Something that seems obvious to me …
More important to me than determining who’s right or wrong in the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians is how a long-term (or even short-term) peaceful solution can be reached, and also whether current actions on both sides are in any way steps toward that solution. Right off the bat, it’s apparent that suicide bombing of any kind by the Palestinians is a step away from such a solution. Unfortunately, the groups that engage in suicide bombing don’t even want peace, they want conquest or revenge or who knows what, so the groups themselves are a huge part of the problem. Anyway, consider that the standard disclaimer that I feel I must give before I start criticizing Israel.
What seems obvious to me is that before any peaceful solution can be arrived at, Israel has to change its relationship with the Palestinians. A negotiated settlement and a bilateral cease fire would be great, but let’s assume for now that neither of those things are in the cards. In my opinion, Israel’s currently relationship with the Palestinians is one that is optimized for generating terrorism.
The fundamental problem is that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances against Israel, and they have no peaceful outlet for those grievances. If Israel wants to build settlements, they simply eject the Palestinians living where the settlement will be built and up goes a settlement. If Israel wants to build roads to settlements, they demolish whatever is in the way and build the roads. Then they bar the Palestinians from using or even crossing the roads. I don’t think a lot of the unconditional supporters of Israel really put a lot of thought into what that would be like if they were in the Palestinians’ shoes.
Those are just two examples of the ways that Israel puts pressure on the Palestinians. There’s also collective punishment via bulldozer, and the fact that Israel simply sends F-16s or Apaches to the occupied territories to blow up people they don’t like and anyone who happens to be standing near them. What psychological effect would it have on you if someone came and bulldozed your house tomorrow, and you knew that if you spent every dime you had rebuilding it (illegally because you’re not allowed a building permit), they could come back any time they liked and bulldoze it again? That’s the reality for Palestinians.
There’s nobody Palestinians can vote for who can change things, and there’s no court Palestinians can petition for redress for their grievances. Protesting in the streets hasn’t gotten them anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I know that plenty of this is the fault of the Palestinians (and more specifically, their leadership). The problem is that the Palestinians don’t seem to care, and they don’t seem to be too keen on blaming themselves. So that leaves me at the point where it seems obvious that Israel has to make a change.
You can’t hold four million people in limbo indefinitely. The Palestinians aren’t autonomous, nor are they citizens of Israel. So what are they? Israel needs to figure that out, as soon as possible. Expelling all of the Palestinians from the occupied territories (usually known as “ethnic cleansing”) is not an option. Building a fence around the occupied territories isn’t practical, probably won’t work, and still leaves the issue of four million disenfranchised Palestinians unchanged.
I don’t believe Israel is solely at fault for the situation as it exists, but I do believe that Israel has the most to gain by fixing it. At this point, the only thing I’d like to see is an end to ongoing, needless bloodshed. I don’t think that putting ever more pressure on the Palestinians is going to bring that about. I do think that Ariel Sharon believes that if he beats up on the Palestinians enough, that he can defang them and wind up with some sort of quisling leadership of the Palestinians. If the Palestinians had anything at all to lose, I might buy that. But, we’re talking about a people that willingly sends it sons and daughters on futile suicide missions day after day. That seems to be the very definition of nothing to lose, at least from where I sit.
So my current opinion is that Israel needs to create a situation where the Palestinians cannot blame Israel for all of their problems, and more importantly, one where the Palestinian leadership can’t rely on scapegoating Israel as a get out of jail free card. If Israel wants to keep rounding up known terrorists, that’s fine with me, but doing so is not going to solve the problem by itself. Something more is required.