When I immigrated to Israel, I was what might one call a “New York Times Jew.” I even organized and sold The New York Times at my undergraduate school, Oberlin. In my mind, if there was a reported clash between Palestinians and Israelis, it was the Israelis fault. After all, I accepted “All the News Fit to Print” as truth, rather than someone’s, perhaps, biased perspective.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to make Aliyah (move to Israel) some 20 years ago during the Oslo Peace Process. The Israelis had finally decided to make peace, I thought — only to be severely disappointed when the peace process deteriorated into war (mistakenly, in my opinion, called “The Second Intifada”). Yet, while I was disappointed, the war wasn’t unexpected, as Palestinian children themselves spent their summers training for war, not peace. I prefer to call this “Arafat’s War.”
If one insists on calling that period — of road shootings, suicide bombings, attacks on army positions — an Intifada, then it was a protest against “Oslo,” or the idea of peaceful coexistence in general.
After enduring the death by shooting of several of our town residents, and the bombing of empty buildings as a matter of strategy, Ariel Sharon became Israel’s’ prime minister in 2001. After the bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya, the PM ordered the army into the “West Bank,” arresting or killing terrorists, and ending Arafat’s war.
While the war ended, there remained one area that remained unsubdued, and that was Gaza. It was under these circumstances that PM Sharon conceived of and executed the plan to leave Gaza.
The idea was that Israel would rid itself of having to protect Israelis living in Gaza communities, while getting credit for withdrawing to an internationally recognized border.
Others argued that it would only embolden HAMAS, and give them unfettered access to arms, missile technology, and room to build an army. The rebuttal, legend has it, was that the phrase “if one rocket is fired, Israel will know what to do.”
But, it hasn’t worked out that way. There have been several wars with HAMAS in Gaza, as well as knifing, car ramming, and occasional shooting attacks emanating (mostly) from Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority (a.k.a “The State of Palestine”), or eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem. In fact, the United States Congress even passed a law called the Taylor Force law because of the Palestinian government’ policy of “Pay to Slay.” Moreover, after rebuilding, HAMAS has only grown stronger, as it is impossible to teach an organization run by fanatics to “regret” and desist from further attacks.
All of this could have been foretold, and I don’t think anyone needed to consult Hari Seldon himself to do so. But, must my remaining optimism been shattered?
The riots in mixed Jewish and Arab Israel towns did just that. I was hopeful that the Raam party would join or support a new government of “change,” demonstrating the potential for Jewish Arab cooperation. . What has been described as Arab pogroms is a great disappointment. While experience with our Palestinian neighbors has taught me that how The New York Times sees us from over there is not how one sees things from over here, the riots have taught me just how to close to home over there is to here. Despite their opportunities to attend school, university, to work, to live free of persecution, given a bit of HAMAS inspired hope and an opportunity, Arab Israelis have turned on their Jewish neighbors.
It’s one thing to argue that Palestinian children have been taught by their school system to hate, but our own Arab Israel school children? What have they been taught? Have they, instead, imbibed the hatred for Jews from their parents?
The rise of the Raam party, and even its leaders call to end the violence, is simply not enough. Afterall, the Joint List won the majority of Arab votes, and they made their preference clear when they voted against the Abraham Accords, following the adage that anything good for the Jews must be bad for them.
Yet, it’s not just them, but us. Our leaders express their shock over the rioting, but also over the near lynching of an Arab Israeli by Jewish vigilantes. But, from where did Jewish vigilantes gain their sucor? They take their cue from our leadership, e.g., the Arabs are voting in droves, and anyone on the left is a traitor. This is strange because there are actually very few people on the Left left in politics, as it has been decimated by the reality of Palestinian rejectionism. Rather, these are smear campaigns against political opponents, rather than a respectful dialogue. Such smear campaigns inspire vigilantism and are a threat to our democracy.
But now, there is a confluences of events that may just, in my opinion, shake the foundations of all that has happened in the last twenty years. It’s the war, the Arab riots, and and the indictment of and court case against our Prime Minister. I am pretty sure that our Prime Minister realizes that if his government doesn’t conclusively defeat HAMAS, the internal rebellion will grow stronger, and our Prime Minister’s career will be over as well.
In other words, it’s not enough to make HAMAS regret or to teach one side a lesson; nor, has it been helpful to pay ransom money in the hope that HAMAS will modify its policies or reason for existence. Rather, Israel must conclusively defeat HAMAS, or the internal rebellion will grow stronger, and our Prime Minister’s career will be over. I am pretty sure that our Prime Minister knows this.
He also knows that a defeat of HAMAS could empower him to remain as head of a “transition” government until the next election (and, perhaps, beyond), and this is where HAMAS has made its biggest miscalculation — thinking that they will be saved by a ceasefire. We all know that the defeat of HAMAS would enable the disillusionment with and loss of support for the internal rebellion. A true military defeat of HAMAS will once again give us hope that long term quiet will return to our borders, and the integration of Arab Israelis into Israeli society may again step forward.