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The lesson Israel refuses to learn on Gaza

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.

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    1. shaun

      HizubllaH stopped demanding Sheba? I’m sure that Nasrallah would be surprised to hear this…

      “when it rules other people on their land, those people will fight” And there were now attacks on Israel pre-1967…
      Most Palestinians today are ruled by the PA, and the PA was empowered by your kind of thinking.
      Its “peace” that corrupts, not the occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Yaron

      Larry, you make a brave and bold statement, but I doubt if your road is ‘proven.’ History repeats….sometimes, but there is no guarantee. What you are suggesting is a one sided move of Israel, without a peace treaty. You say that the peace treaty will come afterwards, more or less on the conditions that Israel will set. I doubt the Palestinians will accept the conditions, even after the moves that you describe. (and besides that: there was a peace treaty with Egypt before Israel left the Sinai!)

      I also see a big difference with the Sinai/Lebanon situation as they were much less entangled in Israeli society than the Palestinians. There are strong economic bonds (even if you consider that Israel would shut down most of of the economic activities in the WB) and people/tribes on both sides are related.

      Also your idea does not solve the problem of the fugitives. The Pals will not sign any treaty without that issue solved in some way.

      Releasing all these terrorists also holds a enormous risk, both opening the prison doors and the borders to WB and Gaza. Or do you suggest that Israel should be put behind a wall all the way?

      What you actually suggest is complete separation, dealing with it like what some people think: ‘These two peoples are too different, they can never live together.’ Well, they do live together. In Israel, in Jerusalem. How do you think about that?

      Reply to Comment
      • Thanks very much, Yaron. I’m not calling for a wall between us, but there should be a border, hopefully one where people on either side pass through – but with the permission of the other side. As for your other points, I think if Israel would adopt the int’l consensus on solving the conflict, the PA would be ready to come to an agreement. The security cooperation they’ve given the IDF and Shin Bet for seven years is much, much more of a guarantee than Egypt gave Israel before the pull-out from Sinai. As for releasing prisoners, that could be done in stages, for instance with no high-risk ones being released into the WBank until the settlers left the far side of the security barrier. The point is for Israel to do everything it can to end the occupation ASAP, which is the right thing to do in and of itself, but which would also diminish the legitimacy of Palestinians to strike Israel and increase Israel’s legitimacy to strike back if necessary.

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    3. Palestinian

      “since Israel taught Hezbollah a lesson in 2006” I like how Derfner is dealing with Israel’s 2006 defeat.Haifa, Yafa Beesan Ramle Nasra Al Majdal …are Palestinian cities occupied by Israel.But for the sake of peace,I believe we should accept this plan on one condition,for every Israeli Jew who decides to live in Palestine , 10k refugees must be given the right to return to their Palestinian cities inside the green line.In other words , no ROR ,no Schem no Hevron.

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      • The Trespasser

        You are not in position to make conditions.
        Basically, you are in no position at all.
        Stateless outlaws have no rights.

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        • Palestinian

          This is the real issue ,you dominate and control the entire region by terrorism,money and your puppets worldwide.We do have a state ,the one under your occupation.Thieves and terrorists in uniforms have no right to live in our land.

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          • The Trespasser

            Palestinian Arabs not only never had a state, but also more than once declined offers to have own state.

            Besides, you still haven’t answered what makes this land yours.

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      • The Trespasser

        Current situation in Sinai, Southern Lebanon and Gaza strip are the perfect examples of the fact that peace has nothing to do with the dislocation of IDF units.

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        • P@le5tinian

          I couldnt reply to your previous comment so I’m replying here.
          People who share a common culture , land , history , economy and destiny make a country,whether its recognized by the UN or not.
          Zionists thieves and terrorists have no right to this land.This land is ours just like France belongs to the french people and Britain is for the British.

