We’ve entered into a strange place since the end of the second Intifada. Perhaps it’s because the Second Intifada didn’t end with the signing of a document, it didn’t end with negotiations in Washington, it ended after being suppressed, put down. It ended after a military victory by the IDF in the West Bank and a guerrilla victory by Hamas in Gaza.
The reality that followed very much reflected that difference as Israel reaped the spoils in the West Bank and Hamas did the same in Gaza. The unparalleled pace of settlement building is proof of the effectiveness of the IDF’s victory. I remember wandering around Elon Moreh during the Second Intifada and feeling like I was in a ghost town. My unit was given an entire, empty apartment building to use a makeshift barracks. It was not the only building that stood empty at the time.
Since then there has been a building boom in the West Bank. When Palestinians throw stones we demonize them, when there’s a terrorist attack we reach deep into their towns and cities and imprison as many people as we feel are necessary and continue building. When Palestinians are silent, we continue building anyway. They have become irrelevant to their own fate, there isn’t even any debate any more. The only time Palestinians come to the fore is when they’re firing rockets at Israel, rioting or launching terror attacks. After each of those incidents we roundly condemn the action. That’s fair. But what is not is to ignore the causes of their actions and ensure that the only consequences are to come down harder on Palestinians than we did before. By following this policy we are pushing Palestinians towards the terrorist movements.
It’s not like I’m the only one to speak this way. The people who we look to to protect us, the Shin Bet have been speaking this way for a long time now. They told Israel the truth about how the occupation of the West Bank is turning Israel inside out in the mind blowing documentary, the Gatekeepers. They were variously ignored and condemned for speaking. Because the truth is that we’ve become so accustomed to saying that we want to live in peace we’ve forgotten that in order to get there we’re going to have to create that peaceful situation. Whereas right now we have a government that has chosen building construction over peace. In fact we have a government that preferred releasing murderers and terrorists to halting settlements.
When the Palestinians remind us they exist they ruin this idea that we can have our cake and eat it, that we can just do as we please while trampling all over them. What we’ve succeeded in doing is creating a pressure cooker. We’ve told Palestinians in no uncertain terms that the way they live now is the way they are going to continue to live forever. That the checkpoints and other restrictions on their lives will always be there. They have nothing to hope for, no end in sight and no reason whatsoever to respect Israel. Other than the threat of violence against them.
We must offer them a better hope for their future if we want to live in a more peaceful world.
But we won’t. Instead we prefer to close our eyes and our ears. To claim ad infinitum that we are the victims. Palestinian terror exists. In order to fight it we should listen to our own experts on it. Experts such as Yuval Diskin head of the Shin Bet for six years from 2005-11. He said the following (and a lot more) on his Facebook page:
The rapid deterioration we’re experiencing in the security situation did not come because of the vile murder of Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad, may their memories be blessed. The deterioration is first and foremost a result of the illusion that the government’s inaction on every front can actually freeze the situation in place, the illusion that “price tag” is simply a few slogans on the wall and not pure racism, the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force, the illusion that the Palestinians will accept everything that’s done in the West Bank and won’t respond despite the rage and frustration and the worsening economic situation,
Interestingly a lot of the current disturbances are happening in Israel proper and are being undertaken by Israeli Arab citizens. The Prime minister summed up why perfectly, if unwittingly when he said;
“You can’t have it both ways,” he said. “You cannot with the one hand take social security payments and child benefits while violating Israel’s basic laws on with the other.”
By making it clear that Arabs in Israel receive benefits as a privilege rather than a right, as everyone else in Israel does, Bibi has shown the very mindset which lead to massive social unrest in the first place.
The fact that the only times we ever pay attention to Palestinians or Israeli Arabs is when there is rioting or terrorism ensures that we have doomed ourselves to suffer ever more violence. It’s time to actually accept the fact that you cannot impose mass punishments on people simply for being alive and living in the wrong place.