WaPo: IDF Losing Support Among Israelis

Instead of complaining about the lack of soldiers, perhaps Israel should think about making peace

In a breaking story that represents perhaps a break though in the understanding of the brutality of the IDF and the illegality of the occupation of Palestine, the Washington Post has a story today about how a growing number of Israelis are avoiding the required military service, leaving the IDF with a troop shortage.  Finally an American newspaper is highlighting those Israelis who do not approve of the violent actions of their army.  Israelis are abandoning the IDF out of a sense of morality!

Or not.

After reading the headline, “Israel confronts flagging interest in military service,” I thought perhaps WaPo was going to speak about those Israelis that avoid military service not out of fear of combat, but rather as a means of protesting the violent used in the occupation of Palestine and the discrimination against Israeli Arabs.  And then I remembered what newspaper I was reading.  The article started promisingly enough:

Now, the Israel Defense Forces’ position as the country’s most venerated institution appears to be slipping. While service is compulsory for most young men and women, a growing minority is avoiding conscription, leaving planners to worry the military won’t have the troops it says it needs.

[tweetmeme] But then the article began to discuss that the real problem behind the lack of active support for the IDF was simply the rising percentage of ultra-orthodox Jews who are exempt from military service.  According to the paper, the IDF is losing 13% of potential draftees to religious exemption, compared to 4% a decade ago. The article quotes, among others, a military man living in an illegal settlement – Ma’aleh Adumim, outside of Jerusalem, a lifetime military man and a reservist in charge of recruitment who all speak about the prestige gained in Israeli society from military service and the failure of the IDF to maintain soldiers past the required service-time.  Nowhere in the article does it mention the peace camp present in Israeli society and those who would rather teach or volunteer than participate in the increasing discrimination against Arabs, both within Israel and in occupied Palestine. Fortunately (I guess), the article does reveal how the military is growing more extremist and more attached to the Zionist occupation of Palestine:

The characteristics of those who do serve are changing in striking ways. Officers who are ideologically opposed to relinquishing Israeli control of the West Bank are taking on a more prominent role, potentially complicating any eventual Israeli withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the territory as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians… In the past, officers largely came from secular, elite families from the Tel Aviv area or the collective farms known as kibbutzim. But today, increasing numbers are observant Jews who tend to be more politically oriented, more committed to the Zionist cause and more integrated into society than the ultra-Orthodox. An Israeli military magazine, Ma’arachot, reported recently that one-third of those who complete officers’ courses come from this group, a roughly tenfold increase over a decade ago.

So, thanks to WaPo‘s unbiased, completely accurate reporting, the IDF is growing more attached to the illegal occupation and is predicting a shortage of soldiers needed to flaunt international law and suppress the Palestinians.  Perhaps the shortage of soldiers has something to do with the amount of Israeli military power located in, you know, not Israel.  Yet with the shift right in military thinking, the thought of reducing the self-imposed state of constant warfare is probably not heard much.

Photo from Chris; Jiftlik, Palestine; 2010

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11 thoughts on “WaPo: IDF Losing Support Among Israelis

  1. First and foremost I must say that your Blog seem informative and to the point
    One thing about this article I’d like to comment about:

    “Instead of complaining about the lack of soldiers, perhaps Israel should think about making peace”

    I’ll go with you on this one: let’s play the “what if” game – if Israel will now commit to a long lasting two-state solution with some form of a unified Palestinian government: 1967 borders, East-Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and some solution to the “Right to return” and the refugees in some form of monetary compensation and not the right re-settle in Israel (i.e. the Geneva Peace initiative and not the Arab initiative).

    Do you really think such an agreement will hold? You read statements from Hamas and from other Islamic fundamentalists (I assume) – what will assure the Israeli citizens that such an agreement will put a stop to the Palestinians demands?

    If some radical group will start bombarding Tel-Aviv with rocket attacks as they do Sderot just because they want something they didn’t get, or use it as an excuse for violence (I assume it will be the right to return – which is an obvious threat on Israel’s Jewish majority and is not an acceptable option by any Israeli, as you clearly stated in one of your posts) who will intervene and enforce the agreement and protect Israel?

    I used to think that such a scenario was so far-fetched that it is worth taking the risk – the sad truth (as I see it) is that Israel will always be the target of Islamic militants no matter what concessions it will take: I actually really hope I’m wrong but the recent conflicts from 2006 and 2008 with Hamas and Hezbollah had educated me to this sad truth very clearly.

    Will you agree there’s something deeper?

    1. Thanks for the note Tom,

      I do agree with you that any two state solution will inevitably include some abrogation of the right to return, thus making it unacceptable to many Palestinian refugees as well as a handful of hardliners. However, I would also argue that any agreement would also include a number of security measures, including a beefed up PA force – working closely with Israeli security forces, an international force as well as economic incentives for adhering to peace. While this would not completely eliminate the risk of extremist violence, it would make it more difficult. Moreover, if extremists started launching rockets at Tel Aviv, Israel would have enormous international backing to ensure its security as it would have made the concessions needed for peace.

