It is to be expected that whenever something alters the dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world wonders aloud how this change will affect the peace process. And so it is with Israel’s Iron Dome, the missile defense system that kept so many Israelis safe during the recent rocket blizzard from the terrorist enclave of Gaza. But I wrote at the time that it was wishful thinking to assume that Iron Dome would fundamentally change the course of the conflict.
“It isn’t perfect, it’s expensive, and living under constant threat of rocket fire would still be hellish—it cannot be easy to get used to bombs exploding over your head all day long. The best solution, without a doubt, would be for the Palestinians to eschew terrorism and give up their mission to destroy Israel,” I wrote. Over the weekend, the Washington Post tackled this question at greater length, but still misses the point. The paper asks whether the relative safety brought about by systems like Iron Dome will make Israel more likely to agree to territorial compromise or more likely instead to ignore the conflict and the cause of peace and negotiations altogether. The answer, of course, is neither.
Both of these choices rely on mistaken assumptions either about Israel or Iron Dome. For the reasons I mentioned above, Iron Dome will not make Israelis more confident in territorial withdrawals. But for the same reason, it will not allow Israelis to forget about the conflict: even if the missiles are intercepted, the sirens and explosions would surely keep Israelis’ attention.
But on a more fundamental level, the point is that real peace, brought about through a process that includes Palestinians giving up their drive to exterminate the Jewish state and its inhabitants, is still the only thing that could end the conflict.
The more important point, and one the media keeps missing, is this: nothing is keeping Israel away from the negotiating table. For all the criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presumed reluctance to make peace, Netanyahu has been for years now offering to resume negotiations without preconditions. It is Mahmoud Abbas who piles on precondition after precondition in an attempt to avoid negotiations. Netanyahu has even hinted at possibly accepting some of those preconditions, which he shouldn’t have to do and which the West shouldn’t encourage him to do, lest they send exactly the wrong message to the Palestinians. But each time he does, Abbas simply adds another precondition anyway.
No, Iron Dome won’t allow Israelis to live in a serene virtual reality. And no, Iron Dome won’t make Israelis less likely to negotiate for peace. The Washington Post can save the hand wringing and the gut checking for Netanyahu’s supposed interlocutor, who seems to have come up with many reasons not to participate in the peace process. Israeli reluctance to come to the table, however, isn’t one of them.