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Israel:The Way Ahead Part 2
Last uploaded : Thursday 28th Feb 2002 at 23:02
Contributed by : Avi Harari


News While many Israeli political and military pundits have some great ideas about how to come to the short-term security threats posed by Palestinian hostility, there is a real shortage of developed long-term strategies. It’s commonly said also that a purely military solution to this problem doesn’t exist. Well, if this is the same as saying that nobody can win this conflict, then I disagree strongly: I have no doubt that Israel can win its current war against the Palestinians. Nevertheless, this struggle has to be seen within the context of a wider war that looks set, at the time of writing, to take place in the Middle East imminently; and in which Israel will most likely be involved one way or another - unfortunately.

If you have read my previous article: you will by now be aware that my view, for the geo-political reasons stated, is that there can only be one winner and one loser in this conflict. It really is “them or us”. Moreover, in the long-term, only a democratic state such as Israel can bring stability into this most volatile of situations.

Any state that the Palestinians might create is likely to be far too corrupt to have anything constructive to contribute. The question is, how can Israel thoroughly work this problem to find a lasting, coherent solution, capitalising on its sophistication and brainpower. There is a lot of expertise both in Israel and the Diaspora that could be brought to bear. All that is needed to make use of it is decisive leadership and a profound vision.

So, how to deal with a dangerously hostile yet captive population, so that conflict is lessened rather than increased over the long-term; and so that values consistent with the highest principles of Jewish culture and civilisation are not compromised? This is a tough challenge – but not an impossible one.

Equally, Israel will need to pay a price. In times of emergency and national danger, you need strong government more than you need consensual government. We can see this illustrated very clearly in the current Israeli political scene, where virtually anyone and everyone make whatever statements they like, undermining or inflammatory towards the current government and the military, and even visit the enemy. This is called free speech – a truly excellent democratic value. However, in a life and death situation, it is a liability, because it prevents the presentation of a unified defensive posture vis-?-vis the enemy.

If you have ever been in a small ship in a bad storm at sea, you will know that it is obviously far better to trust the skipper and do what he says instantly, than it is to argue with him or take a vote on everything. This is why I do not believe that the current Israeli form of government is suited to the crisis that the country now finds itself in: proportional representation may give fair government, but no way does it give strong government; and strong government is now necessary. So, some kind of constitutional reforms to provide that government must be implemented urgently.

Further, three basic principles must be applied to the problem at hand: containment, humanity and time.

Obviously, anyone who seeks to harm Israelis must be prevented from doing so. That’s why the current plan of creating security buffer zones around Palestinian areas is a good start. If someone is trying to murder you, first of all you need a very strong set of bars to put him behind. In the hierarchy of needs, physical containment is number one.

However, in practical terms, more is needed them just buffer zones. All Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza will need to be totally reconquered by the IDF. (If this amounts to admitting tacitly that the Oslo agreement was a total failure, then okay, the Oslo agreement was a total failure – but hey, we tried!).

All external borders must be secured, which also means stopping weapons smuggling. Notwithstanding the seizure of the Karine A, it would seem that the IDF has been substantially ineffective in this area, and a lot of weapons have been reaching the Palestinians one way or another. Next, the Palestinian population has to be totally disarmed. If this proves to be a costly exercise in terms of IDF casualties, it would still be a lot less costly than leaving the weapons in hostile hands.

I also happen to believe that all of the West Bank and Gaza should be permanently annexed to the state of Israel. This would be sending a strong message of permanence. It also massively retakes the initiative, forcing those with hostile intentions to play according to Israel’s game plan.

I am not advocating mass expulsions of Palestinians or ethnic cleansing. Far from it: the key is containment and selective expulsion of troublemakers, all done under the rule of law, albeit draconian law. Emergency powers must created to allow anyone who even throws so much as a stone within the designated areas of the West Bank or Gaza at Israeli soldiers to be apprehended and permanently expelled to another country – Lebanon or Jordan, say.

As long as they obey the law and do not harm other people, Arabs are welcome to stay. Despite this, they should be aware that they are living in a Jewish state that intends to remain so, and for that reason will not obtain the same level of political rights that they might (or in fact, probably will not) have in an equivalent Arab state. (Anyway, there is a state already where the Palestinians make up a sizeable proportion of the total population: Jordan.)

Palestinians would benefit from as many civil rights and amenities as they can reasonably be given, the ideal being to give them the exactly the same level of benefits as other people: urban regeneration, electricity, water, hospitals, education, Internet and business infrastructures, etc. This would be subject, though, to the security needs of the rest of the population.

The point is that if massive security can be maintained, troublemakers expelled, the consciousness of the general Palestinian population raised to the point where many Palestinians feel that there is something in it for them, there is a good chance that the Israel - Palestinian conflict can be resolved - down a long, painful road of reconciliation, that is. The emotional climate will change, although this will take a number of generations. From where I am sitting, however, there is no alternative to this strategy; unless you count the slow destruction of Israel as an alternative.


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