It is wishful thinking for us to sit back and hope that one day peace with happen when our enemies have a change of heart. But then again, we’ve never made peace without holding something that are adversaries desperately wanted. In the middle east, peace isn’t a privilege or a right, it has been enforced by Israel or has been an exchange.
Israel found a true and serious partner to peace in Egypt which is why the Sinai Peninsula was returned. The strategy was correct to hold on to the Sinai Peninsula until we have an honest partner to peace. Holding the Golan Heights from Syria was also the right way to go. But we’ve offered to return it several times in exchange for peace. But they aren’t desperate for peace and neither the Golan Heights which is why it is best left his way since there is no normalization. Syria still chooses terrorism over peace and the Golan Heights so be it. Peace with the UAE didn’t come from a sudden change of heart during the Abraham Accords. Israel indefinitely suspended its desire to annex the Jordan valley and the US promised the UAE superior defense equipment. Each country made its demands and either Israel or the US tried to fulfil it. Yasser Arafat was exiled from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon during subsequent battles. One of the reasons he accepted Israel’s right to exist was to stay politically relevant after so many failures.
World War I did not end with the occupation of Germany or substantial change in Germany’s internal policies. It only financially punished the Germans. Ultimately Germany rose to sting Europe again in World war 2. But World war 2 ended with the Allied occupation of Germany and Japan until they became true partners to peace. The allies destroyed all extremist elements in Germany and Japan only withdrawing from these countries until all aggression was eliminated.
Withdrawal should be made from Gaza only after all sides of Gaza society make lasting peace with us. The PLO is only one Palestinian organization that too isn’t present in Gaza today. We withdrew from Gaza and handed over 40% of the West Bank to the PLO. But no other Palestinian faction accepts our right to exist. Why were extremist elements like Hamas and PFLP enjoying the benefits of democracy and the ability to rise to power in the West Bank and Gaza without accepting Israel’s right to exist? Though the PLO is not perfect and neither was Yasser Arafat or Abu Mazen, but they were the lesser of the evils. Elections again in the disputed territories will only bring efforts by the radicalists to snatch power without making peace with us.
The Israeli Palestinian conflict has become so complicated because we forgot the carrot and stick approach which was textbook. We made unilateral concessions either under international pressure or by just hoping to further the cause of peace only to fall again on our faces.
Lebanon – you’re next!!!
Israel hastily withdrew from Southern Lebanon under Ehud Barak in 2000 only to have another war with Hezbollah in 2006. It looked like an Afghanistan type withdrawal without their side making significant compromises or serious efforts for peace. Hezbollah declared victory. Hezbollah was never serious about peace then and neither was Lebanon. They promised to demilitarize south of the Litani river in Lebanon without normalizing relations with Israel only to have them come back to threaten us now an arsenal of 150,000 missiles and a powerful and deep tunnel network. No withdrawal from anywhere without accepting Israel’s right to exist from all factions in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and serious efforts by them to maintain peace. We need to stay tough not just militarily but also in our policies and negotiations.