      My second thought is that you are espousing a rather fatalistic view of the situation. One-state solution is impossible and ending the occupation is impossible as well, because of the security risks. In that way you are dooming Israel to perpetual occupation and international isolation. While I agree that there are security risks to a two-state solution and that a one, bi-national state is unacceptable to Jews, I would also argue that the status quo is completely unacceptable. I say that, of course, knowing that the status quo has been acceptable for over 40 years, but I cannot believe Israel or the international community would put up with a never-ending occupation.

      With all that in mind, I am slowly (and if you have read the blog for a while, you might have perceived this) turning to the thought that a one-state solution is increasingly likely. With what seems like a shift to the right and a re-dedication to Zionism and Greater Israel, it seems unlikely that Israeli society is ready or will be ready soon to truly withdraw from Palestinian territory.

      Thanks for the note!

      1. You say fatalistic, I say realistic…

        I’ll try to explain what I mean while addressing your reply:

        “…thus making it [an acceptable solution to the right to return] unacceptable to many Palestinian refugees as well as a handful of hardliners”

        As you stated in earlier posts Hammas is now a major player and was elected in internationally accepted elections – in which the Palestinian voters awarded it with a vast majority (over 60% if I remember correctly). Not quite a handful of hardliners… it seems the Palestinian street is not that keen on relinquishing the full right to return.

        “…including a beefed up PA force – working closely with Israeli security forces, an international force as well as economic incentives for adhering to peace.”

        I’m pretty sure the beefed up PA force will be considerably weaker then the Lebanese army, who had done absolutely nothing to stop Hezbollah from provoking attacks on Israel that were meant to uphold interests that are clearly not of the Lebanese. It’s now evidently clear that Lebanon isn’t going to shun the Syrian and Iranian pressure and be an independent entity free to decide it’s own affairs (even if it means teaming up with the leaders who ordered the murder of your father). What’s even sadder is that the same Lebanese Army is now actively attacking Israel without provocation, while an international force (UNIFIL) is right next to them and does nothing to stop it. In my eyes Israel should think long and hard if it’s not making the same mistake twice… and the scenario we put together is the “best practice”, and still, it seems really lacking.
        And regarding economic incentives: economic growth is normally enjoyed by few, or some, leaving a vast number of the population poor (or even poorer then now) and thus giving those same extremists even more fertile ground to stage a revolution or violent attacks against Israel / PA in order to act out interests of their own or of an outside player (I mean Hammas and others, which we agree that now represent the democratic wishes of most of the Palestinian people – so it’s a revolution and not a coup).

        “Israel would have enormous international backing to ensure its security as it would have made the concessions needed for peace.”

        Are you implying that Israel will be granted the rights to defend itself against such plausible attacks? like the enormous international backing Israel had in its recent campaign against Hezbollah? You might say they over-reacted, but who are we to decide another’s country measures of defending itself? Unless we’re willing to do it for them.

        I view your gravitation towards the One-state solution as an extreme gamble – mainly from the POV of the Palestinians: you drew only three possible outcomes for such a solution – two of them ending (If I remember correctly… can’t backtrack to it right now) in international pressure forcing Israel to acknowledge a Palestinian state. If I remember correctly Israel had its share of pressures under the Carter administration… which resulted to nothing. There are of course many possible outcomes to this notion – many of them seem to end in even more bloodshed or a new Status que Even now there’s intense international pressure (and sometimes slander in my mind) towards Israel and still there’s no outcry in the Israeli populace, which seems willing to make serious concessions in order to end the occupation, but still feels insecure in regards to the Palestinian side (Yes, there’s a rise in support for the right-wing politicians… but Liebermann had about 13% of the voters… and if combined with other far-right parties it doesn’t amount to the overwhelming 60% Hammas enjoys, and none of the Israeli are openly calling for the destruction of the Palestinians or their banishment, even by consent – those are illegal or taboo and parties shun those who actively proclaim such things).

        To sum up my reply – I believe that asking either side to make uncalculated gambles, that none of them seem willing to take, is something a bit naive (but with all the good intensions possible).

      2. Tom,

        1) By fatalistic, I am referring to what seems to be a view that Israel has no choice but to extend the occupation. One state is impossible due to demographics and two-states is impossible due to security. By extension, the only choice Israel has is to continue the occupation, extend the status quo and maintain its current path which has put it under the international microscope. Perhaps fatalistic is the wrong word, but I think that both one-state and two-state solutions are more likely than the current state of affairs extended in perpetuity. There are choices.

