abbas. Instead, both sides of the political spectrum should be trying to work together to solve the situation.
But the alternative, of just imposing police measures without thinking about adequate policy measures, seems doomed to failure, in part because it rests upon the premise that there is no hope for a long-term solution. But Zionism is a movement founded on hope, even when the goal that you hope for seems nearly impossible. It was Herzl who said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” It was Ben Gurion who said, “In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”.
I refuse to believe that a strategy based on hopelessness is the right solution to Israel’s problems — after all, “The Hope” is the name of its national anthem!
So here’s to hope.