To save some shred of decent regard from his once impressive but now lost rightwing reputation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must move in the direction his international allies and liberal Israeli opponents have been advocating for decades. He must declare that the horror of Hamas, fully revealed now, has brought him to see the necessity of what his international allies and left-of-center colleagues have desired – indeed, what Israel officially agreed to when the United Nations Security Council voted to have it created – an independent Palestinian state, carved out of the West Bank. This would cost Mr. Netanyahu his present coalition of right-wing extremists but allow him to step away with an impressive accomplishment.
His situation is a modern version of the Ancient Greek tragedy, “Oedipus the King”. When I was very young, in my earliest twenties, I realized that scholars and Freud misunderstood the play. After being attacked by him, Oedipus killed his father in ignorance of who he was. That event occurred before the play begins, but near the end, his mother, realizing that her second husband is her son, rushes into the castle. Oedipus comes to understand the situation thereafter and rushes in after her, screaming, “Give me a sword! Where is the mother who is not a mother but a wife who bore her own son’s children in her womb?” Amazingly, I was the first person to realize that Oedipus here knowingly wants to kill a parent, saved from doing so by her suicide. The killing of his father in ignorance is thus amended for him by his intent to kill his mother. Seeing that, Oedipus strikes out his eyes. The realization resulted in my first professional paper, “On Analogical Action,” published in “The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism” in 1963.
Mr. Netanyahu kept Hamas alive early in his time as Prime Minister, thinking to play down the authority of Palestinian President Abbas. But he can now see that he thereby allowed Hamas to strengthen itself under the tutelage of Iran. He is thus guilty of a major crime against Israel, resulting in the deaths of thousands.
Ironically, Mr. Netanyahu has been fighting terrorists from his days as a soldier. In 1976, he lost his elder brother, Jonathan, the leader of a miraculously successful effort to free captives in Entebbe, a beautiful resort town in Uganda, at the time a terrorist state. In 1981 Benjamin Netanyahu published “Fighting Terrorism”, a book that undertook to teach democracies how to defeat the plague of terrorism, followed in 1986 by “Terrorism: How the West Can Win”. Obviously, neither book helped him with Hamas. As noted, he mistakenly kept Hamas alive in Gaza in order to contain the West Bank’s President Mahammoud Abbas, elected to a four-year term in 2005 and, aware of his limitations, avoiding the threat of elections ever since.
Mr. Abbas may now be too old, frail and combative to indulge in the negotiations for the state he desires. Indeed, he did not accept or even respond to the offer of a state from then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert back in 2006. But the present Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, or the gifted Salam Fayyad, who was Prime Minister for a short while before him, could do the negotiating.
Among the possible results, Jewish and Christian people who live in the territory that becomes that state could continue to live there, either as minority citizens or citizens of Israel, and Palestinians who live in Israel could choose either to remain citizens of Israel or become citizens of Palestine. Both could either move or continue to live where they are.
There would thus be human interrelationships as well as the geographic contiguity between the two nations. The rage for their own nation that now motivates many young Palestinian fighters now opposed by Israel’s military and police can thus be transformed into joyously working to help build a successful Palestine.
Those still committed to fighting, alas, will have to be controlled.
But if this course is followed, a peaceful positive result of the horror of Hamas’s terrorist attack and the resultant war can be realized even before that war ends. Indeed, if Hamas is ultimately eliminated the State of Palestine can embrace Gaza as part of its nation – brethren, who can work with and in Israel, as Israelis can in Palestine.