A chorus of Israeli officials are again singing the dangers of facilitating the creation of a Palestinian state, as demonstrated by this summer’s Gaza war.
The ninth anniversary of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza actually occurred during the fighting, as Hamas was raining rockets down on Israeli cities, and IDF soldiers were battling to find and destroy an enormous network of terror tunnels.
Israelis have been noting that this is the third Gaza flare-up since the so-called “disengagement,” which Israeli and Western officials alike promised would result in calm and improved regional and international relations for the Jewish state.
As that has clearly not been the case, many insist that the situation in Gaza is the final piece of evidence needed to prove that permitting the birth of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is suicidal, and therefore must be taken off the table.
“After withdrawing from Lebanon brought Hezbollah to power and withdrawing from Gaza brought Hamas to power, the lesson must be not to form a terrorist state in the heart of our land,” said Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar at a conference in Jerusalem earlier this month.
A Palestinian state, which the Palestinian leadership says must be free of Jews, “would endanger Israel’s future,” insisted Sa’ar. “Where there are no settlements, there is no IDF, and where there is no IDF, there is terrorism.”
And, contrary to the lofty assertions coming out of Washington, Brussels and even Jerusalem, the 2005 Gaza pull out proves this to be the case. “Terrorism was not defeated by withdrawing,” Sa’ar pointed out. “It was strengthened by the withdrawal.”
Days later, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett voiced similar sentiments, stating that Israel could not afford to allow the terrorism that has overtaken Gaza to gain a foothold in Judea and Samaria.
Recalling that international air travel to Israel was briefly halted after a Gaza rocket struck near Ben Gurion Airport, Bennett argued, “What one rocket fired at [central Israel] from Gaza succeeded in doing is liable to be duplicated by an anti-aircraft missile from Samaria, [less than four miles] from Ben Gurion Airport… In this case [the airport] would be shut down for more than just two days.”
In short, Bennett said, “a Palestinian state will destroy the Israeli economy. It will destroy tourism, business and commerce.”
Such remarks put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult position. Ministers like Sa’ar and Bennett are popular with the public, and their views on this topic make a lot of sense to a lot of people.
Netanyahu, however, has previously committed himself to negotiating a “two-state solution” to the present conflict, and it is a certainty that America and Europe will hold him to that, even in the face of Palestinian violations and intransigence.
Earlier in the Gaza war, Netanyahu told a Jerusalem press conference that “the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
Failing to relinquish security control over the so-called “West Bank” would mean no Palestinian state, as the Palestinian leadership would never agree to such as stipulation.
But it would seem that Netanyahu’s claim that the Israeli public at large, let alone the international community, now understands why this is impossible might be somewhat premature.
Some Israelis are already demonstrating and calling for an immediate renewal of bilateral peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the Gaza war, and Netanyahu’s earlier warnings have already been drown out by international voices insisting that the status quo is unsustainable (diplomatic-speak for birthing a Palestinian state, now).