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November 14, 2014 1:19 am

Don’t Believe Netanyahu: The Palestinians Want Peace

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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Israel Navy firing at Gaza target. Photo IDF

Israel Navy firing at a Gaza target. Photo IDF

The Netanyahu government has forcefully and consistently promulgated the notion that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, its subsequent takeover by Hamas, and the violence emanating from it strongly suggest that the Palestinians aim for Israel’s destruction rather than regaining lost territory. Netanyahu argues that Israel must learn from this experience and thus should not withdraw from the West Bank, which is far closer than Gaza to Israel’s urban centers. The takeover of the West Bank by Hamas, the argument goes, would make it another staging ground from which to launch rockets attacks, cut Israel in half, and inflict incalculable losses in lives and property.

Unfortunately many Israelis bought into the fallacy of this argument, and indeed, if Israel were to precipitately withdraw from the West Bank, as it did from Gaza, a similar result could theoretically reoccur.

The three violent wars between Hamas and Israel – Operation Cast Lead in 2008, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and this year’s Operation Protective Edge – are used by Netanyahu to falsely demonstrate the consequences of the Gaza withdrawal, rather than the consequences of maintaining the fragile conditions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Using lofty phrases to describe these operations against Hamas is not the answer. Depicting Hamas’ behavior and its doctrine of promoting Israel’s destruction to justify Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank only plays into the hands of extremist Palestinians.

Netanyahu is deliberately misleading the public to justify his obdurate refusal to embark on a significant withdrawal from the West Bank by rewriting the history of the withdrawal from Gaza and linking it directly to national security concerns.

Israeli intelligence at that time knew that Hamas was politically popular and had military capabilities that could overwhelm the PA’s internal security forces under Abbas in any confrontation.

But the desire of then-Prime Minister Sharon to rid Israel of a densely-populated Palestinian area, and his belief, as stated in the Kadima Party Platform, that “…in order to maintain a Jewish majority, part of the Land of Israel must be given up to maintain a Jewish and democratic state,” provided the impetus to evacuate Gaza first.

To demonstrate his intentions that the withdrawal would not be limited to Gaza, in August 2005 Sharon ordered the evacuation of Sa-Nur and Homesh in northern West Bank, thus setting the nation on a course that could have ended the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, Sharon ignored the need to fully coordinate the evacuation of Gaza with the PA and failed to produce a well thought-out plan to implement the withdrawal in stages, which had significant national security implications.

Ideally, following the withdrawal, the Palestinians should have immediately embarked on building the infrastructure of a state and developing a substantial economic program to provide jobs and opportunities to tens of thousands of young Palestinians while demonstrating their commitment to live side-by-side Israel in peace.

The fact that this did not happen in Gaza should not affect the situation in the West Bank, especially since the PA, following the end of the second Intifada in 2005, officially renounced the use of force to achieve its political objective—an independent Palestinian state.

The PA has begun in earnest to build the foundations of a state with schools, clinics, a network of roads, and private and government institutions. They were even praised by Israel’s top security officials for their full cooperation with Israel on all security matters, even in times of increased tension between the two sides.

The Gaza experience in a way was positive and instructive in that it has shown the mistakes that Sharon made and how to avoid similar mistakes in any future disengagement from territories in the West Bank.

Leave it to Netanyahu, however, to use the Gaza experience to justify the continuation of the occupation rather than working out airtight plans with the PA that would entail security measures to ensure that the West Bank does not become a staging ground for attacks on Israel.

Although both Sharon and Netanyahu believe that “the Israeli nation has a national and historic right to the whole of Israel,” Sharon realized that he must give up part of it to preserve the Jewish national identity of the state.

Conversely, Netanyahu is driven by his conviction that Israel is not an occupying power and that the establishment of a Palestinian state on the same land forfeits Israel’s inherent right to the entire land.

That said, Israel is in a perfect position to withdraw from most of the West Bank without risking any aspect of its legitimate security concerns. In fact, a withdrawal based on preconceived plans and procedures will enhance rather than undermine Israel’s national security.

No one in their right mind can suggest that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank precipitously like it did from Gaza and Sothern Lebanon in 2000 almost overnight, with no coordination and no agreement with the PA or the Lebanese/Syrian governments, respectively.

Instead, it should be based on a number of agreed upon phases to be implemented over a period of five to ten years and entail well-defined reciprocal measures to be executed on schedule by both sides with monitoring mechanisms to ensure full compliance and prevent escalation.

In addition, mutual security arrangements should be determined in advance and a comprehensive economic development program must be central to any agreement so that the Palestinians develop vested interests and have the incentive to preserve it.

The Netanyahu government finds it extremely convenient to exploit the current violence in Jerusalem and the death of innocent Israelis and Palestinians by pointing out the “wisdom” of his policy to maintain the occupation and his refusal to make territorial concessions, presumably because of national security considerations.

