With the IDF reserve units returning to their families and routine everyday life, it appears that Operation Protective Edge’s military component has been completed. Time will tell how much safety has been achieved for the residents of Israel’s south from the incessant rockets and the menacing tunnels.
But to Israel’s decision makers, the fact that the summer of 2014 found more Israelis in bomb shelters than at the beaches may have more consequential, regional consequences. The coastal plain – Israel’s business and cultural center– has not been this vulnerable since the 1967 Six Day War.
As Israeli troops swept through the Gaza terror infrastructure, a political tidal wave was washing over two decades of obsessive tunnel vision focusing on the so-called two-state solution.
As the war progressed, the vulnerability of cities like Modi’in and Kfar Saba (which straddle the “Green Line”) to tunnels and rocket attacks became frighteningly clear. The fact that Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the greater Tel Aviv area (hosting 70 percent of the Israeli population and economic output) would have just 15 seconds to find shelter only exposed the impossibility of Israel giving away Judea and Samaria.
One rocket from Gaza closed down Israel’s international airport, and terrorist tunnels caused fear across the country that armed Hamas death squads could appear anywhere in Israel without warning. Furthermore one can see the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv from the hills of Samaria, so if Hamas gained control of the area, they would only need a few close-range mortars to create havoc.
Hawkish statements from across the political spectrum flooded in both in Israel and abroad from even the most ardent believers in the two-state paradigm, suggesting that Hamas had proven that it was no longer a solution.
The most significant statement was made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself at his July 11 press conference, where he all but acknowledged that the creation of an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria was impossible. Jeffrey Goldberg reported that Netanyahu did not merely “renounce his rhetorical support for a two-state solution. He simply described such a [Palestinian] state as an impossibility.”
A concurrent analysis in Tablet Magazine concluded that Judea and Samaria will similarly pass to Israeli sovereignty “without fanfare, de facto rather than de jure, at some moment in the not-too-distant future when the foreign ministries of the West are locked in crisis session over Iraq or Syria. And it will happen with the tacit support of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
Professor Shlomo Avineri, one of Israel’s greatest proponents of two states, declared in a recent op-ed: “Those of us who supported Oslo – and who still think it was the right step – must recognize that salvation won’t come from the Palestinians. They’re genuinely uninterested in a solution of two states for two peoples because they’re unwilling to grant legitimacy to the Jewish right of self-determination.”
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar (the No. 2 in Likud and potential heir to Netanyahu), went one further when he came out strongly against the creation of a Palestinian state as matter of policy. At the same time UK Prime Minister David Cameron also came to the conclusion that the two-state solution is increasingly an impossibility. In the aftermath of FAA’s ban on flights to Israel, Professor Alan Dershowitz complained that the Hamas attack may well have ended any real prospect of a two-state solution.
The most telling accord was the admission to the BBC by former Israeli president Shimon Peres – one of Israel’s most outspoken proponents of Israel’s surrendering land – that, “I find it difficult to explain today withdrawal from Gaza or justify future withdrawal from the West Bank.”
Even more startling than Peres’s admission were the remarks of all-but-announced US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who in her attempt to solidify support among the Jewish and pro-Israel individuals in the Democratic Party stridently championed Israel’s right to defend itself by explaining, “So what I tell people is, yeah, if I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security [on the West Bank].”
The remarks of Clinton, Peres, Netanyahu and the others indicate that Israel’s need to retain control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) has become, at last, a mainstream position. There is now widespread recognition that it would be the height of recklessness for Israel to surrender land in the strategic hills of Judea and Samaria that would ultimately end up in the control of an ideological “Hamas” – either by ballot or bullet.
The author is chief foreign envoy of YESHA Council, which represents the 375,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria.