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Avi Gil
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An apartheid state will not cure terrorism

Yes, there were errors made during Oslo, but the approach has real advantages as a long-term strategy against terrorism
Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu with Otzma Yehudit party head Itamar Ben Gvir at a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu with Otzma Yehudit party head Itamar Ben Gvir at a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The recent wave of murderous terrorism pushes the members of the Netanyahu government back to an old ritual — the repeated recitation of threadbare threats and oaths. The familiar pool of “we will” phrases has been chewed over to exhaustion: We will…respond with an iron fist; we will…impose a closure; …seal, destroy, deport; revoke citizenship; …block incitement on social media; …toughen prison conditions; …invoke the death penalty; …revoke the privileges of senior PA officials; …respond to every attack with a new settlement; …ease open fire instructions; …prevent the High Court from sabotaging our fight against terrorism; and on and on.

The endless loop of voodoo spells is like an opiate: it suppresses the source of the pain – the reality in which one people dominates another. This is the disease that the Oslo Accords sought to cure, basing it on a mutual recognition that both peoples are entitled to be masters of their own destiny, live in security, and express their national identity within a territory with agreed-upon borders. This goal, which guarantees the preservation of Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state, obviously involves painful compromise, including the division of the land. Diametrically opposed to the Oslo vision stands its only alternative: a binational apartheid state that stretches from the river to the sea, where one nation is under the rule of another nation.

Be under no illusion: The paths leading to these two alternative futures are littered with violence and setbacks, but they lead to very different places. The apartheid way precludes any possibility of an agreed-upon settlement, pushes most Palestinians into despair and toward support for terror, perpetuates the bloodshed, and signals the destruction of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. By contrast, the Oslo approach switches on a light at the end of the tunnel, mobilizes Palestinian partners in the fight against terrorism, and strengthens the camp that sees reconciliation with Israel as a national Palestinian interest.

Although the Oslo approach was pronounced dead, it is not beyond revival, especially given the lack of any other viable options. Choosing the Oslo way certainly does not guarantee Israel immediate calm. We know that on the Palestinian side there is a significant camp that will toil to torpedo any reconciliation attempt with terror. To erode the power of this camp, one must adhere to a long-term strategy that combines strong security measures aimed at decimating the terrorists, together with political and economic measures aimed at drawing a credible horizon where a prosperous Palestinian state lives in peace alongside Israel. This solution could of course only be realized through a careful and gradual process that would be conditional on Palestinian compliance with Israel’s strict security requirements.

One can get sucked into endless debates about the mistakes and misdeeds committed by the parties during the Oslo process, but a cold and realistic assessment points to the advantage of the Oslo approach as a long-term strategy in our fight against terrorism. Regrettably, this argument is denied a fair hearing by the current Israeli government, which prefers to lead us down the path of apartheid. Unlike its predecessors, this government does not even try — for appearances’ sake – to create the illusion that its outstretched hand for peace is met with Palestinian recalcitrance.

In his last speech at the UN General Assembly (September 2020), Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the word “peace” 19 times. He proclaimed that when the Palestinian leaders decide to make peace with the Jewish state, “I will be ready and I’d be willing to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan to end our conflict with the Palestinians once and for all.”

Netanyahu’s partners will not allow him to reiterate this commitment, not even as a staged PR stunt. They know very well that the Trump plan was based on the logic of Oslo: division of the land, establishment of a Palestinian state, land swaps (albeit not equal), and even the construction of a safe passage between the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is not for nothing that Smotrich said at the time, “This is a plan that at the end of which there is the establishment of a Palestinian state, something that cannot under any circumstances happen. The Land of Israel is all ours and we will not give up a single centimeter of it.” Ben Gvir responded in the same spirit, “I was amazed… behind this glittering and megalomaniacal name, ‘The Plan of the Century,’ hides a recognition of the existence of the invented Palestinian people, the handing over of large parts of the Land of Israel, the division of Jerusalem, and the establishment of the State of Palestine.”

The bottom line is grim. If in the past there was ambiguity regarding the Israeli government’s path, today it is clearer than ever: the Oslo vision has been buried, the apartheid alternative has been chosen, and the Israeli response to Palestinian terrorism will continue to ignore its root cause.

About the Author
Avi Gil is a former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI). His new prose book, 'Where is the Head,' is being published by Steimatzky.
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