Regardless of what precipitated the current violence, it only demonstrates that the status quo is untenable. The Israeli occupation is an occupation by any definition and is the mother of all evil that plagues Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Whether or not Israel has biblical or historic rights to the land is no longer relevant given the unshakable reality of the Palestinians, but Netanyahu and his company are too possessed to see the light.

It is time for the Israeli public, which has been systematically misled, to shed the fallacy behind the withdrawal from Gaza and demand that the Netanyahu government resign and elect new leaders who are totally committed to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I know this is a tall order, but there is always a moment in time when people rise above their human frailty. I believe that it is time for the Israelis to create that moment.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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  • Mark Bernadiner

    Mandate for Palestine
    The 1920 League of Nations Resolution concluded that the state of Israel shall be reconstructed on Jewish historic land, where Israel was originally created over 3600 years ago with the capitol of Jerusalem.
    British administration, that kept a mandate for Palestine from the League of Nations, refused to obey the Resolution and in 1922 stole 77% of Jewish territory to create illegal country Transjordan (now Jordan) for arabs living in Palestine. Thus, two-state solution had already been implemented.
    The 1922 “Mandate for Palestine” is a League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal rights in Palestine.
    The 1922 Mandate for Palestine granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle anywhere in Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a right unaltered in international law and valid to this day. Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria (i.e., the West Bank), Gaza and the whole of Jerusalem are legal. Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations. “The Mandate survived the demise of the League of Nations and is valid to this day. Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations. (Exhibit 1)
    SOVIET RUSSIA THE CREATORS OF THE PLO AND THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE “It all started with the creation of a fictitious “Palestinian People” who allegedly demand political self determination. This collective noun was created by the Soviet disinformation masters in 1964 when they created the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the “PLO”. The term “Palestinian People” as a descriptive of Arabs in Palestine appeared for the first time in the preamble of the 1964 PLO Charter, drafted in Moscow. The Charter was affirmed by the first 422 members of the Palestinian National Council, handpicked by the KGB. Article 24 of the 1964 PLO Charter addressed to UN stipulates: “Palestinian muslims do not exercise authority over West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza territories” (Exhibit 2)
    Thus, all later UN resolutions on fake palestinian state are illegal; all pro-fakepalestinian activity is illegal according to the international law, and must be reversed to avoid bloody catastrophe around the world. Those who violate the international law shall be prosecuted including death penalty as their activity resulted in death of Americans, Israelis and Russians as well as stealing Israel land.

  • Robbie Warren

    If the Palistinians want peace then why do they have Hamas representing them? Why does Israel continuously find tunnels from Plaistinian occupied territory into Jewish settlements so they can kill and destroy? Why are missles constantly shot from Palistinian occupied territory into Jewish neighborhoods? Palistinians want peace, NOT! The Muslims don’t want peace, or a piece of Israel, they want the whole thing.

  • frankeet

    netenheau and putin must be the real cause in the unrest inboth countries just like hitler was

    • don

      Just like those peace loving scum that killed four in a synagogue, or church where people pray and gather for hope futures! Two vile scum bags, representing the palastinan freak show, just prove what they have always ben, nothing more than scum vile sub humans, that rose from the swamp with tails to hang from the branches of eden, and live off their own misery and impotency!

    • BOMBA 777

      You haven’t got a clue. Putin is a good & honest man that only wants peace & the west not building military basses on it’s border, as intended in Ukraine after they have been ‘bought’ with EU money.

  • richardrose

    This article sicken me! I am sick of liberal media trying to put the blame on Israel, where it clearly does not belong.

    Arab pales want the destruction of Israel and nothing less. Wake up liberal ass and support your country.

    Richard lover of zion.

  • Lorenzo

    Re:gaza. Stop building tunnels and stop hiding weapons in schools..teach peace not death…then we can talk

    • thecrud

      They want it so bad their elected representatives are terrorist.

  • Mike P.

    The issue here is that the author is named “Alon Ben-Amir.”

    Now, I don’t know him from Adam.

    However, we can discern from both his first name and last name that he is a secular Ashkenaz and of the Israeli elite, the old guard, parents from the Histadrut.

    A disproportionate share of individuals from this demographic like to juxtapose themselves against those segments of Israeli society they despise: the religious, the Sephardic, the Russian, the Ethiopian, the Jabotinsky acolytes, blue-collar, etc.

    Blaming these good Israelis for Arab, Muslim, Palestinian jingoism and irredentism is a way for them to justify their own nihilism, snobbery, and moral preening.

