The Territorial Imperative

Victory is not only not losing it is gaining. This year is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel not only didn’t lose, Israel won in an unprecedented fashion. Israel not only survived and remained independent against all odds being numerically outnumbered, but did so in a very quick war, only six days.

The Land of Israel is a history of territorial conquests. But in those six days not only did Israel not lose, but Israel also managed to do what others had not done or had taken decades or centuries to do. Israel conquered territory from Muslim states including Jerusalem.

It is the dream of extremist Islamic groups to establish a Caliphate or one global state where everyone believes in and practices Islam. Israel in 1967 moved that dream one step further away from reality. Muslim states lost land and Jerusalem.

This is not exceptional for extremist Islamic groups. They have for the main part only managed to radicalize existing Muslim states. They have for the main part not succeeded in overthrowing non-Islamic states to further the Caliphate. Anarchy usually persists in their attempts and they have also lost land on several occasions.

One occasion of losing land, in addition to the Six Day War, was the independence of South Sudan in 2011 becoming a Christian majority country. It’s independence took away from Islam part of the state in which the most modern Sunni Islamic Revolution had taken place in 1983 with the imposition of a harsh brand of Sharia law by Hassan Al-Turabi.

The USA was actively involved in promoting independence for South Sudan to gain a psychological victory over Al Qaeda as Osama Bin Laden had made Sudan his base in the 1990s due to this Islamization.

Bearing these points in mind, granting the Palestinians a nation state needs to be undertaken cautiously. The lessons of elections in Gaza in 2006 have shown that territorial gain is an imperative goal for extremist Islamic groups. Once in power there are no further elections.

The Middle East except Israel is famous for the replacement of one leader by another not by elections but by the death of the previous leader. Sometimes this is because the state is a monarchy but more often it is due to assignations, revolutions, and coup d’états such as the Arab Spring from December 2010 onward.

There doesn’t appear to be any possibility of democracy existing and flourishing in a state for Palestinians in Judea, Samara and Gaza. On the contrary there are no Palestinian political parties that promote democracy. Furthermore there is no indication that the majority of Palestinians who live outside these areas in a global Diaspora will have the right to vote or to be elected in any election.

So from day one onward a state for the Palestinians will not be the accepted democracy of one-man one-vote for all Palestinians. It will be one-election one-time, followed by authoritarian rule. The best case scenario after such an election maybe an authoritarian-democratic hybrid situation where members of the ruling party might be allowed to elect its leadership.

The worst case scenario after such an election maybe the realization of the dream of extremist Islamic groups, one step towards establishing a Caliphate or one global state where everyone believes in and practices Islam.

This is not to deny that a peace process needs to be promoted for many reasons. However not being wary of the consequences will be fateful despite the good intentions of any Israeli government or those of opposition parties based on moral and ethic principles and the good intentions of any international movement on behalf of the Palestinians.

The mere withdrawal from any part of Judea, Samara and Gaza including the smallest of settlements is granting a psychological victory in the minds of extremist Islamic groups.

This is clear from events on Israel’s northern border. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and Iranian backed Hezbollah entered the vacuum. On February 12, 2017, the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reported Lebanese President Aoun saying “As long as Israel occupies land and covets Lebanon’s natural treasures, and as long as the Lebanese military lacks the power to stand up to Israel, Hezbollah’s weapons are essential. They are a principal element of Lebanon’s defense.”

The Land of Israel is a history of territorial conquests. Even though 50 years have gone by there is no need to hasten to vacate conquered territory until it is ensured 100% that those that take governance are not extremist, are not radical, are not anti-Israel, don’t promote a Caliphate or one global state where everyone believes in and practices Islam, but rather do promote democracy.

Ultimately if the goal is two-states for two-nations then the other nation, all of it, every individual, man and women, should always have the right to elect and be elected. Otherwise the right of a nation and all its individuals to have a state will be negated. It will not be a nation state.

It will be a state where the territorial imperative in independence is only a loss for its nation who will not gain anything! The only gain will be by a small group of extremists. This understanding of the territorial imperative differences should be the starting point of any negotiations of two-states for two-nations.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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