In an interview with Fareed Zakaria recently, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his commitment to a two-state solution with Palestine, but insisted that the only way it would work is if Israel had a permanent, or at least long-term, military presence in Palestine. This is a preposterous suggestion, and as long as he insists on it, no agreement will be reached; it is simply a condition the Palestinians will never agree to. The question is, is Netanyahu’s insistence on Israeli military occupation as part of any agreement to keep his right-wing supporters in the Knesset happy, or a sign he is not committed to peace? The fact that Israel has just started more construction on disputed land doesn’t help the prime minister’s contention that he is committed to a peaceful two-state solution.
Netanyahu equated a long-term Israeli military presence in Palestine as part of a peace deal with American troops still stationed in Germany, Japan (since World War II) and South Korea (since the Korean War). The situation is obviously not the same, and I’m not sure who Netanyahu thinks he is fooling by suggesting it would be. Zakaria was too polite to challenge him much on the claim, but it is patently ridiculous.
Nevertheless, it is understandable that Israel would fear for their security if they had no control in Palestine. The world is fond of painting Israel as the bad guy in this conflict, blaming them for all that’s gone wrong. While there are faults on both sides, much of the culpability actually lies with extremist elements within Palestine. While it’s possible Israel and the Palestinian Authority could come to an agreement there’s no assurance, as Netanyahu points out, that Hamas wouldn’t take over. And even if they don’t, there’s little doubt in my opinion that Hamas would continue their terrorist activities – it’s the nature of the beast.
Recent events in the Middle East and Africa mean the world is starting to wake up to the reality of Islamic extremism such as that practiced by Hamas, but when it comes to Israel and Palestine, most are still stuck on the idea that all the violence is a result of the way Israel treats Palestine. They fail to recognize the terrorist element in the carnage, which is a result of the hatred of extreme Islamists for all Jews.
Numbers of dead Palestinians are compared with numbers of dead Israelis, and the fact that there are thousands more dead Palestinians seems to confirm that Israel must be the bad guys. The truth is, there are a lot less dead Israelis because their government simply does a better job of protecting their citizens. They have early-warning systems, bomb shelters, and missile-interceptor technology. When concrete is given to the Palestinians to build schools and hospitals, at least twenty percent of it is diverted to build tunnels into Israel for suicide bombers and missile batteries, which are placed in built-up areas. (This, of course, does not excuse Israel for bombing areas after the United Nations warns them multiple times contain only civilians.)
If and when Israel and Palestine reach a peaceful two-state solution, that will not change the mind-set of Hamas. They may become less popular within Palestine, which will hopefully diminish their size and influence, but their core raison d’être will remain. The Hamas Charter is a document full of hate and violence towards Jews in general and Israel in particular. Their murders and other attacks against civilians will continue.
So far, the Palestinian Authority has failed to control Hamas, and there’s no reason to believe they would be able to do it in the future. This is an intolerable situation for the Israelis – basically, there are a whole bunch of people living in close proximity to them who hate them and want them dead for no other reason than they are Jews. Israeli fear of Hamas is completely valid and must be addressed.
Netanyahu is dreaming though if he thinks largely Muslim Palestine will accept a military presence from a Jewish nation. He may say the Palestinians just have to adjust their paradigms of independence, but frankly he’s being disingenuous. However, there is a role for the United Nations here. If peace is reached, Palestine will need strong support, and many will be more prepared to give it in peaceful circumstances. A large UN Peacekeeping Force could help in stopping the activities of groups like Hamas. The recent passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 will also make it more difficult for Hamas to get backing, most of which comes from outside the country. Member states’ obligations now, among other things, require “countries to prevent and suppress recruiting, organizing, transporting, and equipping of FTFs [Foreign Terrorist Fighters], and the financing of FTF travel and activities.”
Netanyahu naturally speaks up for what he thinks is best for his country. He must know, nonetheless, that the idea of an Israeli military presence in Palestine as part of a two-state solution is pure fantasy.
And all this makes me think once again how much better off the world would be if atheism, humanism and secular democracy were de rigeur.