    It does not, however, justify their patent disregard for the Palestinians’ own words, actions, teachings, strategies, and barbarism. It does not justify their failure to learn any lessons from the peace talks of 2000, 2001, and 2008, Arafat’s terrorism of 1995 or the Second Intifada, or Gaza 2009, 2012 or 2014, or West Bank polls supporting Hamas, Arafat’s statements in Arabic that any truce with Israel is temporary, PA maps taught in schools showing all of Israel as part of Palestine, Hamas’ genocidal charter against all Jews, West Bank support for adopting the strategy of Gaza, a curriculum of hate and terrorism taught in all Palestinian schools, or Abbas’ adulation for terrorists, even the most recent ones.

    However, although Mr. Ben-Ami, I mean Ben Meir, may be willfully ignorant and incapable of drawing lessons or conclusions, and insists of not only engaging in the soft bigotry of low expectations, but also the hard bigotry of disrespecting Palestinians so much that he refuses to take them at their word, one thing is for certain.

    Mr. Ben Meir will be most welcome at most Tel Aviv cocktail parties and cultural events and he will go to his grave with the certitude that his enlightenment is distinctive.

    • Gerald Weisfogel

      Mike P I could not have said it better Thank you

    • Yossi C.

      This comment says it all.

  • Emanuel

    Palestinians want peace? they need leadership that want peace then. This world is a free-will, results and incentives based place. I want a lot of things like a Ferrari that doesn’t mean I can go take someone’s Ferrari because I want one and they have one. I have no doubt many many Palestinians want peace but the militant ones do not and Jews have a right to live in Israel and that doesn’t change no matter what. Bibi is right and by claiming he doesn’t want peace you equate Jews building on land they own with terrorism, if you can’t see the difference. This article is baseless nonsense, political lies about a noble leader coming from a lame one who you pander to like a sheep.

  • Bub

    The author makes some good points about how the withdrawal from Gaza might have been executed better, and how that might have avoided current problems. But he provides no more evidence to support his primary assertion that Palestinians’ goal is peaceful coexistence with Israel than Netanyahu provides to support his assertion that Palestinians’ goal is the destruction of Israel. Other assertions (e.g. withdrawing from the West Bank can be done in such a way as to enhance Israel’s security) are similarly made without evidence to support taking such a risky gamble.

    As a result, this looks more like an exercise in wishful thinking than like a scholarly article, or even a well thought-out opinion piece.

  • The Palestinians are the only independence movement in human history to reject a state of their own because of a boundary dispute.
    The BDS Movement began right after Israel announced that it would withdraw from Gaza.
    The ISIS map of the future Middle East that they are trying to achieve does not include a Palestinian state.

  • Ray

    As long as the powers-that-be are allowed to profit from war, and the people of planet earth continue to seek the difference rather than the similarities we all share, there will be no peace in Palestine, nor any other location on this planet. Become the change you wish to see… the powers-that-be are opportunists, and as long as we allow them opportunity, they will continue to dominate;

  • Wolf hunter

    Maybe some Palestinians do want peace with Israel and don’t want to wipe Them off the face of the earth as their ruling parties hope.. But they don’t just want peace. They want a lot of other stuff that Israel will not give them. And so they committ violent terror attacks.

    Peace would be easy. Stop killing Jews. Get rid of the rockets. . Israel would have no reason to attack them. Then you have peace. Problem is even those that would like peace, don’t just want that. They want much more.

    Getting what they want peacefully is another matter.

  • Ian

    Hahahahahahahaha…. Speachless.

  • Bear Klein

    This article is written by someone in the world of make believe. The Palestinians want to destroy the state of Israel. They say so in word and deed. The two state solution is a solution for war and not peace. This includes all the factions.

  • Surak

    Is this what Algemeiner has come to? This author is delusional, and treats facts as enemies. This screed could have been written by a J Street propagandist. Very disappointing.

  • judorebbe

    Of course, the Palestinians (both Hamas and Fatah) want peace.

    That’s why they start indoctrinating the future jihadis (aka children), from pre-school, that killing Jews is glorious.

    That’s why they name playgrounds, parks, streets, and schools for “heroic martyrs” who have murdered Jewish children.

    Who has bought your allegiance? – You couldn’t possibly as complete a fool as this article indicates!

    • JeffP

      judorebbe – Unfortunately children were killed by both sides. Even in the recent war there were several examples of that. Your hatred for each other does not let you see beyond the wars. It is about time people on both sides start rethinking their failed approach.

      Thanks Algemeiner for saying what everyone wanted to say and not stereotype.

      • judorebbe

        The jihadis of Hamas, Fatah, etc, deliberatelt target schools, playgrounds, and kindergartens.

        The IDF warns when strikes are about to be conducted, so that civilians can be evacuated.

        But, of course, that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull … Rather than protecting civilians, especially children, whose deaths make for great publicity, their kids are placed to become targets.

        And you see “moral equivalency” here? – You gotta be kidding?