After almost 70 years of uneasy living with their Arab neighbors, Israelis may be succumbing to war fatigue more than ever before and the push for a two-state solution has been renewed by a group of Israeli former military and police commanders. For both Israelis and Palestinians, there are pros and cons to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The Palestinians, by their actions and behavior, have thwarted their own supposed dreams for an autonomous state. By consistently allowing themselves to be governed by corrupt leaders and terrorists, Palestinians have largely sealed their own fate. Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; a state of mind that perfectly sums up Palestinian leadership. Regardless of international recognition, a Palestinian state will never function properly without the approval and cooperation of Israel. Yet the Palestinian leadership continues to permit rocket attacks and other acts of terrorism against their Jewish neighbors.
For the Palestinians, there is only one downside to the creation of a Palestinian state; they would no longer be able to play the victim card on the world stage. It is this victim card that allows terrorism to flourish, particularly in the Gaza Strip. A permanent peace with Israel would inevitably lead to improved living conditions for ordinary Palestinians, not to mention greater education and employment opportunities.
When ordinary people are no longer victims, however – when they have access to decent education, housing, infrastructure and employment – they naturally turn away from terrorism. In a stable Palestinian state where permanent peace with Israel has been mutually guaranteed with economic and even military pacts between the two nations, Hamas would quickly lose its relevance. Therein lies the reason why Hamas deliberately maintains the status quote and has no real interest in a permanent and peaceful Palestinian state.
Across the divide, the Israeli leadership also has no interest in the two-state solution. Were a Palestinian state to be created and recognized unanimously on the world stage, Israel’s hopes of further expansion would be forever stymied. The founders of the state of Israel laid out a long-term vision for the nation’s expansion which would eventually absorb all of the lands currently occupied by the Palestinians. The establishment of a Palestinian state would obviously kill off that dream once and for all.
Every few years, however, Israelis must send their sons and daughters to fight wars that do nothing more than prolong the agony for the people on both sides. The hallmark of terrorism has always been cowardice and this is a characteristic that has always driven the tactics of Hamas. They conceal themselves within the innocent population and, therefore, as strong as the Israeli military is, it can never permanently defeat Hamas without committing genocide against the Palestinian people – a prospect that the vast majority of Israelis have never wished to contemplate.
It is likely, also, that many in Israel – along with Israel’s supporters in the United States – consider the establishment of a Palestinian state as rewarding terrorism. There may be well-founded fears that such a solution would prevent Israel from ever bringing Hamas to justice. Any negotiated permanent settlement, therefore, would have to include a provision for the Palestinian handover of many individuals responsible for years of attacks, incursions, kidnappings and arms smuggling.
None tire quicker of war than those who are tasked with fighting it. A group of 105 self-identified “reserve IDF commanders and retired police officers” have signed a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to bring an end Israel’s seemingly endless wars by working towards a two-state solution. A reserve Major General initiated the idea of the letter. Ammon Rashef told Israel’s Ynet News why he decided to create what he describes as a petition: “I saw us launch operation Protective Edge and got the sense that we’ve become accustomed to yet another round of fighting every three years. I was fired up.” He went on to describe his perspective on the futility of continuing the status quo: “if there’s no political follow-up to operation Protective Edge its fallen soldiers were in vain. And if so, what did the residents of the Gaza-boarder communities suffer for, and why did we need this trauma for the entire population, if already now they’re talking about a second and third round?” Protective Edge was the name given to the recent military operation launched in response to intensified rocket attacks on Israel. During the 50-day conflict, 70 Israelis – including 64 soldiers – were killed. Officials in the Gaza Strip put Palestinians deaths at more than 2,100, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The letter to Netanyahu begins “We, the undersigned, reserve IDF commanders and retired police officers, who have fought in Israel’s military campaigns, know first-hand of the heavy and painful price exacted by wars.” and it goes on to say “We fought bravely for the country in the hope that our children would live here in peace…and here we are, again sending our children out onto the battlefield.”
The group is proposing a wide-ranging solution that is reliant upon the willingness of the Israeli political establishment to reform and the willingness of Arab states to engage in dialogue with, not only Israel, but the Palestinian leadership also.
When asked if a “comprehensive political settlement” can be achieved, Reshef responded “Definitely. Establish a Palestinian state and reach a comprehensive agreement with dozens of Arab states in the region.” Reshef acknowledges that moderate Arab states “have more leverage over the Palestinians than we do.”
It cannot be denied, however, that it is the so-called moderate Arab states that have largely abandoned the Palestinian people to the fate. With this in mind, no permanent two-state solution can be achieved without the commitment of these very states.
On the Israeli side, it is a lack of willingness to commit to permanent borders which represents the greatest obstacle to peace. The Israelis have no intention of returning to previous borders – nor should they – but it is their reluctance to agree to even some future permanent lines of demarcation of territory that is one of the biggest factors in holding back a comprehensive peace plan. The vision of a greater Israel was laid out by the founders of the nation but it is this vision which the Israelis will have to let go in order to establish a permanent peace, just as the extremists on the Palestinian side will have to let go of their dream of the destruction of the Jewish state.
Another of the co-singers of Reshef’s petition, Reserve Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven, told Ynet “The national leadership brainwashed us with the idea of a Greater Israel – from Rabin and Peres and northwards. Today, sanity must be restored to the public and we need to make it clear that there is a way to combine forces and interests and to reach political settlements.”
Remarking on the tensions between Israel and the United States, another Reserve Major General, Hagai Shalom, said “there is unnecessary chatter against the superpower, the United States, which is always there when we need it. The crisis with them is inappropriate, undignified and stupid.” Recent – and highly offensive – comments about the Israeli Prime Minister by a senior Obama Administration official may have done little to subdue this “chatter.”
The group of officers behind the letter betray little in the way of optimism, but they recognize that Israelis are suffering from chronic war fatigue and that a two-state solution – as repugnant as it is to many within both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership – is the only way to end the cycle of violence.
Opinion by Graham J Noble