is Still at War
May 9, 2017
SUMMARY: Israel just celebrated its sixty-ninth anniversary. Its citizens
can be proud of its many impressive achievements, and particularly the building
of a very strong military that has withstood many tests. Yet acceptance by all
its neighbors has not been attained. Israel is still at war.
several military defeats, the largest and strongest Arab state, Egypt, signed a
historic peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The defection of Egypt from the
anti-Israel Arab alliance largely neutralized the option of a large-scale
conventional attack on Israel, improving Israel’s overall strategic position.
Cairo refrained from developing normal relations with the Jewish state. A
“cold peace” evolved, underscoring the countries’ common strategic
interests but also the reluctance of Egypt to participate in reconciling the two
followed suit in 1994, largely emulating the Egyptian precedent. Jordan’s
peace treaty with Israel also reflected common strategic interests – but was
commonly referred to by Jordanians as the “King’s peace,” indicating a
disinclination for people-to-people interactions with the Jews west of the
inhibitions in the Arab world against accepting Israel should not be a surprise.
Muslims seem to have good theological reasons for rejecting the existence of a
Jewish state. Moreover, the education system in the Arab countries has
inculcated anti-Semitic messages and hatred toward Israel for decades.
Unfortunately, the dissemination of negative images of Jews and Israel has
hardly changed in Arab schools and media.
is also why the euphoria of the 1990s elicited by the “peace process” with
the Palestinians, and propagated by the “peace camp”, was unwarranted.
Indeed, the peace negotiations failed miserably. The process did, however, allow
the Palestinian national movement a foothold in the West Bank and Gaza. As a
large part of the Arab world is in deep socio-political crisis and another fears
the Iranian threat, it is the Palestinian national movement and the Islamists
that carry on the struggle against the Zionists.
Palestinians are at the forefront of the war on Israel, despite their lack of
tanks and airplanes. They use terror, and pay the terrorists captured by Israel
as well as their families. The use of force against Jews is applauded, and
killed perpetrators are awarded the status of martyrs. They use missiles against
Israel’s civilian population. The limits on their firepower are the result of
Israeli efforts to cut off their supply of armaments.
Palestinian national movement denies the historic links of the Jews to the Land
of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority (PA) demanded
of the UK that it apologize for the 1917 Balfour declaration, which recognized
Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel. There are endless examples in
Palestinian schools and media to sustain the conclusion that the Palestinians
are not ready to make peace.
the PA cannot conclude a “cold peace” like Egypt or Jordan. Those two
countries take their commitment seriously to prevent terrorism from their
territory. In the West Bank, the PA – established by Yitzhak Rabin on the
premise that it will fight terror in exchange for the transfer of territory –
refuses to honor its part of the bargain. It encourages terror by subsidies to
jailed terrorists and by innumerable steps to eulogize the “martyrs” and
honor their “heritage.” The ruling Palestinian elite in Gaza, Hamas,
formally refuses to give up armed struggle against Israel.
“Oslo process” was an attempt by Israel to push the Palestinian national
movement into a statist posture and to eventually adopt a statist rationale
along the lines of that of Egypt and Jordan, which led them to a “cold
peace” with Israel. But the religious and ethnic dimensions of the conflict
with Israel have overcome any underdeveloped statist Palestinian instincts. The
ethno-religious impulses of the Palestinians nurture their continuation of
far, no Palestinian leader who has adopted a statist agenda, prioritizing
state-building over other Palestinian aspirations, has garnered popular support.
Salam Fayyad, who was admired in the West for his attempts to reform the PA’s
bloated bureaucracy, seemed to tend in this direction. But his level of support
among the Palestinian public never rose above 10%.
society is becoming more religious and radical, similarly to other Arab
societies. This trend benefits Hamas, which is becoming more popular. The
ascendance of Hamas further feeds hostility towards Israel. A drive to satisfy
the quest for revenge, and, ultimately, to destroy Israel – which would be an
historic justice in the eyes of the Palestinians – overrides any other
renewal of negotiations leading to Israeli withdrawals is extremely unlikely to
result in a durable and satisfactory agreement any time soon. Israel will need
to maintain a strong army for many more decades to deal with the Palestinian
challenge. Moreover, changes within neighboring states can be rapid. Unexpected
scenarios, such as a return of the Muslim Brotherhood to the helm in Egypt or
the fall of the Hashemite dynasty, might take place, and a large-scale
conventional threat might reemerge. Finally, the Iranian nuclear specter is
still hovering over the Middle East.
must remain vigilant and continue to prepare for a variety of warlike scenarios.
The understandable desire for peace should not blur the discomforting likelihood
that Israel will live by its sword for many years to come.