Israel recently waged a new offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in Hebron, Israel accused Hamas of the incident, yet offered no evidence to back up its assertion. Israel had also been accusing Hamas of rearming itself and firing rockets into southern Israeli territory for some time now. Following the kidnapping, Israel used a subsequent investigation as a pretext to launch an offensive against Hamas. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration stated that its goals were to degrade Hamas’ infrastructure and weapons stockpiles, so it would not be able to threaten Israeli civilians or property.
As the death toll in Gaza reached a few hundred, Israeli forces revealed to the public what they had known from the beginning of the crisis: the three kidnapped teenagers were most likely killed by some splinter of Hamas gone rogue. Israeli intelligence placed a gag order on this information in order to have a convenient excuse to enter Gaza. As Israeli forces showed intentions of leaving, however, events quickly took on a life of their own. Many Israelis were outraged at the killings of these young men; they had just found out what happened, unlike those in the intelligence community. In response, Israeli settlers caught and burned a Palestinian youth alive.
Not only did this event inflame the Palestinians, but it also indicated a slow takeover of mainstream Israeli society by extremist elements, which had previously operated on its fringe. Of course, Palestinians are guilty of the same thing, as the existence of Hamas is a testament to that fact. But Israel, the self-professed island of stability in the Middle East, does not face nearly the same destitution that such extremism thrives on. Rather, recent Israeli governments have allowed certain groups to build settlements over land that is not legally theirs. This Zionist movement, which has historically simply meant the creation of a Jewish state in Israel, has come to encompass all the land over which Palestinians call home.
This has led to an ever-increasing desire to claim more land by building settlements on land that the global community considers Palestinian, not Israeli. While Netanyahu has blocked many settlement plans, he has permitted the construction of far more along the West Bank. He has also sealed off the territory’s borders, retained control over much of its power and water supplies, and refused to lift the naval blockade in Gaza. In the West Bank, Palestinians are subjected to border patrols, segregated roads, and settlements that are taking over their land. The results are the slow colonization of the West Bank by settlements and the Gaza Strip effectively being made into a maximum-security prison where its residents need express permission to do almost everything. Israel cannot honestly say that it seeks a two-state solution, or even a legitimate peace, so long as it maintains this status quo. Any statements made otherwise are simply lies.
It’s clear to any rational-minded observer that a two-state solution is in the best interest of all involved parties, including the United States. While some have explored the possibility of a one-state solution, it would never work. If Israel were to annex the land and people of the West Bank and Gaza, it would be faced with a choice: fully integrate the Palestinians into Israeli society and give them full rights, or systematically deny them rights and relegate them to a legally entrenched second-class status. The Arab citizens already inside Israel and the Palestinians outside it have a higher population growth rate than Jewish Israelis. If the first choice were made, Israel would lose its Jewish identity in a few decades because they would simply be outnumbered in their own democratic state.After all the horror of the Holocaust, European Jewish people wanted a state where such a thing could never happen again. Israel was the fulfillment of that wish; its identity should not be compromised.
The second choice, however, will lead Israel to become a full-fledged apartheid state, reminiscent of South Africa, which would undermine its status as a democracy. This would put Israel, and by extension, the US, in an untenable position with the rest of the world. That outcome is unacceptable for geopolitical and moral reasons, and therefore, must be avoided at all costs. The only conceivable scenario that does not lead to a dead end is a two-state solution, with agreed upon borders, dismantling of most settlements, and a lifting of the Gaza Strip blockade.
Netanyahu, despite all of his statements to the contrary, clearly favors preserving the status quo and postponing any meaningful decisions to resolve this situation indefinitely. Whether he’s incapable or simply unwilling to hold back his admittedly more extreme right-wing colleagues, Netanyahu is hindering any real peace process. And so long as Israel refuses to address the underlying issues, such as improving conditions in Gaza and stopping its illegal constructions in the West Bank, it will continue to face Palestinian resistance.
There are some in Israel who argue that Hamas is to blame for the Gaza Strip’s impoverished state. Such assertions are grossly misinformed. Israel systematically prevents materials such as concrete and steel from being imported into Gaza, thereby limiting all construction capabilities; Israel also recently restricted fishing waters from six miles off the Gaza coast to three, thus limiting the amount of food Palestinians in Gaza can access; all of the Gaza Strip’s borders are tightly manned by Israeli soldiers, and Israel maintains and periodically approves new housing units to be built across the West Bank, reducing the land of any viable Palestinian state in the future.
These policies—seemingly endorsed by the government—are deemed necessary for security purposes, yet they are at the heart of the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These policies may protect Israelis in the short term by keeping Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank perpetually weak, but they endanger Israel’s security in the long term. Israel’s only lasting option, therefore, is a proper two-state solution; anything else is simply a dead end.
Cover image via Wikimedia Commons.