The One Hundred Years War between Israel and the Palestinians has resulted in benefits for the state of Israel while keeping the costs, economically, militarily and in human life to a tolerable societal burden up till now. While not directly resulting from the Hundred Years’ War, nonetheless Israel, as a whole, has deemed that, up till now the costs of the war were an acceptable burden to bear in order for the state to thrive and develop behind its Iron Wall as first defined by Jabotinsky.
The benefits of the ongoing war are almost immeasurable, starting with establishing a state in 1948/9 with a decisive Jewish majority in 78% of the land, after partition only recommended 44% of the land with a small Jewish majority. In 1948, the year that the state of Israel was founded, the worldwide Jewish population was 11.5 million with 650,000 Jews in Israel, 80% of the total population, and 5.5% of the worldwide total. Today Israel controls 100% of the territory with a Jewish population of 7.2 million, which is about 46% of worldwide Jewry.
Tel Aviv Skyline
As a direct result of maintaining the Iron Wall, Israel has managed to control and benefit from all the natural resources of the area ranging from land for agriculture, space to build, develop and live, natural resources including water for a water starved region, natural gas, tourism, mining the Dead Sea and all the other benefits derived from controlling the land which used to encompass the Palestine Mandate after WW2.
Israel has established itself as a first world country, a member of the OECD with a GDP per capita placing it at number 13 of the worlds major economies. It has earned the moniker “startup nation” as a result of the military, medical, computer, scientific and agricultural inventions created in Israel. Tel Aviv has earned the notoriety of being among the top five most expensive cities in the world due to the demand for real estate and a population of young, high tech entrepreneurs. It’s universities are regularly ranked highly in world rankings and have produced a number of Nobel prize winners. In short, the benefits of the hundred year war, coupled with Israeli ingenuity and knowhow are impressive by any standards.
Along with the benefits have come heavy costs. The economy could be so much better absent the ongoing costs to develop and maintain a superior military edge. Not to speak of the costs of every war fought and the time, measured in years, spent by 50% of Israeli youth in military service when they could have been studying, working or otherwise engaged in more productive endeavors. Apart from time, money and lost opportunity comes the tragic cost of lives lost. Every Israeli has lost someone, a family member, a child, a sibling, a spouse, a parent, or a friend to the ongoing, never ending carnage and violence. Too many young lives, full of promise have been cut short in their teens and early twenties fighting for Israel. It’s a terrible ongoing cost that shows no sign of ending.
Together with the unbearable societal impacts, have come the psychological, sociological and other costs associated with occupying another people for more than 56 years. The toll exacted by the occupation has been nothing short of overbearingly horrendous. It has turned Israel into a modern international pariah with the label of being an apartheid state. The ongoing settlement enterprise has resulted in an oppressed and occupied Palestinian people who resist the occupation violently causing further loss of human life.
West Bank Checkpoint
The Hundred Years’ War has produced a society where the military reigns supreme, ex generals become at a minimum cabinet ministers if not heads of state. It has inured Israel to the human suffering and misery that the Palestinians endure. It has succeeded in dehumanizing Palestinians where the euphemism of “mowing the lawn” is used to label the periodic military campaigns seen as necessary to fight terror, deter and kill the enemy, as if killing enemies is akin to cutting blades of grass. The ongoing occupation has succeeded in corrupting the military and society at large to the point where Palestinians are not viewed or regarded as fellow human beings, but animals to be penned in, controlled, managed and kept at bay.
And finally, the ongoing cost of the Hundred Years’ War culminated in the military and intelligence failure of October 7, where in one day more Jews were murdered, raped and taken hostage than on any other single day since the Holocaust of the Second World War. This murderous event demonstrated once and for all that the cost of the ongoing Hundred Years’ War is unaffordable, unsustainable and unmanageable. It was a failure of the basic reason for Zionism to exist, namely the provision of a safe haven for Jews who would no longer feel that their lives, security and safety could be endangered by the whims of others. To date, at the writing of this piece, 120 days after October 7, there are still more than a hundred hostages held in the Gaza Strip, whose status is unknown and the agonizing dilemma of how to free them is dividing Israelis.
Nova Rave Massacre Site
October 7 proved that the costs of the Hundred Years’ War are no longer acceptable, bearable or manageable. October 7, shattered basic Israeli security concepts. It demonstrated that there is no army that cannot be taken by surprise, no intelligence service that cannot be fooled, and no barrier that cannot be breached. All three came together disastrously on October 7, 2023 just as they did on October 6, 1973 fifty years earlier, almost to the day. And… without a peaceful solution, without resolving once and for all the Hundred Years’ War, another similar disaster, of even worse proportions, is bound to occur at some time in the future.
There is a solution waiting in the wings, and it’s quite simple. It is “…the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines with minor, equivalent land swaps that would allow Israel to annex some settlements. The Palestinian capital would be in East Jerusalem, with sovereignty over the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and overland contiguity with the rest of the Palestinian state. Israel would withdraw its forces from the West Bank and release Palestinian prisoners. And Palestinian refugees would be offered compensation, a right to return not to their homes but to their homeland in the State of Palestine, acknowledgment of Israel’s partial responsibility for the refugee problem, and, on a scale that would not perceptibly change Israel’s demography, a return of some refugees to their pre-1948 lands and homes.” – Nathan Thrall, The Guardian 16 May 2017
This is a solution that has been proposed and accepted by the Arab Peace initiative of 2002. It provides Israel with much, much more than the 1947 partition plan and more critically, it provides peace. It settles the outstanding refugee issue, honorably and to the satisfaction of the Palestinians. It provides peace and security to the region with full recognition for Israel and diplomatic relationships with the Arab world. In short it is a solution that would satisfy all except the extremists on both sides, who want it all and don’t care what price is to be paid as a result.
So… what are we waiting for? It’s quite obvious that when the costs exceed the benefits then it’s time for a change in course. It’s time for all the parties, Palestinians, Israelis and others to recognize that the Hundred Years’ War has run its course and there is no worthwhile, acceptable benefit for any of the protagonists to continue in this march of folly any longer.