In the most recent outrage to occur since the UN passage of Resolution 2334, a driver rammed a truck into a group of soldiers in the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood of central Jerusalem, killing an officer and three officer cadets and injuring more than a dozen others before being fatally shot. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the terrorist had been identified and appeared to be “a supporter of the Islamic State.” According to the general commissioner of the Israeli police, Roni Alsheich, the attack came completely without any warning.
The attack has been condemned by representatives of the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisra’el Beitenu party in Israel and a member of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, has already addressed the elephant in the room, insisting that there is no connection between the issue of Israeli settlements and the terrorist attack; the attack took place, he said, for no other reason than that “we are Jews and we live here in Israel. There was no other reason and no need to look for an excuse – not Jewish settlements and negotiations but an attack inspired by ISIS.”
Lieberman was moved to make this pre-emptive statement, of course, because this is the immediate, knee-jerk reaction of the world press to any sort of terrorist incident in Israel, which is fueled by frustration over lack of “progress” in an alleged “peace process” and anger over the Israeli settlement policy. How valid is that claim?
Immediately after the signing of the armistice with Israel ending the War of Independence in 1949, guerrilla activity against the new Jewish state got underway. Even though Gaza was illegally occupied by Egypt after that war, and Yehuda and Shomron illegally occupied by Jordan, the sole focal point of Arab anger and hatred was Israel, through such brave actions as hurling hand grenades through the windows of farm houses and planting land mines on bus routes.
This led to the formation of Israel’s first anti-terrorism unit, known as Unit 101, under the leadership of a then young paratroop officer named Ariel Sharon. The purpose of the unit was straightforward: If the Arab states would not police the territories which they controlled, Israel would do it for them, with punitive raids against identified sources of terrorist outrages. This, together with the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Gamal Abdel Nasser, led to Israeli participation in the Sinai Campaign of 1956, to clean out the guerrilla bases in Gaza.
The next major event in the terrorist campaign against Israel was the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. Note the date well; this was not a “response” to Israeli “occupation” of Arab lands in Gaza, Yehuda, Shomron, or the Galil in the Six-Day War, as those areas were still firmly in the hands of the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Syrians. The Six-Day War came three years later.
When the dust settled from that war in 1967, Israel found herself holding the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal, and all of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Labor government of that day also accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, thereby committing Israel to withdraw “from territories” (according to the English-language text of the resolution) occupied in the late war, in exchange for peace.
For nearly seven years, Israel held those territories in readiness for the exchange, which no Arab was willing to make. When the dust settled from the coordinated Egyptian-Syrian sneak attack in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, many Israelis had had enough. A religious Zionist organization called Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”) was formed, which in 1974 founded the first “settlement” in the West Bank, Elon Moreh in Shomron (today a town of nearly 2,000 people).
They did this in the teeth of government opposition, but the Labor government of Yitzhak Rabin did not have long to go; multiple political scandals brought it down, and in 1976 Menachem Begin’s Likud came to power for the very first time. Orchestrated by Ariel Sharon, who was now the housing minister, the settlement movement for the first time received government backing and tax breaks.
A harbinger of things to come was a traumatic result of the disengagement in Sinai and eventual peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, the forced evacuation of Yamit, then a town of some 2,500 people along the northern coast of Sinai. When the city was handed over to the Egyptians in April 1982, it nearly caused a mutiny in the army, and it was Begin’s government that issued the orders.
A second such message was sent in 2006, when Ariel Sharon, the original architect of the settlement movement and now prime minister, presided over the forced evacuation of roughly 9,000 people from the Gush Katif region of northern Gaza. This, too, resulted in a near mutiny in the army.
And today, the towns and villages of Yehuda, Shomron, and the eastern part of Jerusalem are home to some 300,000 Jewish Israelis, and the number is increasing daily.
Israel is being boxed in, caught in the jaws of dilemma formed by the acceptance of Resolution 242 and continued lip service to a “two-state solution” which is not going anywhere and is utterly impractical and unworkable, and the continued expansion of Israeli towns and villages in Yehuda and Shomron, which the world lumps together with construction of new housing in the eastern part of Jerusalem. As a result, there is a largely silent, “cold war” going on between Israel and the EU over these policies, in which the EU has been charged with colluding with illegal Arab construction in those regions, and even spying on Israeli towns and villages in the region.
The Israeli government is loath to press the issue with member states of the EU for a variety of reasons: the presence of ca. 1,000,000 Jews in EU member states; the fact that the EU is Israel’s single largest trading partner; and the fact that the EU is a major source of defense equipment, particularly for the Israeli Navy. This has been brought home most recently by the Netanyahu government’s response to Resolution 2334, pulling back Israeli diplomats from countries like New Zealand and Senegal, which have only minimal dealings with Israel anyway, but stopping well short of doing any such thing to Spain, the UK, or France, all of which are members of the Security Council that voted for the resolution.
Indeed, far from seeking a diplomatic row, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, Israel has had to apologize for remarks by an Israeli consular official about the British foreign minister, which were recorded and broadcast by al Jazeera.
It is hypocrisy that the United Nations, which has allowed such unalloyed disasters as the collapse of Libya and the Syrian civil war, declares that the root of all Middle Eastern problems lies in the conflict with Israel. This, along with the realities created by Israeli policies over the last 40 years and the complete failure of every attempt so far to get the Arabs to agree on peace, is why there is no secular solution to the Middle East dilemma.