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      • klang

        I believe “Palestinian” is Derfners nom de plume

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    4. I don’t see any argument for your claim that “Israel refuses to learn a lesson”. As things have been at least since the Biltmore Program of 1942, there are basically two options left now that your country is likely to be governed by the JDL after the next elections: either the West and specifically the US will continue their support for the occupation, which means slow ethnic cleansing, or they will become more critical, in which case Israel can drop its mask and start large scale murder.
      The ones who should learn a lesson here are the Palestinians: there is no way out of this mess as long as they listen to anyting Israel has to say. They should stick to their own plan and hope some humans will finally stand up and show them some support.

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    5. Laurent Szyster

      The reason Gaza lobs rockets on Ashkelon is not the occupation, the blockade or anything you refered to.

      Do you remember what was Hamas response to the Arab Peace Initiative ?

      The Passover Massacre.

      For Hamas and the likes that war of attrition has no other purpose that to perpetuate their rule.

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    6. Aaron Gross

      I think you’re kind of blind on this issue, Larry. You’re even arguing against yourself. You say, “when [Israel] 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.” Exactly! And that’s why Hamas and other groups will continue fighting after a complete disengagement from Gaza, Judea, and Samaria: because Israel will still be ruling over Palestinians on their land.

      Israel is a sovereign Jewish state inside of the Muslim wakf of Palestine. There’s no end of the fighting in sight until Jewish rule inside of Palestine is ended and Arabs rule over all of Palestine.

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    7. Obsidian

      And what did Israel get after she stopped shooting at the Arabs in South Lebanon?

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    8. XYZ

      The Gazans are fighting to eradicate Israel, PERIOD. Any Jewish state in Eretz Israel is unacceptable to them, regardless of what borders Israel had. I am absolutely mystified why people like Derfner refuse to understand this reality. A large percentage of the population of the Gaza Strip are “refugees”. How can they be refugees if they are living on Palestinian soil? Because they claim they don’t belong there, they insist or returning to Ashdod, Ashqelon, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla and all the other places they left. Most Israelis now understand this. Fortunately.

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    9. Kolumn9

      I am entirely convinced now that you don’t believe half the stuff you write.

      What did Hezbollah define as the ‘occupation’ of Lebanon? What does Hamas define as the ‘occupation’ of Palestine? Do you see the distinction? I can’t imagine that you don’t and that is why I can’t imagine you actually believe in this nonsense that you write.

      So, if your argument was that Israel should cease to exist and the Jews should pack up and leave and then the fighting would stop because the ‘occupation’ will have ended, then you would have actually made sense. But you didn’t make that argument. Instead you are pretending that the ‘occupation’ as far as Hamas is concerned stops at the Gaza border and doesn’t extend into Ashdod and Ashkelon and Tel Aviv and Haifa.

      Reply to Comment
      • K9, you seem to be suggesting that Hezbollah stopped attacking Israel only because it was satisfied that the occupation of Lebanon was over, or virtually over. I don’t think that’s the only reason – I think that if Hezbollah could conquer Israel, it would have more than enough motivations to do so. It stopped attacking Israel for two reasons: 1) because the occupation was over (except, in their eyes, for Shaba Farms), but also because 2) Israel was prohibitively stronger, and in a fight between Hezbollah and Israel over Tel Aviv, Israel would have the world’s backing. It’s the same w/Hamas. I realize, of course, that they consider all of Israel to be rightfully Palestine – so do all Palestinians, so does Abbas. But once the Palestinians get a state in the land Israel conquered in 67 – for which they have complete int’l legitimacy – to go after more would put them up against Israel’s military superiority and int’l opposition, which would make such a fight futile, which is why they wouldn’t undertake it – or, if they decided to try, they would be taught a lesson and they would give up trying, which is what happened to Hezbollah in 2006. K9, my view isn’t very original – I think most people in the world see the conflict that way. It’s only right-wingers like yourself who discount the effect of Israel’s military superiority on the actions and plans of its enemies.