        2) While it is true that Hamas holds strongly onto the right of return, it has also been clear that it would accept 1967 borders for the state. Given that and the fact that, while nationalistic, Hamas is still a populist organization, it is entirely possible that economic incentives for the non-refugees could push popular opinion into giving up the right of return. Will there still be problems? Sure. Will it inevitably result in violence and revolution? Its possible, but not inevitable.

        3) The comparison to Hezbollah and Lebanon is a tempting one, but very different in several ways. First, the PA works extensively in cooperation with Israeli security forces. This is unlikely to stop after an Israeli pull-out. Could be more difficult, sure, but the PA has much better relations with Israel than Hariri’s Lebanon and Hamas is much weaker than Hezbollah. Moreover, Hamas derives much of its popularity from Israel’s suppression of Palestinians – give Gazans more economic freedom and it is probable that a Hamas whose resistance threatens the newfound economic freedoms would lose popularity. Also, for the cooperation between Israel and PA, there was coincidentally an article in Haaretz today talking about how the terrorist list in the West Bank is near zero, thanks to Israeli-Palestinian coordination.

        Though I do agree that a UNIFIL type force would have limited ability to control / end a situation if one did break out. Perhaps off topic, but from how I understood the Lebanon/Israeli border clash is that it resulted from a misunderstanding of where the actual border was. Was Lebanon a bit trigger-happy? Yeah, but without provocation is probably misleading. It is also important to note that Hezbollah completely stayed out of the confrontation despite being present – a testament to Israeli power.

        4) My point is that if Israel ended the occupation, it would go a long way towards improving its relations with the international community. In 2006 and 2008, Israel was condemned for its attacks, but it was also condemned for continuing the occupation. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, it would be indirectly be buying international support for its continued security. Likewise, attacks on Israel now are frowned on by the IC; if such attacks came from an independent Palestinian state that was created thanks to Israeli concessions, the international community would be adamant that such attacks stop. Is the PA were to be leading the Palestinian government, I would not be surprised to see high coordination between PA security and IDF/Mossad/Border Police to completely halt such attacks. Much more than in Gaza.

        5) My shift towards a one-state solution is two-fold. First, the current Israeli government doesn’t want to stop settlements and seems intent on keeping both East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. This kind of agreement would render a Palestinian entity economically inviable. If Israel maintains this line, a two-state solution would be impossible. Considering that, from the Palestinian POV, the status quo is undesirable, that leaves one option left.

        Secondly, if the PA were to dissolve and Palestinian politicians began actively pushing for integration into one democratic state, Israel would be seriously threatened. Since there is no way Israel accepts that, the absence of the PA is an incredible threat to Israel’s demographics. Sans the PA, Israel loses its negotiating partner and is simply an occupier that is denying Palestinians certain human rights. Israel has rhetorically acknowledged the Palestinians right to self-determination. If the Palestinians say they want to be Israeli, what will Israel do? The dissolution of the PA is not a way to increase international pressure (without a change in the US stance, international pressure is pretty useless), it is basically an ultimatum to Israel. Independent Palestine or a push for an Israel without a Jewish majority. I would have to believe that Israel chooses the former every time.

        Of course, taking the one-state line is a massive gamble and there are millions of ways that it could play out. But the push for two-states with 67 borders has gone nowhere in 40+ years. Israel is fine with the status quo and Palestine isn’t. The demographic threat is perhaps the only leverage Palestinians have to force a change in Israeli policy. Something needs to change and the adoption of a one-state line immediately changes Israeli policy.

        6) Finally, in order to come to any kind of solution, both sides are going to need to take risky (though calculated) gambles that they are not willing to take. Perhaps it is naive, but it is the only way out of the current mess.

  2. Stimulating discussion 🙂 – I’m sorry for such long replies… but I don’t think these are simplistic issues:

    1) Can’t agree with you more – I don’t think the current status quo should even be considered as a long term solution never the less as a perpetual state, and the majority of people in Israel and political leaders agree. The only ones who actually want to continue the status quo (or escalate it) are the far right – because then the dream of a unified biblical empire of Israel will inevitably die. It’s their way of clinging to their dream, using their democratic power and US Neo-Conservatives supporters in order to make sure this dream is kept alive.

    2) Hamas represents the Palestinian far right (in my mind) – which are fighting for their dream: from what I’ve read about Hamas the first stage in this dream is indeed establishing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital (the whole of Jerusalem or just east Jerusalem isn’t clear) and the right to return without recognizing the Israeli state. The second stage? I’ll leave you with these quotes Mahmoud Al-Zahhar:

    “Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it. Our ultimate plan is [to have] Palestine in its entirety. I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy.”
    June 15, 2010.

