Israel’s political leaders have rightly expressed anger at the US State Department’s hostile characterizations of the Palestinian terrorist onslaught. Secretary of State John Kerry’s claims, parroted by his spokesmen, that Israel is either entirely to blame for Palestinian terrorism or shares the blame equally with the Palestinians, are baseless lies.
Kerry and his spokesmen have alleged that the current Palestinian convulsion of murderous violence is a product of “a massive increase in settlements.” Yet as Haaretz reported this week, Israel has built fewer homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria since 2009, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (and President Barack Obama) entered office, than it had since 1995. The steep increase in the Jewish population in the areas is almost entirely the result of Jewish women having babies.
The other accusations the State Department has leveled against Israel – that it incites violence and engages in terrorism – are so obscene that there is no point in trying to set the record straight. Quite simply, an administration comfortable with libeling Israel in this way doesn’t want to know the truth.
While at this point it is abundantly clear that Kerry like the administration he serves has an unpleasant, irrational obsession with the Jewish state, it’s hard to shake the conclusion that there is more going on here than simply opposition to Israel.
For instance his claim this week that “Unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody,” is more an assault on reality generally than on Israel in particular.
Kerry, like the Obama administration as a whole, is angry at reality because at least as far as Israel and its Palestinian neighbors are concerned, reality shares no common ground with the administration’s assumption of Israeli guilt.
There is no chance that Palestinian Authority Chairman and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas will agree to make peace with Israel. We know this not only because Abbas rejected peace and a Palestinian state when then-prime minister Ehud Olmert offered him both in 2008. We know this as well because three years ago Abbas rejected the idea of a negotiated settlement and opted instead to use the UN to gain international recognition of a Palestinian state at war with Israel.
For the past several years, Obama and his advisers have collaborated with Abbas’s UN strategy by refusing to commit themselves to vetoing a UN Security Council resolution mandating the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In so doing, they have shown that they want Israel to vacate Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria no matter what.
If we learn nothing else from the current violence, we must learn that the idea we can separate from the Palestinians is a delusion.
The current round of Palestinian terrorism, like last year’s offensive, has been largely undertaken by Arabs who live in Israel – either Israeli citizens from the Galilee or permanent residents from Jerusalem. The natural response that many Israelis have had to the fact that it is our fellow citizens and residents of our capital city that are perpetrating the violence has been to hope that a way can be found to finally separate from them.
While understandable, this visceral response to Arab-Israeli terrorism is based on a misunderstanding of reality.
Israelis who preach separation from the Palestinians as a strategic goal claim that the reason the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem – like the Palestinians of Gaza and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon before them – oppose Israel is because Israel controls the territory they live in. Accordingly, they argue, if Israel quits these areas – as it withdrew from Gaza and south Lebanon in the past – the Palestinians will stop their attacks.
They are wrong.
Arab Israelis and Jerusalem residents aren’t attacking Jews because Israel exercises sovereignty over the areas they live in. They are attacking Israel because like the Palestinians in Judea, and Samaria, they watch Palestinian and pan-Arab television, and like the Palestinians they use Facebook.
In other words, the 1.7 million Arabs inside sovereign Israel, and the 1.7 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have been subjected to the same campaign of incitement and solicitation of terrorism against Jews over the past year and to the same 22 years of indoctrination to hate Jews and seek Israel’s destruction. The geographic borders separating these two groups have no impact whatsoever on their hearts and minds.
The question isn’t how they feel, but whether or not they can act on their feelings.
The reason that the Arab Israelis who have been moved to murder Jews do so with knives and pistols rather than missiles and suicide vests is that Israel controls Jerusalem and the Galilee. Israel’s sole security control over its territory enables the security cabinet to decide to deploy security forces throughout the country and to place roadblocks at the entrances to all the major Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem without fear of armed opposition.
Likewise, the reason the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria haven’t renewed their mass casualty bombings from a decade ago despite the Palestinian and pan-Arab incitement is that beginning in Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, the IDF retook control over the Palestinian population centers from the PA.
Today Palestinian terrorist cells operating in the areas know that if they turn their guns on Israelis again, the IDF will immediately take their guns and arrest or kill them. Had Israel implemented then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria in 2007, Israel would be facing a catastrophic situation today.
