Encountering Peace: The Palestinian problem is gone!
Two weeks ago you were told that there is no occupation and that settlements are legal; now you can sleep well at night – there is no Palestinian problem either.
An evacuated Jewish settlement in Gaza Photo: REUTERS
I am struggling to make sense of the policies being implemented by our prime
minister. Binyamin Netanyahu is an intelligent man. In keeping his coalition
together and staying in power longer than most past prime ministers, he has
proven that he is also a masterful politician. However, I can’t accept that his
political strategy is only a game of survival. I believe Netanyahu cares deeply
about the country and its people; he adheres to a defined worldview and does not
only make difficult decisions under pressure, as many claim.
that he has a coherent political strategy that he can articulate. I also assume
that it goes beyond protecting Israel from a potential Iranian bomb. I am mainly
referring to his strategy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the future of the West
Bank. The bottom line on his strategy is the following: there is no occupation
and there is no Palestinian problem. Binyamin Netanyahu has eliminated the
Palestinian problem. This is how I think he did it: Shortly after he was elected
he surprised everyone with his famous Bar-Ilan speech endorsing the two-state
solution. That removed international and internal pressure on his new
government. Then he implemented his “economic peace plan,” removing checkpoints
and enabling the Palestinian economy to expand. The Palestinians cooperated by
issuing the “Fayyad Plan” to build the institutions of the state. That kept them
and the international community busy thinking that they were actually planning
The policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank, launched
by Sharon, followed up by Olmert and completed by Netanyahu is now paying off
after the elections of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Hamas, feeling
empowered, is planning to make permanent the separation from the West Bank. At
the same time, Egypt will slowly but surely integrate Gaza into the Egyptian
The Egyptians want to retake control of Sinai. They need to end
smuggling in the area and that includes the tunnels into Gaza.
economy will move above ground, which will require a cargo transport border in
Rafah. The Rafah border will shortly be open 24/7 for movement of people in and
out. Gaza will import more from and through Egypt, maybe El-Arish will become a
semi-official Gaza sea port. Soon we will begin to hear about the use of the
Egyptian lira as the primary currency in Gaza instead of the Israeli shekel. Bye
bye, Gaza. We can say farewell to its 1.6 million people.
Palestinians, some 300,000 in number, are lining up asking for Israeli
passports. Israel has succeeded in detaching them from the West Bank as well.
They lived under Jordanian rule for 19 years and under Israeli rule for 45
Israeli policies threaten their residency status.
longer have hopes of seeing a Palestinian state. They don’t wish to live under
the restrictions of life in the West Bank. They enjoy free movement, national
insurance and health services. Why not take an Israeli passport? Maybe they will
vote in the Jerusalem municipal elections, maybe they won’t.
will vote for the Knesset, maybe they won’t. There is a sharp decline in the
political participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel, why should the
Jerusalemites be different? We can say goodbye to the thorny issue of Jerusalem
and the 300,000 additional Israeli citizens are already counted in our official
statistics, so this won’t change anything.
Ninety-five percent of
Palestinians in the West Bank are living under the Palestinian Authority. The PA
is on the verge of financial collapse, but fear not, the United States, the
Europeans and Israel will not allow them to fall. The PA is too important for
They provide services to the Palestinians in education,
health, welfare. They provide work for more than 150,000. They have a security
force with official uniforms and a chain of command. They run an economy with a
tax system. They have banks and even a stock market. They have a pseudonational
status with Palestinian Authority passports. They have a flag and a national
anthem. As long as there continues to be economic growth, which is largely
dependent on Israel, relative calm is not too difficult to ensure.
is the problem of some of the more extreme settlers who provoke with violence,
mainly in the relatively unpopulated areas, and their actions all too often wind
up on YouTube causing some concern. But all in all, it is manageable. In those
few areas where there is unrest, the IDF knows how to deal with it. When was the
last time we heard about Israeli casualties in Nebi Salah or Bil’in? We just
have to keep those damn internationals and anarchists out and it will be
If the Palestinians decide to once again rise up, a little
disproportionate response does wonders, e.g. Defensive Shield, the Second
Lebanon War and Cast Lead. Those operations bought years of
ON TOP of all of this, Netanyahu’s demographers claim that
the Palestinian census figure of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank is
off by about one million.
So let’s recap – Gaza, with its 1.6 million, is
out of the picture. East Jerusalem’s 300,000 Palestinians become citizens, but
like their one-million-strong brothers and sisters who are already citizens;
their political participation is increasingly insignificant.
Bank is really only 1.5 million strong. Many young people are leaving for better
opportunities elsewhere and for most people, at least those not living right
next to a settlement or those who have to work in Israel, life isn’t so bad. In
fact, it is probably better than Spain.
The demography problem played up
so high by the left is a chimera. And we all know the haredim (ultra-Orthodox)
produce even more babies than the Arabs (maybe this explains Netanyahu’s
passionate relationship with them – even if they don’t serve in the army – they
serve in the maternity ward).
The world still believes Netanyahu intends
to one day create a Palestinian state, but there is not much they can do as long
as he keeps on declaring his willingness to negotiate and the Palestinian
leaders keep staying away from negotiations.
So listen up, People of
Israel: two weeks ago you were told that there is no occupation and that
settlements are legal. Now you can sleep well at night – there is no Palestinian
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel
Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem
Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and negotiator of
the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.