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Gaza war: It's about keeping the Palestinians under control

Israel has been waging a single war since the mid-70s. Its goal is to avoid sharing power or assets with the other people living on this land. The Gaza war wasn’t about creating a new order, but about maintaining the old one. 

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza'a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians recover belongings from the Khuza’a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014 (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

At the time of this writing, Operation Protective Edge has come to an end and the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is delicately holding. Though indirect talks are taking place in Cairo, reports from the negotiations indicate an Israeli refusal to lift the siege on Gaza. Hamas has vowed to fight on if the ceasefire doesn’t hold, but the humanitarian crisis in the Strip is likely to make that difficult.

As things now stand, it’s clear that declarations by Israeli ministers and generals on “a new reality” in the south disguise a different, opposite goal for this war: Protective Edge was carried out in order to restore things to way they were before June 2014. In other words, to maintain the status quo.

This has been the goal of Israeli policy for many years now. Since the end of the 1973 war, Israel has been waging a single war against a single adversary – the Palestinians. The first Lebanon War, the Intifadas, Cast Lead, Protective Edge and most of the military operations in between were all part of “a military solution” to the Palestinian problem. Even the notable exception – the 2006 war in Lebanon – was leftover from the the 1982 invasion, which was conducted against the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Despite all the threats that came and went over the years – the Syrians, Iran’s nuclear program, the axis of evil, international jihad – at the end of the day, it all comes down to the Palestinian issue. The reason why all those threats are constantly debated and inflated in Israel is to hide this fact.

This is the heart of the matter: There are two population groups, Jews and Palestinians, living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley. They are nearly equal in size and almost totally mixed: there are Jews and Arabs along the coast line, Jews and Arabs in the north, Jews and Arabs in the south, and Jews and Arabs in the West Bank.

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took the streets and blocked roads calling to put an end to the attack. (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestinians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in downtown Haifa, July 18, 2014. Israeli police arrested 28 activists, as protesters took to the streets and blocked roads, calling for an end to the attack (Fiaz abu-Ramele/Activestills.org)

Jews living everywhere in this territory have full rights, while the Palestinians are divided into all sorts of sub-groups with differing sets of rights that are never equal to those of the Jews. Jews are represented and protected everywhere by a single unified, sovereign government, while most Palestinians are administered by different kinds of weak, partial local administrations. Jews hold almost all the assets – including most of the lands – while Palestinians have very few assets, and some of them are inaccessible or off-limits, like the natural gas fields inside Gaza’s territorial waters.

This is a unique order. I don’t know of any other country in the world that has held such a large part of the native population as non-citizens for such a long period of time. It is an inherently unjust order, and it will continue to create instability and to cast serious doubts over the legitimacy of the entire system. This will happen regardless of all the advocacy efforts on the part of the government, or the number of Zionist laws the Knesset passes. Reality has a force of its own.

In this context, keeping the Palestinians under control was, and still remains, the Israeli challenge; not killing. The violence is a byproduct, which Israelis would happily do without. The goal is to keep the existing order of things. Great resources are directed to this end: a massive defense budget; technological creativity; philosophy professors that come up with new ethics for this national project; the Supreme Court defines the legal boundaries for it – who can be killed and who can’t, what land can be taken and what not; all while a propaganda machine tries to market the outcome to the world and to our own citizens.

When the Palestinians accept the order of things instead of rebelling, Israelis can turn to other issues – talk about social justice, rising real estate prices, the culture war between the religious and secular, and between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. But then something happens, and everyone goes back to dealing with the national project: How to keep the Palestinians under control.

The alternative involves sharing power, assets and land with the other people living on this land. This could be achieved by dividing the territory in two (the two-state solution) or within one unified territory. There are also hybrids of the two models. But as long as the Israeli goal is to keep as many assets as possible in the hands of the Jewish community, or to keep the Palestinians under its control – for example, through controlling the borders or the airspace of the future Palestinian state, or allowing the IDF to violate its sovereignty – there will be no compromise, and Israel will continue to carry out “peacekeeping missions,” continue “to restore order,” continue to “renew deterrence,” “mow the grass” and all those other euphemisms for keeping Palestinians under control.