The main difference between the Arabs of Israel and of Judea and Samaria today is not their intentions, but the fact that in Israel proper, the government is the sole governing authority, while in Judea and Samaria, Israel shares sovereign control with the PLO-controlled PA. Two unique military challenges arise from this distinction. First, unlike the situation in Israel proper, in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians are armed to the teeth. The quantities of firearms and explosives in Judea and Samaria are dizzying.
Since 2007, when his forces were thrown out of Gaza, Abbas has viewed Hamas as a greater threat to his regime than Israel. As a result, he has cooperated with Israel in fighting Hamas and has not ordered his US-trained forces to turn their guns on the IDF and Israeli civilians.
So since Israel’s ability to operate in Judea and Samaria at will has kept Hamas at bay, and Abbas’s belief that Hamas is a greater threat than Israel has kept him in check, Israel’s security control over the areas has prevented both Hamas and the PA from waging a renewed terrorist offensive against Israel.
Unfortunately, this state of affairs will not last much longer. In all likelihood, at some point in the near to medium term, the PA’s threat assessment will change. The US-trained PA security forces will come to view Hamas as less of a threat than Israel.
The main reason for this changed assessment is incitement. Like the rest of Palestinian society, the PA’s security services have been marinated in genocidal Jew hatred at the hands of Abbas’s media and Al Jazeera for the past 22 years. And as we see with the Jerusalem Arabs who run over Jews and then butcher them with meat cleavers, 22 years of indoctrination leaves a mark.
But that’s not the only reason that the PA as we know it is about to disappear. In the not too distant future, Abbas will either retire or pass away.
The PLO chief who incites Palestinians to murder Jews while owing his life and regime to the IDF which keeps Hamas and his Fatah challengers at bay is 80 years old. Just a month ago he resigned for the 10th time.
None of Abbas’s possible successors will be likelier to lead the Palestinians to peaceful coexistence with Israel than Abbas has been.
Moreover, none of them is likely to succeed in maintaining the PA as a coherent regime throughout Judea and Samaria. It is far likelier that after Abbas departs, the PA will fall apart and each Palestinian population center will be ruled by a local clan or militia. Under such a scenario, the current distinctions between Hamas and Fatah affiliates are likely to fall by the wayside.
Here it is important to note that Israel has no interest in prolonging Abbas’s tenure. To the contrary, his record in office makes clear that he has personally caused great damage to Israel.
For while Abbas owes his life and regime to Israel, he leads the diplomatic war against Israel in the international arena.
Abbas’s refusal – despite his repeated resignations – to vacate his position, along with claims by Israeli officeholders that he serves as a moderating force in Palestinian society, have placed Israel in a situation where it is forced to participate in the diplomatic war against itself.
After all, if Abbas is moderate and legitimate, then his incitement against Israel is similarly legitimate.
Israel’s reluctance to abandon the fiction of Abbas’s moderation makes it impossible for it to prepare for the day after he disappears.
Such preparations would involve setting the stage for expanded Israeli control over the territories.
Steps to this end include limiting the transfer of weapons and additional Palestinian forces to Judea and Samaria. To this end, Israel must begin explaining to Congress that continued US funding of the Palestinian security forces endangers Israel.
So, too, Israel must pounce on any opportunity to seize weapons in Judea and Samaria.
The more weapons Israel takes control over today, the fewer it will need to seize in the future.
Perhaps more important than any specific step that it can and should take to minimize the long-term dangers posed by the heavily armed Palestinian militias and security forces, our political and military leaders simply need to recognize that Palestinian society in Judea and Samaria is about to undergo major political changes. The better Israel recognizes the dynamics at play, the better prepared it will be to shape the new reality ways that minimize threats to our long-term security.
No, Israel cannot change what is in the hearts and minds of the Palestinians, or of its Arab citizens and permanent residents. And it is because of this that separation is a chimera.
All we can do is limit their ability to act on the hatred that has been instilled in them for the past 22 years.
As for Kerry and his delusions, we have no choice but to allow him to fail to make peace again. But while we are at it, we need to recognize that given that he lives in his world of delusion, no concession Israel makes in the real world will satisfy him.
A version of this piece previously appeared on The Jerusalem Post.