    “The Jews will soon be expelled from Palestine that same way they were kicked out by France, Britain, Belgium, Russia and Germany”
    November 6, 2010 (last weekend, not sure about the date :-))

    Again – this is a leader of a party elected democratically by a vast majority and enjoys the support of major players in the region such Iran, Syria, Lebanon and recently Turkey … so I’m guessing he’ll come through and complete (or try to) Stage two.

    Will it inevitably result in violence and revolution you asked? Not inevitable… but highly probable. Most Israelis don’t rally behind the far-fetched dreams of the far right few and want to put an end to this miserable and unjust conflict (this will doesn’t seem to be caused from international pressure, they might have a conscience. but the pressure doesn’t hurt for now) Are the Palestinians (in the west bank and in Gaza) lash out at Hamas for being un-realistic and directly endangering the Palestinian cause (and people) while demanding for another election with cries of “this isn’t what I elected you for”?. You blamed the US for being hypocritical since they negotiate with Taliban but not Hamas… to my knowledge Taliban is now a resistance movement bent on driving coalition forces out of their land… I might be mistaken here but I didn’t see any news regarding talks with Al-Qaeda – which is an organization calling for annihilation “of the great Satan America”. So what you’re asking the Israelis is to help Hamas complete stage one of his plan and hope that stage two of the plan will somehow lose momentum disregarding the fact that actually completing stage one will be the major leverage for Hamas for starting stage two. I asked where is the silent majority of the Palestinians, I also ask where is the loud international Peace activists and vast Arab world pressure towards Hamas into forgoing their militant and destructive plans?

    3) I think the comparison is frighteningly similar since I doubt that Israeli Security forces will operate in the newly-found Palestinian state – it will be a state with its own security forces. There might be joint border patrols… but an independent state is an independent state so I can’t imagine Sayeret MATKAL performing arrests in Nablus’s Kasbah or Apache gunships attacking rocket launchers in Jenin. Acts of these will be (and should be) treated as acts of aggression or a declaration of war by another Country. And I’m not worried about the PA: I’m sure they will try to enforce the peace as much as the internal political climate will allow them, until cries of “lackeys and puppet heads of the Zionist entity” will ring out in mosques all over Palestine. What will happen then? Should Israel come to the aid of the PA like she did in South-Lebanon? Regarding the terrorist most wanted lists: the Tanzim and other Fatah militants groups were removed from the lists in the past years since the break from Hamas in order to allow Fatah to have a significant Security force to detain Hamas militants in the West Bank… so that might had something to do with that also. I can say that Abbas came true on his word and helped keep Hamas in check, but I can only pray that after a unification of the Palestinian parties this zealous policing will continue, and if so will not shatter (again) the frail alliance.
    I agree with you in thinking that allowing economic freedom has a possible chance in chipping away at Hamas’s support. My only concern is that Hamas has more than enough supporters on the Palestinian street and will still a very significant player even after losing 20% of supporters while gaining more direct support from the afore mentioned major regional players (like Hezbollah is). Hopefully opening Gaza up for trade and goods (ASAP) will give us some idea if Hamas will “play nice” (I’ll remind you of the proxy attacks carried out by newly-found militant groups in the first months after the elections “it’s not us, it’s them”).
    It’s not a provocation but an excuse prepared in advance: The maintenance performed on the fence was coordinated months in advance with UNIFIL – that’s why UNIFIL members were on scene (they escorted the Lebanese Army to that segment of the border). Since the report by UNIFIL stating they informed the Lebanese and noted that IDF soldiers did not cross the Blue line during the incident there was no comment from the Lebanese. So perhaps you were mislead… not by me. Some analysts claim that Hezbollah sanctioned the action in advance, or even ordered it… If that’s true the incident is actually a testament to Hezbollah’s power in south Lebanon, since nothing in South Lebanon happens without Hezbollah signing off on it (including UNIFIL patrols). We’ll never know since the UNIFIL report goes unanswered.

    4) I was referring to overwhelming criticism regarding Israel’s response to acts of violence performed against its sovereignty from territories not under its control – implying that the same rhetoric will be heard when Israel will, again, retaliate against attacks coming from the Palestinian state (who might not directly support the attacks, just allow it… like Lebanon). The criticism towards Israel occupying the West bank and Gaza is now 40+ years old and had been much stronger in the past. I BTW share this view with the IC, but am still looking for a pragmatic solution I can believe in.

    The IC can frown upon attacks on Israel until they’re red in the face… nothing is being done (we just discussed an attack committed by a member state of the UN Security council who didn’t uphold a UN resolution… not even a warning or the proverbial slap on the wrist).

    You might be over-estimating the importance of the IC, I say let’s look at the AS – the Arab Street: Hamas and Hezbollah are viewed as freedom fighters freeing Palestine. And this view will endure long after establishing Palestine. Yes, some moderate Arab leaders will issue (sometimes) a stale denunciation… but on the streets and on the Arab TV stations you’ll hear a different tune. And again, coordination and cooperation are things that needs the two parties involved to willingly want to participate, and even more importantly will be able to so without losing their support base.