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        • Kolumn9

          Larry, absolutely everything you write about future Israeli military superiority can be said about the current balance of power. Whether Israel is in the West Bank or not changes absolutely nothing on this count. I would even stipulate that the Palestinians have been taught plenty of lessons and still seem to be ‘trying’. Every Palestinian attack on Israel has been ‘futile’ for the past 64 years, and yet they continue. Every rocket on Israel is futile yet they go on. You know Larry, I don’t think that your model of the world is very good.

          Hezbollah got a bloody nose in 2006, but with or without “international support” it has rebuilt its fighting forces and everything that the IDF has destroyed in Lebanon. Hezbollah is still heavily armed and active on the border. The perception that somehow Hezbollah is out of the picture is entirely lacking in any substance. The idea that Hezbollah acts according to the perceptions of the ‘world’ or ‘international legitimacy’ is silly. Hezbollah acts according to the perceptions of the regional actors that support it, and its own very local interests. The same is very much true of Hamas and , once again, a withdrawal from the West Bank will change absolutely nothing on this count.

          Best as I can tell most people in the world have chosen to ignore Gaza and Hamas because they are both very inconvenient for their political beliefs. You should know better, but don’t seem to, which must make your ignorance forced or faked.

          Reply to Comment
          • K9, you don’t seem to see the difference between an occupied nation fighting the stronger neighbor that’s ruling them, and a free nation fighting the stronger neighbor that’s leaving them alone. The first case – e.g. the Palestinians, pre-IDF w/drawal Hezbollah, and post-67, pre-Camp David Egypt – makes perfect sense, it’s something that all occupied nations do, while the second makes no sense and it’s something that no free nation does, certainly not for long. As for the world, like I said, it knows that what Israel is doing is wrong and at least “understands” Palestinian resistance, even though it doesn’t like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest. None of this makes sense to you, but I think that would put you in small minority, worldwide. But if you want to think I’m pretending ignorance, go ahead.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Larry, you seem to have a problem following your own analogies. Lebanon existed as a country even while Israel was occupying South Lebanon. Hezbollah attacked Israeli forces in South Lebanon because it considered it to be occupied territory, not because the Lebanese did not have an independent state. You yourself admit that Hamas and pretty much all Palestinians consider Haifa and Jaffa to be occupied territory. So, even in the event of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank wouldn’t Hamas continue to consider Haifa and Jaffa occupied and wouldn’t the Palestinians consider attacks on Israelis within the occupied territory (read: Israel) justified? And if the overwhelming Israeli firepower didn’t prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israelis in occupied Lebanon, what precisely about overwhelming Israeli firepower would prevent Hamas from attacking Israels in occupied Palestine (read: Israel)? As for the ‘world’.. what world? Arab World? Iran? Muslim World? How much international financial and political assistance do you think Hamas or Islamic Jihad need in order to continue attacking Israel?

            So, your analogies are bogus, and your arguments don’t make any sense. That you are pretending ignorance out of some moral need to argue for a course of action that you yourself do not believe will produce the outcome you describe is the most charitable of possible explanations.

            Reply to Comment
          • Let me try it again – once there is a Palestinian state, what will stop Hamas from attacking Israel is the world consensus that Israel is not occupied Palestine, and that consensus will back Israel’s self-defense. In south Lebanon, the world consensus was that Israel was occupying it, which gave tacit backing to Hezbollah’s attacks. Do you understand?

            Reply to Comment
    10. Bradfordian

      Simply put, it’s too late Larry. There are too many settlers in the West Bank to remove, too many popular politicians enamoured by a Greater Israel, and a silent majority that allows their government to continue along this path, not blindly, but wholly aware of the Palestinian state that they are precluding.

      From the outside, all we hear are a few increasingly desperate articles on Haaretz, here and elsewhere advocating unilateral Israeli overtures. You only need to scroll down to the talkbacks to see that why these opinion pieces are futile. I can’t even bring myself to read the comments on Jpost anymore, let alone attempt to debunk the hasbarists. They are deafened by their own zeal, and this entire argument is on a loop.

