Kerry Abbott

Israel’s Last Frontier

By the time the war in Gaza is over, Israel risks being an outcast. When the war ends, making the level of destruction fully evident, and emaciated Palestinians emerge from their camps, Israel will join the ranks of Serbia, Sudan, and Indonesia when they repressed people under their rule, leading to international anger and the creation of the states of Kosovo, South Sudan and Timor Leste.

The only way to end Hamas as a military threat is to end the need for resistance to occupation and Israeli rule. A post-war scenario will not have to be made with Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, but with a new unified government, a provisional Palestinian state for Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That could be set up now, with skilled, experienced people who endorse a new future.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is being pressed to declare how this war will end and who will rule Gaza. Other leaders, who would replace him, seem equally clueless.The withdrawal of the IDF would leave Gaza with a leadership vacuum that no one accepts to fill as a partner of the Israeli military. Therefore, the handover must be total, to a Palestinian state that includes new leaders from Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem Arabs, and would enable a mixed Arab and international force to then provide security and administrative support and guarantee a secure border.

The Israeli Prime Minister declared his war aims as the end of Hamas and the de-radicalization of Palestinians, turning them into passive people who accept to live in isolated enclaves, always under Israeli rule. This is not because Israel would be unsafe otherwise–as though fixed borders are not defensible– but because the current Israeli mindset holds maximal claims, including Area C, more Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem, (such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and Wadi elJoz), and even part of the Haram esSharif or Temple Mount.  Encroachment into those areas has proved Israeli intentions to force Palestinians out, through varied methods. That engenders resistance, and always will. While the current right-wing coalition government does not accept to give up the land–Judea and Samaria and Arab Jerusalem–there is no alternative to defining those borders, if Israelis want to avoid a life of perpetual war.

Hamas conceded its focus was not on governance and service provision, but on resisting occupation. Once a Transitional State of Palestine exists–not the vague Israeli assurance that an “irrevocable” path to independence will begin–Hamas may find another role, as a conservative Islamic party. Its military role will end with the end of occupation. This could happen in a short time, as several European and Western countries declare their recognition of a Palestinian state in the adapted 1967 borders agreed through years of negotiations.

Defining the new frontier and borders that can be secured was agreed in past talks. Israel can then guard its territory and begin arranging for the transfer of the 100,000 or more residents of scattered settlements, who were meant to leave the Palestinian state. With a peace agreement and a defensible border, Israeli may not need to draft the thousands of haredi forces that it deems necessary if it continues to pursue endless wars on the northern and southern fronts.

The last frontier for Israelis to conquer is their own growing radicalization that says no one can stop them from taking all they want, doing as they please, because the international community has issued empty statements about negotiating a two-state solution, but did nothing.  Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians, confiscated their property, revoked their residency, and escaped with impunity– even gaining seats as Ministers in the government. At the same time, the US Government affirmed that, whatever Israel did, the alliance was unshakeable and the US would support and defend Israel’s actions, even if they risked the long-term security of the country–and the region.

A good friend does not promise an endless supply of weapons to stave off the people asserting their fair claim. Instead, it provides the leverage needed so that Israeli leaders are obliged to finally tell their people that they are at a crossroads: endless and expanding war, random daily murderous attacks between Palestinians and Israelis, or addressing the cause of regional enmity and finalizing the borders of a Palestinian state. Were the Palestinians given a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, as agreed in previous peace talks, and Lebanon given Shebaa Farms and Ghajar, the basis and pretext for the resistance disappears. That does not mean that Hamas or Hezbollah would suddenly disband, but that both groups could not base their public support on the grievances of war and territorial claims. Already they are criticized by their own people for the destruction they have brought and their illusory claims of gain. They could play a lesser social and political role, without the pretense of defenders of the homeland. Both might declare victory, but, at the same time, they herald their own demise. It is the only way to begin to dismantle the established militia order, which creates public resentment of dysfunctional government and decline in Palestine and Lebanon.

The end of the occupation and the creation of a Transitional State of Palestine immediately gives the Israeli government a chance to eliminate the role of Hamas by setting up the foundation for a stable post-war neighbor and ally. The documents from the Oslo Peace Process that bind the Palestinian Authority and still should apply can be linked, as a parallel structure, to the Transitional State as needed while the new framework is developed and refined. Palestinians can begin building a normal political future without the focus on resistance and liberation. Those who criticize the Palestinian Authority as corrupt and in need of reform ignore that it is impossible to have an ideal governance system under occupation. The Israeli Prime Minister, intent on preventing the creation of a Palestinian state, undermined the very leadership that was cooperating to prove it could be a partner for peace and assure a stable border. At the same time, he strengthened and funded the Islamic resistance in Gaza to prove that Israelis forever had to fight fanatics. That still seems to be the mental map of the Israeli government.

Israeli ministers say that Israelis will not accept that a Palestinian state be imposed, but current proposals for negotiations over the future state sound like a duplication of the decades of talks that stalled and led to this war. If Israelis only enter into pseudo peace processes, while they finance the radical opposition, what option remains? A Palestinian state does not reward Hamas, but ends its reason for existing and confirms that endless occupation failed. The Israeli paradigm has ended.  The world will no longer accept ongoing occupation and that a conflict that threatens the stability of the region remain unresolved when a solution is attainable–if all radicals are suppressed. That is the last frontier.


Kerry Abbott spent twenty years in the Occupied Palestinian Territories–including two wars, two intifadas, and four peace processes–studying the impact of interventions on conflict, before going on to work in 20 other divided societies as a consultant development strategist and evaluator.

About the Author
Kerry Abbott is a consultant development strategist, evaluator, and capacity builder, focusing on interventions in ethnic conflict regions and previously based in East Jerusalem for 20 years. As a consultant strategist, evaluator, and coach, she works with a dozen international agencies in 23 countries to build the capacity of local partners to resolve conflicts and achieve their development aims.
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