More than two months into the so-called “stabbing intifada,” Palestinian violence against Israelis continues. But as the toll of casualties mounts, two things are becoming clear. One is that the decision of so many Palestinians to risk their lives in order to inflict violence on any Jew may be rooted in the failures of their own society and leadership that has little or nothing to do with Israeli policies. The other is that Palestinians are going to have to make a choice about whether they really want to pay the price for launching a new war that will hurt them more than Israel.
As Ben Caspit noted in Al Monitor, the questions of figuring who the individual terrorists are in this wave of violence and why they are doing it is puzzling Israeli authorities:
According to Israeli security experts, Israel is now “paying” for things that it is not even guilty of, such as Arab society restricting women and depriving them of equal rights. Also, the economies of the Arab states in general have long been weak, and the Palestinian economy in particular cannot give its youths any real hope of improvement to their standard of living, economic security and employment.
The new Palestinian is unaware that compared to the other Arabs in the Middle East today, his situation is relatively better than theirs. The only Arab region in which electricity is available 24/7 is in Judea and Samaria. The same is true regarding infant mortality, the standard of medical care and many other statistical facts.
The fault for the Palestinians’ woes is widely attributed to Israel, but complaints about the “occupation” only go so far. It’s true the Palestinians want to be free of Israeli rule. But as Daniel Polisar wrote last month in Mosaic magazine in his study of Palestinian public opinion, their goal isn’t so much a two-state solution as it is the elimination of the Jewish state. Their dissatisfaction is wrongly attributed to the failure of the peace process. Their real problem is not so much with negotiations that always end with Palestinian refusals of Israeli statehood offers (as Arafat did in 2000 and 2001 and Mahmoud Abbas did in 2008) or an unwillingness to negotiate seriously (as Abbas has done for the last seven years despite U.S. support for his demands) but rather with the failure of the Palestinian Authority to wage an effective war against the Jews.
That’s why Abbas resorted to inciting violence over mythical Israeli plots to harm the Temple Mount mosques. Starting what amounts to a religious holy war wouldn’t seem to be in his interests, but since he needs to compete with his Hamas rivals, it was the best tactic he could come up with.
Of course, in the absence of a satisfying conflict, Abbas and the PA could have spent the last decade trying to improve the lives of Palestinians but that was never their priority. While we’ve been hearing predictions of the PA’s collapse for years, it remains to be seen how long a bankrupt kleptocracy that survives on a vast patronage scheme that runs on foreign cash will last.
In the meantime, the Palestinians complain about both Abbas and Israel. As the New York Times reports in an article today, many in East Jerusalem and the territories are unhappy about the efforts that Israel has made to clamp down on areas that are producing daily terror attacks. Some of it involves small measures like crackdowns on minor illegal activity that usually goes unnoticed in Arab neighborhoods of the capital. They are also setting up more checkpoints around the capital to make it more difficult for terrorists to move easily or freely around the country.
About this, we are hearing the usual litany of complaints about Israeli beastliness and about how such measures are fomenting more terrorism. But such arguments are risible.
Whatever one may think about Israeli settlements, this latest surge in terror has to prove again that the conflict has little or nothing to do with the presence of Israelis in the West Bank or the country’s negotiating positions. Palestinians are seeking to murder any Israeli they meet on the street, not because of some abstract argument about borders since even the supposedly incorrigible right-winger Netanyahu has offered to withdraw from almost all of the West Bank in exchange for peace. The Palestinians are raging about “stinking Jewish feet” polluting holy places sacred to both peoples, not a state alongside Israel they’ve shown no interest in building.
Or course, these facts are old news, but many on the left still refuse to accept the truth. Today the Times’ Roger Cohen recycled the same myths about Netanyahu killing peace today in a piece that was as out of touch with the reality of the Middle East as most things the paper has published. It is barely worth the effort to refute his argument that Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was the turning point that ended hope in the region. That misunderstands Rabin’s own skepticism about the Palestinians as well as the fact that the collapse of Oslo was completely the work of Arafat and his belief in terror and refusal to make peace. It was Arafat who elected Netanyahu in 1996 after Rabin’s death. And it was Arafat who killed the peace movement as a viable political force in Israel with the second intifada. At this point, the vast majority of Israelis have no faith in peace because they know the political culture of the Palestinians make it impossible no matter what they might offer in return. The complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 that led to the creation of the current Hamas-ruled terrorist state in the strip stands as a warning to any Israeli politician that another such experiment in the West Bank would be madness. And no amount of foreign pressure from a world that is growing bored with Palestinian intransigence regardless of its antipathy for the Jewish state can make Israel make such a mistake. The fault with Cohen’s absurd writing isn’t so much his blindness as it is the way it shows how Western elites refuse to put the blame for the standoff where it belongs: on a Palestinian culture that won’t allow its people to end the conflict.
In the end, the choice remains with the Palestinians. If they don’t like the price of war as they suffer the ill effects of measures intended to prevent more terrorist attacks, they can stop killing Jews and condemn rather than honor — as Abbas and the PA does — those who engage in such wanton slaughter. If they don’t like being governed by Abbas and Hamas (and they shouldn’t), they can try their own Arab spring and try new leaders that might work to better their existence and seek peace rather than wasting their time in futile if atrocious attacks on Israelis.
But what they must understand is that its no good waiting for the world to pressure Israel into appeasing them or for their leaders to come up with a war plan against the Jews that might work after a century of failure. If they want peace, they can have it along with statehood provided they are prepared to be reconciled with the permanence of a Jewish state. But if they persist in wanting war and being satisfied with leaders that can offer them only suffering, then that is exactly what they’ll continue to get regardless of how much the rest of the world sympathizes with their plight.