DEBATE: The Palestinians have made peace impossible

See the opposite side of this debate, with Tim Jackson, at this link.

To understand the reason why Israel does not tend to listen to Irish criticism of its approach to security, we should go back twenty years or so.

In the year 2002, 239 Israelis were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. Between 2002 and 2005 there were 136 suicide bombing attacks on Israel, claiming the lives of more than a thousand Israelis. For many ordinary people, getting on a bus, or going to school, or going to a shop, was a risk, and any Palestinian was a potential bomber.

To solve this problem, Israel built the “peace wall” – a physical barrier between the West Bank and Israel proper. This was universally condemned in Ireland, and at the UN, and in all the usual places, as a disgraceful attack on human rights, evidence of Israeli brutality, and all the usual stuff. Since 2005, and the erection of that wall, there have been 8 suicide bombings in total. The wall worked to save Israeli lives.

This picture taken on January 17, 2019 from the Palestinian West Bank village of Al-Ram (foreground) shows the Israeli separation barrier separating East Jerusalem (C-L) and the Palestinian West Bank town of Qalandia (background). (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

By the same measure, Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system is a wondrous piece of life-saving technology. It can shoot hundreds of missiles and rockets out of the sky, exploding them in the air, where they cannot kill anybody.

One of the biggest problems with it, though, is that it is so successful. Because it saves so many lives, we tend to forget that each one of those rockets – over three thousand, in the last week – were fired indiscriminately at a civilian area, with the express intention of killing Israeli women, and children. And the Iron Dome is not perfect. Some rockets still make it through, and in the last week, killed a four-year-old Israeli boy.

Israel has three options: It can tolerate the rockets forever, and hope that not many get through. It can send it ground troops to destroy the rockets, as it did – to universal condemnation – in 2014. Or it can strike the rocket sites from the air, which it is doing at present. In the short term, there is no other option. Those who pretend that there is another option that would halt the rocket attacks in the short term never seem to tell us what it might be.

Hamas, of course, is fully aware that its rocket sites will be attacked.

And so, it places them in areas which make it hard to attack them without killing civilians. Hamas is fully aware that a dead Palestinian child, and the outrage it provokes internationally, is almost as valuable to them as a dead Israeli child, killed by one of those rockets. This is the same organisation, after all, that sent all those young Palestinian people to blow themselves up in Israeli nightclubs, before the borders were closed.

What is Israel to do? At the Camp David Summit in 2000, it offered the Palestinians a state of their own – an offer that the Saudi Prince Bandar, no friend to Israel, and observing the summit, said that it would be “a crime” to reject. The Palestinians rejected it, nonetheless.

To this day, Palestinian schools teach Palestinian children that Jews – not Israelis, Jews – are subhuman, and dangerous. These schoolbooks are funded, by the way, with EU money. One German MEP, having seen them, said that they reminded him of the Nazis, and what they used to teach about Jews.

There are those who speak – very naively – about a “one state solution”, and suggest that Israel should simply allow the Palestinians to live alongside them, and share the land, in Israel. Those who advocate that, of course, are suggesting that Israel should allow up to four million people free access to its society. If even one per cent of those people are hard-line Hamas supporters (and the figure is probably higher) then that would be to allow 40,000 people who wish to kill the Jews into Israeli society. It is not a serious suggestion.

There are those, too, who suggest Israel should trade land for peace in a “two state solution.”

In the first instance, that could not be done tomorrow. The threat of the rocket attacks is happening now. A peace deal would take years to negotiate.

In the second instance, what peace deal would the Palestinians accept? They turned down what was on offer in 2000, and there is no reason to believe they would get a better offer today. From the Israeli perspective, every kilometre of territory they hand over is a kilometre that the rocket sites get closer to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Over the past twenty years, Israeli casualties in this conflict have collapsed, because Israel started prioritising its own security. The risks of negotiating with the Palestinians are simply much higher than the risks of containing the terrorist threat. Israelis – even the most left wing Israelis – will put up with bleating from Irish politicians, because the alternative is going back to the days when hundreds of Israelis were killed every year.

If the Palestinians want peace, they must change. They must stop the rocket attacks, stop teaching their children to hate Jews, and show the Jewish people living on the other side of the wall that they desire peace, not bloodshed. Until they do, Israel will have no reason to negotiate, no matter how much it annoys the Irish media.

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