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“Man can do what he wills but he cannot choose what he wills.” – Schopenhauer.
So, another war is raging between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Gaza.
We know the routine from here. When the guns eventually fall silent and the silos close, Western elites will pontificate to Israel as if they themselves were virgins to violence; the UN will achieve nothing at a furious pace; Hamas meanwhile will probably claim a strategic ‘victory’ and won’t – I suppose – be wholly unjustified in doing so.
It seems the Israelis have once again been suckered into a publicity nightmare for zero strategic gain. Only a concerted effort to topple Hamas will prevent rockets being fired into Israel. Hamas knows this, and starts these wars on purpose, daring Israel to make a move. Israel also knows this, or should do by now.
But I don’t want to talk at length about this current dispute. Rather let’s use the occasion to broaden our view and ask a question about the fundamental clash of interests underlying this cycle of violence.
The standard view of the Israel-Palestine conflict (or that upheld by the UN and Western public opinion) is that it involves a claim by two peoples to the same territory. The troubles of the region originate from this simple contest, and are only later exacerbated by religious belief.
The radical or revisionist view of the conflict claims it is the other way around. The territory is secondary and religion (in particular Islam) motivates most of the violence.
A third view, and one I’d like to advance today, considers the economic factors of the divide and proposes that the advocates of at least one of the competing peoples are purposely deluding themselves.
Anyone who has read or studied basic psychology will be well-placed to judge the capacity human beings have for self-deceit, and that the thing one ‘wants’ is not necessarily what one claims to want or even what one wishes to want. If a problem-drinker, for example, goes to the corner shop for a bottle of gin, he may sincerely believe along the way that he is going to buy a newspaper. The human mind is so fallible that it can be manipulated even by itself.
In this context, consider this: Do the Palestinians really want ‘Palestine’ with its olive groves, rolling hills and ancient alleyways? Or do they in fact desire Israel, with its shopping malls, freedom and high standard of living?
It’s surprising how rarely this question is put to the world, and tragic too, since it can illuminate a hidden simplicity behind a seemingly complicated problem.
Given its strategic urgency, there have been innumerable remedies suggested for the Israel-Palestine conflict over the previous few decades, from the UN-backed ‘return to 1967 borders’, through the ‘Arab peace plan’ sponsored by Saudi Arabia, to the ‘three-state solution’, to the US ‘Roadmap’, to the most recent Lieberman Plan.
The last of these is most relevant to the context we have set ourselves.
The ‘Lieberman plan’ – named after its author Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party - suggests that a two state solution include the exchange of the Arab-populated areas of Israel for the Jewish populated areas of the West Bank, thus avoiding the need for a population ‘transfer’.
According to this plan, the Galilee region of Northern Israel would be attached to the bloc of West Bank inhabited by Palestinians. The Israeli Arabs in the area of Israel to be detached would lose their Israeli citizenship and become citizens of Palestine instead. The Jewish settlements of the West Bank would be attached to Israel proper. A Jewish majority in Israel would thus be assured, and the ‘problem’ of Jews on the West Bank would be solved at a stroke.
Personally, I don’t think this idea is workable in practice, but the reaction the policy has provoked is almost worth the effort put into proposing it.
The Arab citizens of Israel have branded the plan philosophically ‘racist’ and morally outrageous. The Palestinian establishment outside of Israel’s borders has also condemned the plan, presenting a claim of native descent specifically to the land currently tended to by the Jews, and re-stating a commitment to the return of refugees to towns within the same territory.
Let’s be clear. If, as it is routinely claimed, the Palestinians merely want a state of their own, the Lieberman plan should be sweetly palatable to them. It delivers immediately the state they claim to crave, and even supplies the Palestinian people with a social unity they have arguably never before experienced. Hamas in particular would get its wish of a Judenrein Islamic state, emptied of democracy, development and dirty Kuffar. The PA would be given full political sovereignty over its own citizens. What is there to object to?
The answer can only be that it leaves a highly developed, wealthy and democratic society living next door to them. This society and its high level of living is what is craved, and only by its destruction or infiltration can the Palestinian blood-lust be satisfied.
It has been well noted by travellers for many centuries that Islamic countries tend – almost without exception – to be dirt-piles. Places where nobody of depth or youthfulness could happily spend a week. Why then did any Leftist imagine Gaza could turn out differently?
For years, the PA and its Western cheerleaders squealed for the liberation of that strip of coastline. Now they have it and the rockets never stop coming.
Is that really due to those IDF troops calmly patrolling the other side of the border? Or does it actually involve those skyscrapers towering in the far distance, tortuously superior and forever out of reach?
In some dusty and eccentric corner of the Palestinian mind, does the thought arise that those sparkling buildings are the natural fruit of the territory, and not the work of those who have settled it? Do they imagine that they would be enjoying that same prosperity had the Jews never returned?
I don’t believe the Palestinians will ever be satisfied with gifts of land, however extravagant. There are countless states they could relocate to, and if it really was peace they craved, they would already be in them. But that is not and was never the point. They have glimpsed a better life through a forest of watchtowers and cannot now forget it.