      The only people dancing to a different tune are the Palestinians, and even that song sounds like a cover of something from last century.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yaron

        I am not so sure that present political ideas stand in the way of a solution. After all, Ronald Reagan helped taking down the Iron curtain. I will never vote for Bibi, but I can see that he is very good at to protect Israel’s interests. The next question is if he or his predecessor is willing to make up a treaty, which is a different thing.
        We know we don’t have to remove all of the settlers and keep a presence in ‘Judea and Samaria.’ We know we can handle the symbolic Jerusalem issue. So what is comes down to is the safety issue. The occupation is 100% a safety issue (or it should be). The biggest problem here is to overcome extremists like Hamas, which make out a small amount of the population, but have incredible influence and are a real and everlasting danger to peace. Next to that is a truly incompetent and corrupt PA-government in constant danger of collapsing under yet another revolution, just like other Arab regimes.

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        • Bradfordian

          “Bibi [..] is very good at to protect Israel’s interests”

          Bibi is good at portraying his ‘Defender of Israel’ image. In reality, more settlers have entered the West Bank under his government than any other and he’s lost most of Israel’s European support and poisoned his relation with the US administration. In what way does that constitute a defense? It’s not even possible to claim he’s defended Israel militarily. His only success was bringing the Iran issue to the forefront, and even there he’s the laughing stock of world politics with his fuse and bomb picture.

          “we don’t have to remove all of the settlers”

          I’ve said this a hundred times, so I’ll only say it once here: if the settlements remain in Israeli hands, they preclude a viable Palestinian economy. Just as with the Camp David offer, any state that is split into two or three cantons by the Ariel pan-handle and cut off from Jordan and Egypt will not be acceptable to any Palestinian representation. Either most of the half million settlers go, or there’s no state. Unless of course Israel is willing to cede those settlements to Palestine, and the settlers are willing to live under Palestinian law.

          “The occupation is 100% a safety issue”

          It never was and never will be. If it was, the settlements wouldn’t exist. After ’48 and ’67, the Israeli government began settling the captured land and demolishing buildings. If it was merely defensive, then not a single Israeli civilian would have stepped foot on occupied soil, let alone syphoned off most of the water supply, placed hundreds of road blocks and checkpoints, or held millions of people under military law for decades while Israelis lived under civil law mere kilometers away.

          “just like other Arab regimes.”

          The rest of the world, save a few bought US and Canadian politicians, sees Israel as just another ME regime, albeit one that outwardly pretends to be a democracy.

          End of conversation.

          Reply to Comment
    11. Mitchell Cohen

      Larry seems to put a lot of faith on “international legitimacy” if Israel was to withdraw to the ’67 borders. He seems to forget how much he got pummeled when he wrote a column on this very site titled “In defense of liberal Zionism”. Sure, the “progressives” of the world (not to mention the Arabs) will just accept Israel’s legitimacy, as if a switch has been flicked on, if we consolidate ourselves to a nine mile wide corridor. This takes a bigger leap of faith IMO, then those from the “Gush Emunim” movement have in their agenda.

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    12. The full text of the massacre will be available for subscribers only.

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    13. Want2Know

      The closest thing to a realistic, “international consenus” that stands any chance are the Clinton Parameters.

      A full return to the June 4,1967 line would leave the Western Wall and Jerusalem’s Old City in Arab Hands, as well as all of the newer Jewish neighborhoods around Jerusalem. The real reason for leaving almost all of the West Bank is not to please “the world” but to insure Israel remains a Jewish state and to give Palestinians the chance to peacefully, in their own state. They may or may not take that opportunity, but it is Israel’s duty, to them and to itself, to put the ball in their court, especially if Israel does have to go to war with a future Palestine. If a Palestinian state became agressive, no Israeli would be confused or conflicted about why they have to go to war in the West Bank/Gaza. If it fails, all will then know who was responsible.