    5) The current Israeli government doesn’t want to stop the settlements and had not proclaimed the intention of dividing Jerusalem, no argument there. Why did the Palestinian leadership start the talks at the end of the freeze and not at its start? They had the former part of the above statement fulfilled… why not negotiate about the latter (and all the other core issues)? Why state pre-determined terms to negotiations, kind of’ defeats the purpose… Even the demand from the Israeli leadership to stop the rocket attacks before sitting down to the negotiations table was frowned upon (in 2004 I think, the “shooting and talking” demand).

    Regarding the One-state approach: I’m not saying you’re completely wrong in thinking it will force the Israelis in acknowledging the State of Palestine, I’m saying you’re mostly wrong in assuming that it will have the results we hope for: who’s to say Israel will acknowledge Palestine under the ’67 borders? Who’s to say there won’t be a new Status quo (better or worse I don’t know – what were the conditions of the Palestinian populace under Israeli military rule)? Who’s to say there won’t be a civil war (I imagine it as acute civil unrest) that will result in more casualties and bloodshed? And lastly (and most importantly in my mind) who’s to say that even if Israel is forced into acknowledging Palestine there won’t be another round of violence – just now between two states. We’re just where we started… to me it seems like a waste of time and probably lives.
    I’ll try to look up an historical example for a forced peace.

    You stated that the push for two states with the ’67 borders has gone nowhere in 40+ years and that Israel is fine with the status quo and the Palestinians aren’t – Can I assume that you hold most or all of the blame to Israel and its leaders over the years (taking into consideration your plan to force Israel into reorganization of Palestine)? If I’m wrong or partially wrong in my assumption do let me know.

    6) And finally I can agree both sides will need to take risky gambles that they are not willing to take, but I don’t think forcing just one side is the only option. And Israeli history only shows that the more you pressure the more entrenched they get. Actually “forcing” (I mean persuading…) more Palestinians and Arab leaders into a more pragmatic approach towards Israel (and to the west in some places) might “force” Israel into a stable and full regional peace.

    1. I will keep this as short as I can because I believe this type of tit for tat back and forth of on blogs between two views to far apart is counterproductive.
      Hamas did not get well over 60% of the vote, they got 60% of the seats in the Parliament because the PNC weighes regions and gives more, which Hamas did very well in.
      The majority of Israelis do not want a peace to end this unjust conflict as you say. I go to Hebrew University and deal with Israelis everyday, they are self interested in this and want an end in the sense of they do not want the Palestinians to exist, or they want them to just shut up and deal with it.
      In terms of security why is it that Israel, with possibly the second best military in the world cites security as their main concern and yet the security of the Palestinians is not an issue? Why doesn’t Hamas get to secure their people? What is the actual threat of Hamas to Israel, in a serious sense? 29 Israelis, including soldiers have died from the rockets that children in America could make from science kits, in 10 years. 10 years, 29 deaths. The majority of which were of Israeli settlers in Gaza, and 6 or 7 were soldiers during the Gaza Massacre of 08-09. This is a threat to Israel? Come on, you have to be kidding here. More Israelis are killed by each other in a year over petty crime. Car accidents are hundreds of times this in Israel. This is a joke argument not worthy of persuing in the most serious sense. In terms of how and why Hamas got elected I feel it is rather redudant and obvious, it has nothing to do with Jews in the sea or other rhetoric they could never do, pending they actually wanted to. It is because they give security to a people deprived of anything and everything close to security. They give people who are on the brink of survival hope and just enough to survive with some dignity. They make the suffering communal instead of just for refugees in Gaza and the poor throughout the Palestinian community. They give people an identity of community in a fragmented, occupied, and oppressed people. You do not know the effects of these factors on a people and when someone is willing to give them a hand and say “let’s work together and overcome this” you expect them to say “no no no, I want to stay with the people who have stolen my money, fragmented us more, and gotten us nothing but more restrictions and occupation by the Israelis” come on now.
      In terms of Hizballah and your overinflation of their abilities and desires I will just say this. 2006 was a kidnapping mission on their part of soldiers who constantly and to this day occupy Lebanese territory. This was intended to negotiate a prisoner swap with Israel who has an unreported number (estimated in the 1000s) of Lebanese political/militia prisoners from their 20 year occupation of Lebanon. Hizballah contacted the Israelis for a swap and the Israelis bombed them to try and send a sign. How is this Hizballah provocation but the illegal detention of 1000s of Lebanese for many many years is not mentioned? Seems hypocritical, but that is me I guess.

