by Steven Plaut
There seems to be a wide misconception that the Middle East conflict is complicated. In fact it is really rather simple. Indeed, one can basically summarize and explain the entire conflict within the context of the words “occupation” or “occupied territories” and with respect to beliefs about the effects of such “occupation.”
Let me explain. For most of the past 46 years (since 1967), there has been something of a universal consensus among those agreeing that removing or eliminating the Israeli “occupation” over the West Bank and Gaza, areas dubbed “The Occupied Palestinian Territories,” would reduce tensions and make the region more tranquil, possibly leading to full peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let us dub this theory the Removal of Occupation Lowers Violence (henceforth the ROLV) Axiom.
It would be hard to exaggerate how broad the ROLV consensus is in the world. Outside of Israel it is essentially universal. Even within Israel, for much of the past two generations this ROLV has been the consensus position of the bulk of the Israeli political spectrum. Almost all Israeli parties have long agreed, certainly since the “Oslo Accords” of the early 1990s, that the key to reducing tensions between Israel and the Arab world is via partial or total removal of Israeli “occupation” of those territories. With the exception of small parties on the Israeli Right, basically the entire Israeli political elite, including Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud, is at least nominally committed to the ROLV axiom. In this sense, (Israeli President) Shimon Peres’ recent pronouncement that there is near consensus in Israel behind the so-called “two-state solution” was only partly his imagination. (The President in Israel is little more than an honorary post like the queen of Holland, whereas the real head of state is the Prime Minister, and so Peres really represents no one.) While acceptance of the ROLV axiom, holding that removal of occupation leads to reduction in violence, is not quite the same thing as the “Two-State Solution” that Peres advocates, its broad acceptance by so many Israeli political parties provides a small basis for Peres’ grandstanding.
Everything needed to understand the Middle East conflict can be grasped if one bears in mind that near-universal consensus behind ROLV and one second fact. The second fact is that the international consensus about removal of Israeli occupation is empirically false and nearly all Israelis understand that it is false.
It is somewhat difficult to document exactly what Israelis think about the “removal of occupation” and the so-called Two-State Solution. Many of the public opinion polls in Israel are deliberated distorted by people with an ideological axe to grind, one that precludes asking candidly what Israelis think. An example was a recent poll that asked what the respondent would think about a Palestinian state if it were to be effectively demilitarized, proclaimed its friendly intentions towards Israel, and proved its intentions over a long testing period. The question was science fiction; it was like asking how you would respond if friendly space aliens landed in a flying saucer on your lawn and offered you a Starbucks. So it was not surprising when fewer than half of Israelis said that even then they would still be opposed to a Palestinian state.
Occasionally the truth seeps through, such as in another recent poll in which Israeli Jews opposing the “Two State Solution” outnumbered those who endorse it by between 6 and 10 to one.
The simple truth of the matter is that almost all Israelis by now understand clearly that removal of Israeli occupation does not reduce violence, but rather it escalates violence. Almost all Israelis understand that a cut-and-paste job of the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza applied to the West Bank, which is pretty much what the whole world is demanding (including the Obama administration), would result in tens of thousands of rockets and missiles fired at the Jews of Israel by the Arabs in those “liberated territories.” And probably also weapons of mass destruction. The universal ROLV axiom is simply wrong and almost all Israelis realize it is wrong, even if nearly 100% of the rest of the world thinks it is correct.
And wrong it is. The unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza proved better than any controlled laboratory experiment how invalid ROLV is and what the real effect of “ending occupation” is. True, the anti-Semites and their terrorist allies claim Israel never really relinquished its occupation over the Gaza Strip, although their claim exhibits Orwellian levels of NewThink pretense and cognitive dissonance. If there is not a single Jew in Gaza and the Gazans enter and leave Gaza freely and smuggle in unlimited stocks of weapons from Iran, while running their own economy, in what way exactly can this be considered to be Israeli occupation? It is occupation only in the sense that the US “occupies” Castro’s Cuba, by imposing some limits and restrictions on the trade done with the pseudo-occupied by the pseudo-occupier.
In my opinion, at least 95% of Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs understand perfectly that the ROLV axiom about removal of Israeli occupation producing tranquility is fallacious. Israeli Arabs and the Jewish Far Left (and that includes the Tenured Left) support the removal of occupation precisely because they know – like other Israelis – that it will produce escalation of violence and tens of thousands of rockets and missiles landing on Israeli Jewish civilians. Unlike other Israelis, the Radical Left and Israeli Arabs favor those developments because they hate Israel and want it eliminated. They understand as well as everyone else that the axiom of Removal of Occupation Lowering Violence is incorrect.
For the rest of the Israeli public, skepticism and disbelief regarding ROLV is nearly universal, almost as widespread as belief in the ROLV axiom outside of Israel. The only group within Israel that still believes in ROLV is confined to one or two political parties (the Labor Party and Meretz) of the less-extreme Left, and these parties are expected to get less than one vote in 6 in the upcoming elections. In my opinion, even many of those who vote for these two parties do not really believe in ROLV, and in fact much of the remaining vote in favor of Meretz is coming from the anti-Israel extremists who seek Israel’s elimination.
While Israeli political parties, especially the Likud, may still pay lip service to ROLV, almost none of their rank and file supporters and voters believe in it. Indeed, the parties pay the price for their superficial posturing in favor of ROLV. Some of the posturing is to gain support (including financing) from overseas believers in ROLV, or to curry favor with the Obama administration and other foreign governments. But those going through the posturing are as aware as everyone else that the ROLV is false and that almost all Israelis understand that it is false.
There have been proposals to condition any “deal” that removes Israeli occupation from large swaths of the West Bank on an Israeli national referendum. The Likud and most of the establishment Israeli parties strongly oppose this. The Israeli radical Tenured Left opposes such a referendum with hysterical jeremiads, labeling any proposal for such a referendum anti-democratic and fascist.
Everyone, including Israel’s treasonous Left, knows that a referendum on ROLV would not pass because almost no one in Israel believes in ROLV anymore.
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