There is a proven road to security for the people of the Negev: a total end to Israeli rule over the people who are shooting at them.
Here is my suggestion for how Israel can bring peace and quiet to the people living within rocket range of Gaza: lift the blockade of the Strip entirely (they get all the weaponry and fighters they want through the tunnels anyway); announce that in one year Israel will have no military or governmental presence whatsoever beyond the security barrier (“the wall”) in the West Bank (the settlers will then leave of their own accord, except for a few crazies whom no one will care about); accept the 2002 Arab peace initiative and enter negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to end the conflict; release thousands of Palestinian prisoners with the promise to free them all upon the signing of a peace treaty; and finally, after doing all that, make it clear publicly and privately that any acts of violence against Israelis will be met with harsh reprisals but will not reverse Israel’s course.
The only way to bring security to the Negev is by ending the occupation completely – like Israel ended the occupation of Sinai completely in 1982, like it ended the occupation of Lebanon completely in 2000, and like it did NOT end the occupation of Gaza completely in 2005. That’s why Egypt doesn’t shoot at us and neither does Lebanon (since Israel taught Hezbollah a lesson in 2006), and why Gaza does, and also why the West Bank will probably join in again before too long.
The debate going on in Israel today – whether to invade Gaza, whether to escalate the aerial bombing, whether to assassinate their leaders, whether to do all or only some of the above – is the same debate that went on here from 1985-2000, only instead of Gaza the problem was south Lebanon, and instead of Hamas the enemy was Hezbollah. I imagine the same debate went on here during the 1967-1970 War of Attrition with Egypt (which had a respite after Nasser’s death only to be followed in 1973 by the Yom Kippur War.)
There is a lesson of the last 40 years that Israel has not learned with regard to the Palestinians: when it rules other people on their land, those people will fight – and when this state ends its rule over those people COMPLETELY, they will stop fighting.
To those who would say the Palestinians consider all of Israel to be their land, I’d say Hezbollah considers the Shaba Farms to be Lebanon’s land, but once it saw it had no international backing for that claim, it realized the futility of using the claim as an excuse to attack Israel, and stopped. If Israel ended the occupation, the same principle would apply to Palestinians who consider Haifa, Jaffa and the rest of Israel proper to be their land.
And to those who would say Israel’s free run of the Golan Heights proves it can have both land and peace, I’d say that was never a good bet for the long-term, and the rumblings from Syria that are spilling over into the Israeli-occupied Golan are a reminder of that.
There is a proven road to security for the people of the Negev – a total end to Israeli rule over the people who are shooting at them. But nobody of influence in this country will suggest taking that road for fear of being derided as a pacifist, if not an anti-Semite, by the public, politicians and media. Most Israelis, especially in the government and army, are talking very hawkishly. They seem to think they’re keeping faith with the residents of the south who are under fire. In fact, by closing ranks on this continual march of folly, they are dooming the residents of the south, and not just them.