      1. Couple of points.
        First, I would argue and did above that a major part of the Hamas electoral victory came from a need to change the Palestinian political system and Hamas was simply the only other alternative. You start to imply this at the end, but it is worth stating outright. Second, while in comparison to Palestinian deaths, the number of Israeli deaths over the life of the conflict is less than minuscule, they are still deaths that the Israeli public reacts to – and the Israeli public has an Israeli government that has an Israeli military that can do something. While the comparison makes Palestinian life seem worthless, 29 deaths holds more sway if something can actually be done (or something can be perceived to have been done). Thirdly, I would hold back from making all-encompassing statements about Israelis. Though I believe that the number of Israelis who do not want peace is higher than Tom thinks, I also think that there are many of ‘them’ that do.

        Finally, while an interesting discussion, lets try to keep this away from Hizbollah in order to give this discussion some kind of structure.

    2. Hey, I’m enjoying the back and forth too 🙂

      1) Agreed, only thing I would add is that this thought of Greater Israel has been mainstream in the Israeli political establishment for decades. Where to draw the line between far-right crazies and far-right and just right-wing is another interesting topic, but perhaps deviating.

      2) As for Hamas, I think that it is important to consider that while it is one political party, there are wildly different views on the conflict. It is true that Al-Zahhar says the things he says, but that is perhaps akin to me pointing to Lieberman suggesting population transfer as representative of right-wing Palestinian thought. There are plenty of ‘moderate’ Hamas politicians. Take Khalid Meshaal, the actual leader of Hamas (though exiled to Syria) who has repeatedly said that Hamas would accept the Israeli state along ’67 border – implying a division of Jerusalem (was on Charlie Rose http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11032#frame_top earlier this year and just gave an interview to some Bulgarian, I think, organization and reiterated the same point – sorry, can’t find the link):

      “If Israel withdraws to the borders of 1967, and from East Jerusalem, that will become the capital of the Palestinian state with the right of self — with the right of return for the refugees and with a Palestinian state with real sovereignty on the land and on the borders and on the checkpoints. Then we — the Palestinian state will decide the future of the relationship with Israel. And we will respect the decision that will reflect the viewpoint of the majority of the Palestinian people both inside and outside Palestine.”

      There is certainly a strong possibility that the moderate factions of Hamas would be willing to make a deal with Israel based on ’67 borders and perhaps even convinced to accept some alternative to the refugee issue. Of course, if there is a deal that prohibits the right of the return, there are going to be many that disagree and reject the deal, but I think you are overestimating what actual freedom can do for the Palestinians. Moreover, when Hamas was elected (with 60 seats, not 60%), a significant number of Palestinians voted for them as an alternative to the insane corruption of Fatah, not because they wanted an end to Israel. Take away the number of Palestinians who voted for Hamas simply as a change, the number of Palestinians who would be amenable to less than perfect agreement (Pal. POV) if it meant more economic and political freedom (read: better life) and the number of Hamas members who are more moderate and might accept such a solution as well as those Hamas supporters who have become disenchanted with the party (a poll earlier this year revealed that Hamas would probably lose elections today) and you are left with a relatively small number of true hard-liners that would be against a truly independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and true sovereignty over its territory (but with no right to return). As for the “that’s not why I voted for you” thought, it is precisely this reason why Hamas was elected. Without the support of the disenchanted ex-fatah supporters, Hamas would not have won. Why can’t Palestinians do the same to Hamas?

      As for the far-fetched dreams of the far right few, I would argue that since 1967 and even before, Palestinians from across the political spectrum were looking to annex all of the West Bank (if not just the Jordan Valley – look at the Allon plan of the late 60’s and into the 70’s). Furthermore, suppose that it is just a minority who dreams of Eretz Israel, if the Israeli public does not actively oppose those few and get them out of office, they are hardly innocent in keeping that dream alive. I would argue that many Israelis are secular and therefore do not buy the chosen people, God gave us the land argument, but they still vote for the Netanyahus and Shamirs of the world that actively pursue such a policy.

      For Hamas/Taliban/Al Qaeda – Hamas is a resistance movement as well who has not threatened the US in anyway whereas the Taliban were implicit in 9/11. So that is were the hypocrisy comes from. Hamas has once said that it wanted to destroy Israel (like the PLO once did), but the mainstream Hamas thinkers have renounced this and have adopted a ’67 borders philosophy (of course there are always extremists who have not changed, but they are in the minority). And for stage 1 and 2, I think it is Israel’s moral and ethical and legal obligation to withdraw. I would argue – and have indirectly above – that the stage 2 is widely discredited among Palestinians. There are extremists, but the views of a few cannot be taken for the view of the collective. And for the record, there is a lot of international pressure for Hamas to change its charter – its complete isolation from the west and its exclusion from the peace process are very clear examples of the IC rejecting the violent wing of the Hamas ideology.

      3) For me the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas is manifold. First, Hezbollah is nearly 100% supported by Shi’a and the Hariri government by Sunni. There are very severe differences there that are non-existent in Palestine. If Fatah makes peace with Israel, there is nothing stopping a Hamas supporter from switching sides. Hezbollah agents would never switch to the Sunni side if Hariri made peace. Secondly, again, Hamas is far weaker than Hezbollah is, militarily and politically. If Hamas were to lose the next Palestinian election, I have a difficult time believing that the situation would devolve into a Lebanon/Hezbollah dichotomy. Thirdly, there are overtures from both Fatah and Hamas concerning a reconciliation. In Palestinian politics, Hamas is a political party, looking for national reconciliation. It would be unbelievable if the two sides made and agreement and reconciled, only to see Hamas turn against the governments line. Personally, I would be more worried about splinter groups who break from Hamas because they see Hamas as growing too moderate. Fortunately, these groups man forces of merely a few hundred at best.

      Finally, and again this is a topic for another discussion, labeling the war of 2006 (or 2000 or 1982) in Lebanon as ‘coming to the aid’ of the Lebanese government is misleading and inaccurate. There was no discussion in any of the Israeli invasions that it was due to some sort of aid to the government. If anything every Israeli incursion into Lebanon has left the government weaker. During the earlier invasions in the 80s and 90s, Israel had an active plan to overthrow the Lebanese government. 2006 was purely about Hezbollah and had nothing to do with the gov’t. But again, not so relevant here -perhaps for another time.

      5) Currently, I believe, most international criticism of Israel is based on the fact that the country is maintaining a brutal occupation with human rights abuses that make it onto youtube nearly everyday. If Israel responds to an attack with disproportional force while maintaining an occupation that most of the world sees as illegitimate and illegal, the IC will come down harder on Israel. Yet if Israel ends the occupation and the human rights abuses that accompany it and is attacked, I would have to believe the the IC would not look as harshly on retaliation. If Israel retaliates and kills another 1000 Palestinians – yes there will certainly be criticism, but if it is a proportionate response that is clearly a reaction to an attack on Israel proper after withdrawing from Palestine, the IC will be more accommodating. Could there be another Goldstone report after an Israeli retaliation after withdrawal? Yes, but only if it is merited and the leash would be longer. Finally, if such a thing happened, the IC would see the initial attack as an attack on a foreign entity; no longer would be be resistance to an illegal occupation.

      As for AS, I think you are underestimating how many Arabs support the current peace talks (with settlement freeze). The vast majority of Arabs believe that an Israel inside 1967 borders is acceptable – just look at the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 that offered full diplomatic and economic normalization with Israel in exchange for 1967 borders. And that included all the Muslim nations, not just the Arab ones.

      5) The delay of negotiations – I would blame this on Obama. He came into office and demanded that Israel stop all construction in the WB and East Jerusalem. By doing so, he forced Abbas to take the same stance. He he didn’t he would appear weak. Obama backed out and left Abbas out to dry. The fact that he entered negotiations without a freeze in Jerusalem is a step down from where Obama initially placed him. The “pre-conditions” that are always talked about were parameters that Obama set up and them walked away from.

      As for one-state: my basic point was that there needed to be a change in tactics. Since the late 70s Israel has been in peace talks with the Palestinians while concurrently building settlements across the Palestinian territory. This is not working and the current round of talks seem like they are destined for the same failure as all the others. Dissolving the PA and demanding equal rights within a bi-national or democratic state is a way to force Israel to do something different. I agree that the consequences of such a move are incredible tough to predict and could be very violent. But the definition of insanity is to do the same thing time and again and to expect a different outcome. Something needs to change.

      The failure of any two-state solution certainly does not fall completely on Israel, but as the occupying power that has largely alternated between peace-searching governments and Eretz Israel governments, it is not particularly difficult to see that many Israeli governments did not really want peace. Indeed, until the late 80s, the Israeli government position was basically a seesaw between annexation of the entire West Bank and some agreement with Jordan that gave Israel strategic parts and left Jordan in control of the rest. There was no real attempt or recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination until the 1980s. Golda Meir said:

      There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.
      Washington Post, 1969

      After the Jordanians renounced their intention to take over the West Bank, Israel was forced to follow what was deemed the ‘Palestinian path’ (as opposed to the Jordanian path). I would say that the PLO held on too long to violent resistance (ibid for Hamas) which delayed the inevitable emergence of the Palestinian route. I think Arafat made major mistakes in the 90s and early 2000s. But when Netanyahu brags about breaking apart Oslo (which I think was one of Arafat’s mistakes – but another discussion), Meir denies that Palestinians exist, Sharon actively encourages the annexation of the WB (particularly when he was Chief of Staff) and Shamir undeniably favored the pursuit of Greater Israel, all while settlements continued, I find it hard not to place a hefty amount of blame on Israel. Currently, I believe that Netanyahu does not want to make peace with the Palestinians and this is one of the reasons why a change of tactic is needed (also because I see the PA as an incredibly corrupt institution – yet again, lets hold off on that one.)

