Some conventional wisdom about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is easily debunked. One such bit of nonsense is that Palestinians have or will turn on Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank after the losses in the recent fighting with Israel. After suffering over 2,000 casualties, seeing 32 tunnels destroyed, and losing two-thirds of its rocket inventory by firing them with little effect or having them destroyed by Israel, the perception is that Palestinians, deep down, have had enough, and see no benefit from the Hamas strategy of confronting Israel every two years.
Of course, this theory suggests that anything any Palestinian in Gaza believes or desires has anything whatsoever to do with who governs the territory, and in what fashion. If you subscribe to the notion that all politics is local, then Hamas is now stronger than ever. That seems to be the message explaining why Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is now by far the top choice to become the head of a unified PA-Hamas government, securing a 61% to 32% victory over Mahmoud Abbas if elections were held today. Most remarkable is that support for Hamas has soared in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which escaped the fighting. Palestinians in the West Bank are demonstrating that resistance is easy to support when someone else, somewhere else is fighting and getting hit. This “courageous” support for Hamas from Palestinians in the West Bank mirrors the “courage” shown by Hamas leaders who hid below ground while allowing the locals to be killed as human shields.
Of course there is an easy explanation out there for Hamas’ popularity, and the lagging support for Abbas, Fatah, and his Palestinian Authority. That would be the purported “land grab” by Israel in the West Bank, all of 988 acres, which naturally will destroy the chances for peace and reconciliation and the two-state solution. Muslim extremists can massacre people in one country after another in the Middle East and Muslim world, but Israel taking land it already controls to build houses, pending any legal challenges (got that?), is the ultimate threat to the survival of the world.
This “logic” depends on the badly mistaken notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the central explanation for the behavior of Islamists anywhere. If only Israel would stop building houses, then peace would be achievable between Israel and the Palestinians, and all the myriad Muslim grievances in dozens of countries on every continent would miraculously disappear. Such is the obsession with what Jews do, but more to the point, the intensity of the hatred of Jews and the state they control — a cause that journalists the world over, many parts of what might be called the “global left,” have signed onto. U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have been immersed in the holy waters of rage at Israel as well, according to spokesmen in his administration, most notably Martin Indyk:
And Mr. Obama — No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength — is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.
Of course, the rage will now be stoked by Israel’s land grab for more settlement building. This may force Obama to play 36 holes of golf a day for a week just to cool off.
Daniel Greenfield, in his customary caustic fashion, describes the perceived calamity of Jewish house-building:
Angry British men in red Keffiyahs hold up signs about the Holocaust in front of Jewish cosmetics stores in London. Marginalized French youth, by way of Algeria and Tunisia, hurl stones at synagogues. John Kerry interrupts a speech on the dangers of Global Warming as an aide notifies him of an even bigger threat to the world. David just made a down payment on a two bedroom in G’vaot …
Some may think that nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons, but as we see, time and time again, the ultimate weapon is a hammer and a fistful of nails in a Jewish hand.
Has Israel done anything illegal by its recent action? In fact, the answer is no:
Finally, there is the question of legality which has been a point of disagreement for many years. The question of legality comes from Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits moving the inhabitants in any occupied territory out of the occupied territory. The final section of the article also prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s population into an occupied territory. The view of Israeli jurists, and important U.S. jurists as well (like Eugene Rostow, the former dean of Yale Law School), is that this section relates to the forcible movement of an occupier’s population into an occupied territory. This language was incorporated after World War II as a reaction to Nazi German policies of forcibly transferring German Jews to Occupied Poland for extermination. It is no wonder that the Israeli Supreme Court never ruled that settlements are illegal, despite the announcements of a number of foreign ministries around the world.
If you want recent examples of clear Geneva Convention violations that no one made a big deal about, consider what Turkey has done in Northern Cyprus, or China in Tibet, or the Russians in the Baltic states after World War II.
Anyone can criticize actions taken by Israel that enable Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to expand on political grounds. But on legal grounds, their challenge is weak. The Oslo accords, signed by both Israel and the Palestinians, established a three-part demarcation of West Bank land, and the 988 acres Israel just declared as state land are entirely in Area C. This is an area in which Israel exercises full military and civilian control, and in which settlement activity and expansion was not in any way limited — regardless of what anyone thinks of the wisdom of doing so — and where Israel retained full control over zoning and planning (land use).
The near 1,000 acres are in an area known as Gush Etzion where 70,000 Jews already live, and in fact lived for many years prior to the 1948 war when Jordan invaded the area, along with other Arab armies, and murdered or expelled Jews from the communities where they lived. Jordan did the exact same thing — conquer, murder, and expel Jews — in what the world now calls “Arab East Jerusalem,” which of course was nothing of the sort before the 1948 war.
As for the political criticism, it, too, is a pretty weak straw. To begin, there is no evidence that the recent fighting has brought the Israelis and Palestinians closer to a settlement than before. Rather, the exterminationist language emanating from Hamas, and their supporters around the world, might seem to suggest the atmospherics for compromise are missing. ISIS is threatening to reach Palestine and “murder the barbaric Jews” (presumably in a barbaric fashion). It seems as if the separation between the parties involves more than the shape of the table for negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam. If there is any public statement by any Hamas official suggesting they are looking for ways to secure a two-state solution so Jews and Arabs can live in peace and security, side by side in two states, I have not found it.
The fact of the matter is that the Middle East processors, the Dennis Rosses and Martin Indyks of the world, have managed to stay gainfully employed for two decades uttering their bromides about what is needed to achieve peace. And the trusted old stand-by is to condemn Israel for settlement activity, which is a lot easier than criticizing the supposedly moderate PA for rejecting every peace offer that ever came their way. The peace processing camp has always argued that “everyone knows the shape of a final peace agreement, and that it involves sharing the land, and Israel exchanging land in pre-1967 Israel for land in settlement blocs that it absorbs.”
The 988 acres in Gush Etzion are in one of those blocs that everyone knows Israel will absorb, and that George Bush explicitly acknowledged in his 2004 letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. So what exactly is the problem? Israel is going to build houses in an area that all the two-state solution obsessives acknowledge will remain in Israel if such a two-state solution were realized. How does that damage the peace process?
The real problem for Palestinians is that whether members of Hamas, or Fatah, or Islamic Jihad, or some new branch of radical Islam they may adhere to, their ultimate goal is shared. That goal is death to Israel. Israel, to their dismay, refuses to cooperate. They are doing a great job of making new Israelis (a birthrate 50% higher than in any other part of the developed world). And they are building houses for the new Israelis. The Israelis have concluded that “death to Israel” is not a good starting point for achieving a two-state solution. So they build houses.
What a crime against humanity.