As a side note, it should be clear that the Israeli tendency to try and determine who is a “legitimate” Palestinian leader and who should be dealt with by force – whether it’s Hamas’ Khaled Mashal or MK Hanin Zoabi – is also a part of this game. Recognizing only those who accept our terms in advance is simply another form of control.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu headquarters, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

The price of a fair compromise, one that really has a chance of working, is huge. Israel retains all the assets and, therefore, is the one that needs to pay and take risks. The Palestinians have very little “to give” Israel in return, save for legitimacy and some hope that things will pay off in the future. Even the much debated security arrangements are worthless. A Palestinian leadership can promise peace today, but who knows what will happen and who will be in power in five or 10 years. In the short run, the compromise is likely to lead to less security as increased political instability on the Israeli side.

It is therefore clear why at this moment in time, when Israel is so powerful and rich, a compromise doesn’t look too attractive for most of the Jewish public. Israel is caught in a tragic decision-making paradox: As long as things are going well, the motivation for compromise remains extremely low. For compromise to become a preferred option, things need to go horribly bad. Until they do, sending soldiers to restore order, to kill and be killed, will seem like the easy way out of any given crisis. And when the benefit-cost ratio finally changes, the price of the compromise is likely to rise, too.

Netanyahu chose the cheapest solution in Gaza: A unilateral retreat without an agreement, which is way less risky than taking the entire Strip, and way less daring than reaching an agreement that actually changes the reality on the ground for the better. Netanyahu usually resorts to cheap solutions. His political opponents – Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Yitzhak Herzog, Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar – are not that different. They might have their own ideas for solving the problem at hand – how to keep the Palestinians under control – but none of them want to change the question.

Related:
‘Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel’s system of governance’: An interview with filmmaker Yotam Feldman
This is Netanyahu’s final status solution
Israel has alternatives to this war

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    1. Kolumn8

      The real issue is that the Arabs have a question that they are asked themselves. Do they accept the existence of a Jewish independent entity in the land of Israel? The answer is consistently no. There is some obfuscation among the likes of Abbas who is willing to make peace with “Israel” though he expects to be able to overturn it in the long term by flooding it with Arabs. There is no obfuscation among the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP who explicitly insist on the destruction of any Jewish independent entity.

      So, the question that the Jews face is really – do we put our lives in the hands of people who explicitly reject any legitimacy of our presence here as a national group and who explicitly strive to murder us all and hope they will be merciful when we are at their mercy, or do we ensure that we can defend ourselves by maintaining our own military and by preventing our enemies from getting strong.

      The answer is both obvious and natural. The answer is that no, we are not going to put any faith in bullshit analysis of how the Arabs would be nice if only we were to hand over our swords and put our necks on the chopping block. We are not going to close our ears and eyes to what Hamas says so that we can listen to the moralizing of impractical muppets. We are not going to pretend our neighbors are peace-loving Swedes and Danes while our neighbors are busy massacring religious minorities. We are not going to commit suicide so that people that have no idea about the region can test on us the theories produced by naive idealists.

      When the Palestinians accept the legitimacy of the presence of the Jewish nation in the land of Israel, drop me a line. Until then all you have is moralizing garbage meant to confuse the ignorant.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Abbas has said very clearly that there will not be a return of refugees to Israel (he even used a personal anecdote explaining that he, as a native of Safed, does not demand or expect to return to his native city).

        Right-wing hasbarists like you like to spin and re-spin old talking points about the dreaded right of return in order to discredit Abbas, but it’s a red herring for your real intentions of eliminating any possibility of a Palestinian state.

        The Palestinians have already accepted Israel’s legitimacy, and then some. Now it is time to demand that Israel accept Palestine’s legitimacy. Until then, the BDS movement will be dropping you a line.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn8

          1) Abbas said no such thing. You are a liar. It is really that simple. Abbas has said that he himself does not demand to return, but that it is the “right” of each “refugee” to determine that for themselves and that he has no capacity for signing that away. In other words, he rejects even the idea that there could be an agreement which would remove the flooding of Israel by Arabs off the table. That position basically means that no Palestinian leader has the legitimacy to end the conflict with Israel.

