Yaakov Lozowick has written a fascinating report on a newly declassified transcript of the Israeli cabinet’s discussion about what to do with the captured territory immediately after the Six Days War.
Something he said struck me:
Sometime in the 1980s the general perception of the conflict changed. No longer seen as Arab rejection of a Jewish State, the conflict was understood as a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which the Arab world would maintain only until the two central protagonists reached an accommodation. Since the Israelis and Palestinians have not yet reached accommodation this proposition has never been tested, a fact which contributes to its explanatory power. 1967, however, was before the 1980s, and participants and observers the world over saw the conflict as an Arab-Jewish conflict, with the local Arabs playing a subordinate role; they were not generally referred to as Palestinians.
I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true.
Yesterday I fantasized about how the world would relate to Israel if there were no Palestinians. My answer was “not all that differently.” Not only would non-Palestinian-related geopolitical issues like Turkish neo-Ottomanism and Iran’s ‘tomorrow the world’ attitude still create conflict, but there is that old regret in Europe that maybe the idea of allowing a Jewish state was an overreaction to the mess of WWII. And in the Arab world — where Palestinians are only valued as victims of Israel and treated badly in any other context — Jewish sovereignty has always been seen as a crime against Allah.
Suddenly, sometime after the 1973 war and succeeding oil price spike, there was an explosion of concern for the Palestinians. The UN has since then established what seem like dozens of agencies and functionaries relating to their ‘plight’, despite the fact that Arab citizens of Israel and those “under occupation” have fared much better economically and have more individual freedom than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. This has become even more clear as the great majority of Arabs in the territories are now ruled by Hamas or the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA).
This is a point, incidentally, which many miss: very few Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens live under Israeli administration any more. Oh, there is still a blockade of Gaza which prevents weapons and explosives from arriving by sea, but the Egyptian border is essentially open, and Israel does not interfere with deliveries of food, gas and other staples across its land border. And while the PA doesn’t have full sovereignty in Judea and Samaria — the IDF enters Palestinian areas from time to time to arrest wanted terrorists — the PA does govern the day-to-day lives of the residents, often to their great unhappiness.
In other words, the ‘yoke of occupation’ under which the Palestinians are groaning these days is more or less whatever security measures are necessary to prevent them from killing Israelis.
Nevertheless, we have the aforementioned UN functions, the numerous NGOs supported by the European Union, the massive Human Rights industry and of course all of the student groups, academic champions and ad hoc organizations concerned with the condition of the Palestinians.
Why is this?
The centrality of the Palestinians in the political life of the world today is not accidental. And in order to understand it, I want to do the opposite thought experiment to the one I did yesterday:
Let’s imagine that all the Israelis disappeared tomorrow. What would happen?
After the initial candy distribution and ceremonial firing of rifles in various directions, Hamas, unrestrained by the IDF, would quickly swallow up the PLO. Unrepentant Fatah-ists would be tossed off tall buildings, and the long-awaited Islamic Republic of Palestine would be declared.
But then what? Would mutual enemies Iran, Turkey and Egypt — all of which support Hamas today — continue to do so? Or would Egypt grab what it could, Syria retake the Golan, Hizballah invade the Galilee, maybe even Jordan try to get Jerusalem back?
Europe and the US, after some lip service to decry the violence, would quickly lose interest. Perhaps the New Ottomans would try to step into the power vacuum. The one thing that would almost certainly not happen would be the development of a stable Palestinian state: