Israel’s strength may be its fatal weakness

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is probably correct in saying that some of the fires that ravaged parts of Israel are acts of terror, and I trust him when he says that culprits will be caught and punished. Netanyahu has had great success at containing Palestinian violence directed at Israel, including the rocket attacks from Gaza and the so-called knife intifada. There is much less evidence however that Netanyahu can resolve the longer-term threats facing Israel.

Today’s Israeli leadership has its head firmly planted in the sand when it comes to resolving the 68-year-old conflict with the Palestinians. Not only does Netanyahu have no plan, but there is not even a sense of urgency that a plan is needed. That sense of urgency exists in the center of the Israeli political spectrum, but not among those who are in power. The excuse given is that there is no Palestinian side to negotiate with, which is true, but this ignores the fact that other steps can be taken to move towards a separation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Instead, right-wing Zionists close their eyes to reality and hope that all the problems associated with the lack of a Palestinian state will magically disappear: That Palestinians will magically accept living under occupation. That terrorism will magically stop. That settlements in the West Bank, including settlements deep into the West Bank, will magically become a non-issue.

Right-wing Zionists deny the existence of Palestinian nationalism. They deny that Palestinians have any claim at all to the West Bank. They deny the right of Palestinian sovereignty under any circumstances. They refuse to acknowledge that Israeli presence in the West Bank is in practice, if not in law, the occupation of another people, and that one can be opposed to that occupation without being opposed to the existence of Israel. They operate as if the Palestinians did not exist.

Maybe the problem is that Israel is strong enough that Netanyahu feels no need to compromise. Israel is powerful militarily and economically, and it can rely on its alliance with the US to shield it from the EU and the UN. Israel is strong enough to contain every new problem that emerges, so Netanyahu feels no need to reach a permanent solution with the Palestinians. This strategy works for now, and it will likely continue to work for a while, at least as long as the US is willing to play along. However, sooner or later, like any unstable system that has no solid basis, if nothing is done to change it, this strategy will come crashing down.

Right-wing Zionists would call me a defeatist or even a hater for reaching this conclusion, but I am just a realist who does not believe in the tooth fairy or in Santa Klaus. When Netanyahu is done fighting the fires, he should reflect on the fact that while some of the fires may have been started by Palestinian terrorists, other Palestinians helped Israel fight the fires, as did Jordan and Egypt. He should reflect on how many more crises Israel can afford to fight before it can fight no more, and that perhaps it is time to find the courage to somehow move towards Palestinian statehood.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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