Last week Israel sent a drone to attack Islamic terrorists in the Sinai and five were killed. These terrorists were presumed to be formulating an attack on Eilat’s airport. However, that aspect of the story is not the real news for the real news was that Egypt played a role both in warning of an impending attack and cooperating with Israel on the drone response. Syria’s civil war is beginning to morph into a battle between Hezbollah Shia and Sunni Jihadists from around the Middle East. The NY Times just published an article detailing the regional impact of the growing war between Islamic radicals. Lebanon just witnessed a kidnapping of Turkish pilots by a radical Islamic group and has experienced fragments of civil confrontation between Hezbollah and others. In Pakistan, two major terrorist attacks killed dozens at a funeral and then yet another attack where children and women were standing. Iraq has experienced many major Sunni on Shia and Shia on Sunni attacks during July that raised the death toll in the country, for the month, to over 1100. And now Egypt is in complete disarray.
Israel is under pressure from the EU to try to arrive at a two-state solution. I concur that reaching such a settlement would be wise and if effective beneficial for both Israelis and Palestinians. What is not widely reported, to my knowledge, is the Palestinian reaction to all the turmoil between their Arab and Muslim neighbors. I raise the question of whether the Palestinians feel any pressure to formulate a solution, not because of the US or any other outside government, but because of a stark reality that should be settling in. A rationale Palestinian has to be concerned that given the turmoil surrounding them, the rise of Jihadism in the region, and Hamas’s inability to govern but extraordinary ability to make enemies of its Arab neighbors, the greatest opportunity for a reasonably good life is most likely via an agreement with Israel. I will explain.
Starting with Hamas, both Morsi and now the new tentative government closed tunnels, limiting Gaza supplies, including fuel. Ironically, as has been reported by several new outlets, one of the cries against Morsi was that he was in Hamas’s clutches. Indeed, he did little in the Sinai to stop smuggling and attacks until several Egyptian army and police posts were attacked. However, during the last number of months of his administration, Morsi took a more militant posture against Hamas, and that response has continued but at an increased pitch. In other words, Palestinians, Hamas rule does not exactly make life easy. Moreover, what has Hamas done to improve the life of its citizens-demand fashion conformity, limit women’s rights, cut out websites, censor opposition, and use threatening police tactics to intimidate those with whom they disagree? Hamas’s popularity depends upon a pie-in-the-sky promise to eliminate the Jewish State and all Jews living in the region. Tactically that is only possible if Hamas can effectively use very potent weapons. Of course, to expect that Israel would simply sit around when such attacks ensue, is fantasy. There is no scenario where Israel suffers any major attack and fails to respond in an extraordinarily punishing way in Gaza. Thus, to bank on a military solution is to embrace the fantastic idea that the Palestinians could inflict enough damage on Israel before Israel ever had a chance to respond, resulting in massive Jewish deaths and Jews fleeing, leaving only Palestinians to pick up the pieces. What is not advertised is the likely breadth and depth of an Israeli response in Gaza to any massive attack on Israel. What is not advertised is that any massive attack on Israel sufficient to produce high Israeli casualties is also likely to result in high Palestinian casualties for Palestinians living inside of Israel. (A Gazan indeed might lose parts of their family residing inside the Green line, in such an attack). This part of the equation is never discussed. There is no militarily sensible means to achieve independence, and certainty to rid the region of Israel.
Moreover, the recent conflicts evolving and continuing in neighboring countries demonstrate several more reasons for a Palestinian to consider a serious negotiation (involving compromise) . First, the Palestinian cause is not on the front burner as Sunni/Shia/Secular battles appears to overshadow Palestinian goals. Second, given the raging conflicts, there will be less tolerance for another military arena in the region, and certainly less monetary support for any rebuilding required after such a conflict. Third, the leadership exhibited elsewhere in the region does not build confidence that in absence of firm democratic institutions, a fledgling state will flourish unencumbered by the historical strife engulfing the region. I would argue that despite the negatives associated with Israeli occupation in the West Bank, its presence is actually a bulwark against those competitions raging elsewhere. In other words, frankly, if Israel somehow did disappear, and Palestinians took ownership of the area, the civil strife that permeates the Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern world would quickly envelope a fledgling Palestinian country not somehow associated or aligned with Israel.
A rationale Palestinian whose goal is really about a better life for him/herself and their children ought to calculate what would be in store for them should Israel magically disappear (either physically but also cooperatively). This may appear a bit rude, but for all that is oppressive about Israeli occupation on the West Bank, there is some level of stability and that stability allows for economic growth and security. This is not to say Palestinian should simply learn to live with occupation. Israel intrudes on Palestinian lives and wrestles control from the occupied population. I suggest an imperfect solution that provides for Palestinian autonomy while maintaining important Israeli linkages is the best guarantee that a viable Palestinian state will not disintegrate into another battleground for completing Muslim forces. One could shape a confederation built on economic, resource, health, education, transportation, and even military cooperation between the two entities. I am not sure how such an agreement would look, but it would have to honor Palestinian integrity and control, while maintaining a contractual working arrangement with Israel. My contention is that a solution could be reached if Palestinians could be made to understand that a military solution is impossible, and that the external pressures from the region make it apparent that like it or not, the chance for a Palestinian state to thrive is likely to be enhanced by an intimate and productive relationship with Israel. If the primary goal is to be able to live normal lives and pave the way for an open society with economic promise, it is imperative that the Palestinians see the relationship with Israel as a plus in the face of what is being experienced in the neighboring countries. Palestinian pressure should come from the realization that any state worthy of creation, after all these years, is worth keeping, and ironically, perhaps, the best way to secure the future of such a state is with a cooperative relationship with Israel. Accepting this notion could open opportunities for real compromise.