Peace and Islamist Terrorism
The so-called international community is all abuzz with consternation and condemnation regarding the two latest big developments in Israeli politics: namely, proposed legislation sharply restricting the Israeli Supreme Court’s power to review and overturn duly-enacted laws, and the approval of more housing for Israelis in the disputed territories. Everyone from President Biden, to Secretary of State Blinken, to UN Secretary-General Guterres, to the president of the UN Security Council and all current members of that body, not to mention a multitude of governments around the world, have expressed their fears that, if those Israeli political proposals become reality, the long-sought, ever-elusive two-state solution will have been dealt a final death blow. Here in the US, people who are on the leftward side of the political spectrum–which includes many elected Democratic officeholders and most Jewish-American voters–have expressed the same fears. So, apparently, this is a very big deal, and we may be at a crucial inflection point in Israel’s relationship to the US and big chunks of the rest of the world.
But, before we all decide to run around shouting that the sky is falling, this might be a good time to take a deep breath and carefully consider precisely why the two-state solution has been so difficult to attain and seems so endangered today. Here is a list of reasons that have frequently been cited to explain that difficulty:
Israeli settlement expansion in the disputed territories threatens the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Lack of such contiguity would threaten the viability of the future state.
The Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms, if enacted into law, will create what will effectively be a right-wing dictatorship, subject to no real check from the judiciary. That right-wing government will definitively reject any two-state solution and will do everything possible to make such a solution impossible in the future.
Israeli control over substantial parts of the disputed territories and Gaza–checkpoints and military incursions into the disputed territories, a militarized border with Gaza, etc.–makes it impossible for the Palestinians to develop the economy and governmental institutions they would need to govern themselves.
The rulers in Gaza are Islamist organizations (Hamas and its allies) that sincerely believe they have a religious duty to erase any trace of Jewish sovereignty from land they deem to be an eternal Islamic waqf–that is, all the territory of the State of Israel. These rulers violently seized control from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, and the PA has been utterly impotent in re-capturing that control ever since.
Let’s consider these concerns in order. With regard to territorial contiguity, the proposed Palestinian state would always be non-contiguous, because Gaza doesn’t have a border with any other land Palestinians claim for their state. Roads (whether through tunnels or above ground) would have to connect Gaza with the rest of the proposed state. Therefore, there would seem to be no reason in principle why roads could not connect parts of the disputed territories, if that became a necessity.
Secondly, the proposed judicial reforms have not even been enacted into law at this point, so it is premature (to put it mildly) to envision a right-wing dictatorship spiking the two-state solution. Let’s not borrow trouble from tomorrow.
Israel does exercise substantial control over the disputed territories, and it might be the case (why I say “might” will be explained below) that the Palestinians would have stronger economic growth and governmental institutions if they were free of such control. But this raises the question: Why does Israel believe it is necessary to exercise such control? Is it because Israel is seeking to thwart Palestinian desire for a state, or is there another reason?
This brings us to the issue of Gaza and its Islamist rulers. Here are relevant parts of the Hamas Covenant, adopted in 1988:
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?
Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. … There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.
And, of course, the “land of Palestine” is the land from the River to the Sea.
I have said that the Palestinians “might” have a better economy and better government if Israel did not exert any control in the disputed territories, but I think the odds are very steeply against such a happy outcome. The odds are against because, if Israel withdrew, the PA would be overthrown by Hamas and its Islamist allies, and the fate of Palestinians in the occupied territories would be just as miserable as is the fate of Palestinians in Gaza. The PA was unable to prevent Hamas from seizing control of Gaza, and it has been similarly unable to re-capture that control. Everything we know about the corrupt, sclerotic, autocratic PA tells us that Hamas would be taking over every bit of the occupied territories if Israel were not propping up the PA.
So, what’s the reason the two-state solution seems so unattainable?