          2) I have no problem with a Palestinian state that is no threat to Israel. Unfortunately I have yet to see any Palestinian actually accept the idea of two states for two peoples. They want a Palestinian state but insist that they can never actually accept to leave a Jewish state in peace next door. In effect the Palestinians continue to insist on two states, both Arab. Under such conditions a Palestinian state would be just another launching pad for attacks against Israel. The government of such a state would have zero legitimacy to prevent such attacks.

          3) The Palestinians have recognized that Israel exists, not its legitimacy. Even Hamas and Iran recognize that Israel exists. When the Palestinians are asked to actually accept Israel as a Jewish state (which would be the equivalent of recognizing its legitimacy and accepting its right to continue to exist) they have consistently rejected doing so.

          Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “The Palestinians have recognized that Israel exists, not its legitimacy. Even Hamas and Iran recognize that Israel exists.”

            –>Really? Then what’s all stuff with your fellow rightists like Arb, JohnW and AVDim claiming that Hamas has never offered to recognize Israel even in the conventional diplomatic way that Egypt and Jordan do?

            Rabin did not ask Arafat to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, just as the state of its citizens. That was the standard until the Kadima-led government in 2007.

            “Unfortunately I have yet to see any Palestinian actually accept the idea of two states for two peoples.”

            –>Ever hear of Yasir Arafat? Not only did he do that with the Oslo Accords, he removed all the offending phrases from the PLO charter that Rabin asked him to.

            “When the Palestinians are asked to actually accept Israel as a Jewish state…”

            –>Here we go again. No country that recognizes Israel recognizes it as a Jewish state, but as the state of its citizens. No country is entitled to make up the rules as it goes along. Until 2007, every Israeli government got that. Then, Ehud Olmert and now Bibi have shifted the goalposts, contriving a new obstacle to the two-state solution.

            “You are a liar.”
            –> Careful, Kolumn8, that is a personal attack. Danny will deal with it as he sees fit, but you simply could have stated “That is incorrect.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn8

            1) Israel is a reality. When Hamas shoots rockets into its territory it recognizes it exists. When Hamas proclaims that it must be destroyed, by definition “it” must exist. When Hamas agrees to a ceasefire, there must be an “it” on the other side which is firing back. When Iran proclaims that it wants to wipe “it” from a map, “it” must be on a map in the first place. This isn’t a particularly high level of recognition, it is just a statement of fact that not even Hamas and Iran deny. The problem is that Hamas and Iran and Fatah and Abbas all recognize that a Jewish State exists here but none of them, and I repeat, none of them accept this as legitimate and all of them, and I repeat, all of them, have up till now rejected the idea that it would continue to exist as such. Egypt and Jordan don’t have territorial claims on the land of Israel. That they are not particularly thrilled with the existence of a Jewish State is not a secret, but it isn’t particularly pertinent because they have effectively accepted peace with it simply by accepting that they have no valid claim against it. This, in contrast to Hamas and Abbas, who insist that they have a persistent and permanent claim on flooding Israel with millions of Arabs that would inevitably undermine and destroy the Jewish State.

            2) Yasser Arafat never accepted the principle of two states for two peoples. Both he and Abbas continue to insist on flooding Israel with Arabs and reject the idea that Israel would continue to accept as a Jewish State in any permanent status agreement.

            3) No country in the world makes claims on the entirety of the territory of the State of Israel or insists on a right to overturn that State by flooding it with millions of Arabs. Their recognition or lack thereof of Israel as Jewish State is irrelevant. In the case of the Palestinians, what they have so far refused to accept is that at the end of the conflict there will continue to exist a Jewish State. In effect they insist that the only outcome that they will accept is one where there is either one or two states here, but that none of those states is a Jewish one. In other words, they accept the principle of two states, but persistently reject the principle of two peoples. This is consistent with the rejection by the Palestinians and by their fellow travellers of the existence of the Jews as a people.

            4) You are right. I could have phrased it differently and gotten the same point across.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “The problem is that Hamas and Iran and Fatah and Abbas all recognize that a Jewish State exists here but none of them, and I repeat, none of them accept this as legitimate..”

            –>At Oslo, Arafat and the PLO recognized Israel, i.e., accepted Israel’s legitimacy as the state of its citizens. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have continued that acceptance.