      I might add, since Mr. Derfner didn’t do so directly, that the alternative to trying to maintain the status quo plays, ultimately, into Palestinian into the hands of Palestinian signle-staters. Again, focus on what is best for Israel, not “the world.”

      Reply to Comment
    14. I believe Ami Ayalon, former director of Shin Bet, holds a view fairly similar to yours.

      Note that underlying the replies of the (Mosaic) right nationalists seems to be the view that Israel IS occupying “Palestine,” so of course “Palestinians” will never stop fighting, a strange kind of guilt success which sees “Palestinian resistence” as a mirror image of emergent Zionism.

      Perhaps we are hardest on those we think most like ourselves–yet not us.

      Reply to Comment
    15. […] Israeli columnist Larry Derfner wrote on Tuesday: “There is a proven road to security for the people of the Negev—a total end to Israeli rule […]

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    16. Arieh

      My problem with what you advocate, Larry, is that you are trying to wind the clock back to pre 1967. But I am old enough to remember what things were like then. Before 1967, there was no occupation but Israel was still being attacked from all sides. And in 1967, when the Arabs lined up along Israel’s border and threatened to finish Israel off, it wasn’t world sympathy that stood between it and destruction. Israel was on it’s own.

      Las but not least, Larry, can you please explain what is so sacrosanct now about the 1967 boundaries which are just the 1949 armistice lines? Did you know the text of the 1949 armistice agreement? At the insistence of the Arabs, the text of the agreement states that the boundaries are temporary and that they were not to be considered as borders. Do you want to know why the Arabs insisted on that clause at that time? It is obvious isn’t it? So why do you claim that those boundaries are the sacrosanct borders of Israel?

      Reply to Comment
      • Arieh, before 67, the Palestinians were attacking – Israel attacked them too, and got much the better of those exchanges – because they wanted their land and country back, which they lost in 48. Since then, they haven’t stopped wanting it, but they’ve realized they can’t get it, at least not by force, so they’re ready to settle for sovereignty over the post-67 territories with the repatriation of some number of refugees. That’s what they were negotiating at Camp David, at Taba, and in the Annapolis talks. Hamas speaks of a decades-long hudna on that basis (although with no give, at least not yet, on the refugees). Those talks prove an agreement is possible (though certainly not inevitable).
        About the Arab armies lined up outside Israel’s border in 67, were they there to destroy Israel or to prevent invasion by Israel? That war was about brinkmanship that got out of hand – I don’t blame Israel for striking first, but informed opinion at the time knew Israel was much, much stronger than the Arab armies, so the “survival” theme has been exaggerated greatly.
        Why the pre-67 borders? Because beyond them is land Israel conquered, and wars of conquest are immoral – especially when they’re presented as “preemptive” wars of survival, and Israel’s occupation has retroactively turned the Six Day War into a war of conquest, and turned Israelis into seekers of conquest, not justice.

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        • Arieh

          Actually Larry, I must correct you. The preemptive war was against Egypt, not Jordan. Israel was pleading with Jordan not to enter the war but Hussain felt that he could not afford to stay out of it and he attacked Israel. So the West Bank was clearly won in a defensive war.

          Larry, you are also forgetting that for years, Israel has been trying to reach a peace deal with the Arabs. But the Arabs never agreed to a deal. Right after 1967, Israel offered to give up 100% of the West Bank except Jerusalem but the Arabs rejected the offer.

          I know you don’t agree with me. But under the circumstances I can see why any self respecting Israeli government does not want to now wind the clock back and evict half a million of it’s citizens from the West Bank for a peace deal that most likely would not last.

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    17. Andrew Emenike

      I am just wondering how long the Israelis will keep up with the occupation,talk about a nation with her head buried under the ground

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