      6) I fully agree with the fact that Israel digs its heals in when pressured. And this is why the threat of a one-state solution can work. Israel can shrug off international pressure and leave American presidents wishing they never got involved. There really is not much that the IC can do to force Israel into anything. The possibility of 5 million more Arab citizens can – Israel would try to avoid that outcome at all costs, perhaps even withdrawing.

      Or not. But I will refer back to the Arab Peace Initiative which offered complete normalization of relations with the entire region in exchange for the end of the occupation. That is a pretty pragmatic approach that was rejected too.

      1. I thought for a long time about the information you wrote and tried to come up with a good way to clarify my points and stay on topic in the shortest way possible – I’ll try to sum-up my reply into three general issues:

        Regarding Hamas: I wasn’t clear enough (and maybe even a bit confusing) in my comparison between Hamas and Hezbollah I apologize. You’re right and stating that Hamas is smaller threat then Hezbollah is to the security of Israel (due to a swaying support base and currently much weaker offensive abilities), what I was trying to state is that Hamas will still be threat to Israel’s security after the establishment of the Palestinian state and will still have every incentive to act offensively after Israel will pull out of the occupied territories – just like Hezbollah had / has: its patrons will still be regional major players who blatantly call for the destruction of Israel, it will start to lose its core reason for existence as a resistance movement and will try to stir up a new conflict as a means to justify itself and as a tool for staying a relevant faction in the Palestinian nation. “A smaller snake is still a snake” if you may. And I translated the seats in the Palestinian parliament incorrectly to voters’ percentage; I understand now that the true numbers gave Hamas the majority of the vote, but certainly not a landslide victory.

        Side note on this issue: You described the reasons behind Hamas’s rise to power much better then what I previously read – I just couldn’t believe that the Palestinian voter had elected Hamas “just” because Fatah is so corrupt. I now understand that it’s a full blown disillusion and frustration from Fatah due to its inability to end the whole of the occupation (there has been some steps taken by Israel – they pulled out of Gaza). I certainly hope that Hamas will suffer the same fate since it had done nothing to end the status quo and actually escalated the situation (many claim it was a deliberate action). And the International pressure towards Hamas had accomplished nothing… the charter is still in the same wording as it was 20 years ago and it seems Hamas will not acknowledge Israel as a state under any circumstance.

        Regarding the moderate Muslims and members of Hamas: from what I understand from Mashaal’s statements, the Arab peace initiative and most importantly the “feel” of the Muslim street that you and other people more in-tune with it then I are saying is that the existence of Israel is now acceptable, or might be tolerated, but there’s a major “but”: The Arab peace initiative offers the normalization under the terms of the withdraw to the ’67 borders but also the right to return for the refugees, and its non-negotiable. The non-obligatory rhetoric from Meshaal states just the same (I assume he’s touching base with the moderate Muslims and Al-Zahhar’s doing the same with the Wahhabi Muslims), while still leaving enough wiggle room for the more militant view to co-exist within the movement.
        I’m not sure what’s the exact number of refugees that will be endorsed with the right to return to Israeli territory and not Palestine in accordance to the Arab peace initiative or Mashaal’s plans (I keep finding the whole figure of 4 million refugees, what’s the census for the ’48-49 refugees and their descendants?) but since the original census of the 1948 Palestinian exodus stands on 725,000 I can safely assume the number is now much higher than that. As you rightfully noted in your one-state solution posts Israel would consider the absorption of 4 million Palestinians as a threat to the Jewish majority, so wouldn’t the return of a million(s?) refugees combined with the current 20% Arab minority in Israel wouldn’t just as threatening over a generation or so? Kaddafi once said that Israel would be taken not by force but with the power of the “Palestinian womb” – to create “Isratine” (He might be a little on the mad side, but he had the sense of appeasing the west in the recent years and got off with years of allowing Muslim militants to operate from Libya). If I misunderstood the numbers of Palestinians with the right to return I apologize in advance, I do not want to sensationalize my reply or something.

        Regarding keeping the Eretz Israel dream alive: one might argue a similar disenchantment to the Palestinians with the Fatah of the Israeli voter from the Left and Center parties: A growing frustration with those parties inability to end the conflict. So you vote for greater security (due to recent conflicts that were imposed on Israel, in their POV) but you actually also vote to keep Eretz Israel dream alive.

        P.S: I think a more accurate statement is that most Israelis are not secular but tend to conduct a mostly secular way of life (there’s a big difference in my mind), and I was referring to the 1982 incursion to Lebanon and ‘coming to the aid’ of the Christian militias in the South Lebanon security zone.

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