            “Egypt and Jordan don’t have territorial claims on the land of Israel.”

            –>Ahh, but at one time they did. And their territorial disputes were not resolved by asking them to jump through extra ‘Jewish State’ hoops. Palestinians’ territorial disputes with Israel can be resolved likewise.

            “Yasser Arafat never accepted the principle of two states for two peoples.”

            –>Actually, he did, at Oslo. That was kind of the whole point of Rabin accepting Arafat as a partner for peace.

            “Both he and Abbas continue to insist on flooding Israel with Arabs…”

            –>Arafat isn’t continuing to insist on anything, as he passed away some time ago. Abbas doesn’t insist on flooding Israel with anybody. He simply stated that it is up to each Palestinian to decide whether or not the Right of Return is good for them. That lackadaisical attitude is the very opposite of insistence.

            Does Israel’s Law of Return prompt a flooding of Jews into Israel? Aliyah figures are quite low these days, the hoopla over France notwithstanding.

            This fear of ‘flooding’ might make more sense coming from someone traumatized by Russell Crowe’s performance as Noah.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn8

            1) At Oslo Arafat accepted Israel as a negotiating partner. In effect Arafat accepted that Israel exists in the same way that Hamas recognizes that it exists – as an adversary – but chose to try to negotiations instead of sticking to terrorism. Arafat also insisted that he will not agree to any outcome that will not see Israel flooded by Arabs. In effect Arafat and Abbas recognize that Israel presently exists and insist that it commit suicide via negotiations. The difference between that and Hamas is only one of tactics, not goals.

            2) Egypt has not had claims on Israeli territory. Egypt wished to get the Sinai peninsula back. Jordan had a claim on the West Bank but had long ago given up any claims on Tel Aviv. By the time of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty Jordan gave up its claims to the West Bank as well. So, your claim to the contrary is factually incorrect.

            3) Nope, Arafat never accepted two states for two peoples. One can not accept the principle that at the end of the conflict there will be a Jewish State and a Palestinian State while insisting that the Jewish State be flooded with millions of Palestinians. Effectively the persistent insistence by the Palestinian leadership on the non-existent “right of return” contradicts the idea that they accept the principle of two states for two peoples. Had they accepted that principle then the natural demand in negotiations would have been that Palestinian “refugees” would “return” to the Palestinian State. Yet the universal Palestinian demand, including on the part of their leadership, is to flood Israel with Arabs. If Abbas had a lackadaisical attitude towards this issue then it would have long ago been resolved, but instead I have yet to see a single document that suggests that the Palestinians have ever been willing to accept any overall limitations on the number of Arabs that would flood Israel. At best they have been willing to set quotas per year, but never an overall limit.

            4) Israel’s law of return has prompted the arrival to Israel of massive numbers of Jews. 3 million Jews have moved to Israel since 1948. Were a similar opportunity given to Palestinians the numbers would likely be similar or higher simply because Israel has a vastly superior economy to the places where the Palestinians currently live. Between 1993 and 2002 there were 160,000 Palestinians that moved to Israel as a result of “family reunification” (a.k.a. wife arbitrage – Palestinian wives are cheaper). The movement was entirely unidirectional. The numbers that would move to Israel from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and from the “refugees” in the West Bank and Gaza would easily be in the millions if they were given the opportunity.

            5) “Flooding” is appropriate as a dramatic flourish. The natural outcome of such a demographic change would be massive political and economic instability and a collapse of Israel as a functional state, likely accompanied by massive civil conflict and leading to the rise of extreme Islamic groups as the primary leadership of the Arabs with the corresponding demands and treatment of the Jews. The future of the Jews in Israel would then be similar to that of Christians in Iraq, or more pertinently, the future of the Jews in any of the Arab countries.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            “Arafat also insisted that he will not agree to any outcome that will not see Israel flooded by Arabs.”

            –>When did he say this? And what was Rabin’s reaction?

            J: “Egypt has not had claims on Israeli territory. Egypt wished to get the Sinai peninsula back.”

            –> Apparently you are not aware that many religious and nationalist Israeli Jews considered Sinai to be recovered Israeli territory because that is where Moses forged the freed Hebrew slaves into the Jewish people. And Jordan did not officially give up any of its territorial claims until the peace treaty with Israel was signed.

            “Arafat never accepted two states for two people.”

            –>Both he and Rabin did. That was the basis of Oslo.

            “Yet the universal Palestinian demand, including on the part of their leadership, is to flood Israel with Arabs.”

            –> And your proof that flooding Israel with Palestinian Arabs is a ‘universal’ Palestinian demand? The BDS movement, which includes over 170 civil society groups, does not make ‘flooding’ a demand, just the recognition of a principle. No discussion of implementation or citation of numbers exists in its three core principles.

            “At best they have been willing to set quotas per year, but never an overall limit.”

            –> No overall limit has been set for the number of Jews who can move to Israel under its Law of Return. And many Palestinians have indicated on surveys a willingness to accept financial compensation in lieu of resettlement.

            After all, most Palestinians currently living outside of Israel have no desire to live in a country where a critical mass of the population already hates them.
            For those in refugee camps, it would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

            Reply to Comment
        • CigarButNoNice

          “Abbas has said very clearly that there will not be a return of refugees to Israel…”

          In English, yes. In the meantime, his son Yasser had a questions-and-answer sessions with his grandson going as follows: “Where did we come from?” – “From Safed, Falasteen.” “And where will we return?” “To Safed, Falasteen.”

          I know anti-Zionists dismiss the education of the next generations as frivolous—except when we’re discussion the education of Israeli Jews—but I don’t. In Arabic, they don’t have the slightest intention of dropping the “right” of “return.”

          “The Palestinians have already accepted Israel’s legitimacy, and then some.”

          You should be careful with that stuff you’re smoking.

          “Until then, the BDS movement will be dropping you a line.”

          Go ahead. BDS is one of the best ways to create Israeli Jewish right-wingers out of former naive Leftist capitulationists.

          Don’t forget to boycott ISIS for its genocide of the Yazidis and Christians of Iraq. Maybe you should do a Freedom Flotilla to Shatt El-Arab to “raise awareness” and such. Leftist hypocrites.

          Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            OK CigarButNoNice – I’ll happily join in the BDS of ISIS if you let me know what products and services they produce.

            Am all for a boycott of ISIS and its quite nice to actually agree with you on this one point. Made my day.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            It’s called “talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.” Middle Eastern politicians do it all the time. Case-in-point: Arab governments who lend lip-service to protecting the Palestinian people, but who treat them like gypsies in old Europe.

            Either way, he’s always strived to be Israel’s unappreciated little Quisling butt-monkey. He would never think of making a promise to Bibi, and breaking it, lest he risk his credibility with the rest of the Free World’s leaders, who would love an excuse to retreat into their pro-Zionist comfort zone.

            Reply to Comment
      • Lara

        The same could be said of Israel recognising the Palestinian’s right to exist. It is evident that they do not.

        The difference is, Palestine has been reduced to Gaza and a shrinking West Bank while Israel has broadened it’s borders. You can claim that this situation has been brought upon Gaza by Hamas, however your argument will not stand if viewed objectively. Gaza, cut off from the world and imprisoned by Israel, fires rockets over a concrete wall making demands to be freed. They held their end of the ceasefire agreement since 2012 with no relief granted. In the West Bank, from where no rockets are fired, Israel expands it’s settlements, arrests children and people without trial, shoots people protesting, bulldozes their homes and farmland without charge. This injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza is not a result of rockets or “terror tunnels”. It is caused by Israel’s oppression, occupation and inhumane treatment on a particular race of people despite the rockets. If someone took over my home and locked me in a small room while they were free to come and go as they pleased, I would not stand idle and nor would you.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Tomer

      The “fakestinyans” are just the Jordanians that have fabricated a new name for themselves. They did this to reclaim the lands they lost in the 6 day war.

      Nevermind, When Feiglin becomes PM, we will expel all of them back to their own Arab countries.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        I’d like to “expel” your hero Moshe Fegelein, and all the other Israelis who want to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians, back to the East European shtetls from whence they came. See how they like being ethnically cleansed.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Arieh

      Old habits die hard, eh Reza?

      Your ancestors probably did that to my ancestors many times before. And worse.

      Reply to Comment
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