The disarray, ritual violence, rancor, intermittent anarchy, and seemingly endless cycle of replacing one tyranny with another that have characterized the Arab Spring is also the predictable future for “Palestine.”
In the Islamic Middle East, the recurrent myth of “democracy” has conveniently taken on its own twisted grammar and syntax. For the most part, in this tormented and tormenting region, irony has already been upstaged by oxymoron.
Even after being awarded elevated status last year by the UN General Assembly – “Palestine” is now officially a nonmember observer state – feuding Arab authorities in the West Bank and Gaza will continue to vie viciously for consolidated national power. Here, unsurprisingly, Hamas and Fatah killers will obligingly murder and torture one another as best they can. This is what they know best. Significantly, other known or still-unknown jihadist groups will also enter the frenzied struggle for individual and group primacy.
Nonetheless, the warring factions are apt to come together intermittently on the one point of “higher philosophy” that can still bind them together. This utterly consuming worldview, of course, is a ritualized and irremediably primal hatred of Israel. This prospectively genocidal antipathy has its conceptual and historic origins in an antecedent hatred of Jews.
How little is understood in the West. Palestinian opposition to Israel has never really been about land. It has always been about religion and about corollary assurances of immortality.
What, exactly, then, can we expect from “Palestine”? One could argue, it seems, that this new Arab state will inevitably share a sort of mutual vulnerability with Israel, and that it would therefore be well advised to adhere strictly to responsible policies of protracted peace and coexistence.
In reality, however, here is what we can expect. After early episodes of intra-Arab conflict and related war crimes, periods during which time the competing Palestinian factions will fashion crisscross alignments with willing elements in other parts of the Islamic world, the crushing war against Israel will resume. Newly endowed with unprecedented geopolitical advantages against a now diminished Israeli min-state, this newest Arab state will launch substantially advanced rockets against the Jewish state. More than likely, there will be renewed attacks on Israeli schools, buses, and hospitals. After all, there will be an expectedly mad scramble to join the next blood-soaked wave of Islamic martyrs.
To respond effectively, Israel will need to rely more heavily on its capable active defenses. As long as the incoming rockets from Gaza, the West Bank, and possibly Lebanon remain entirely conventional, the inevitable “leakage” from Iron Dome and (possibly) David’s Sling (aka Magic Wand), could still be judged “acceptable.” But once these rockets are fitted with chemical and/or biological materials, such leakage could prove unacceptable.
A particularly serious security problem posed to Israel by any new state of Palestine would be one involving collaboration with Iran. Nowhere is it written that the developing Iranian nuclear threat must somehow remain strategically and tactically unrelated to a seemingly discrete Palestinian threat. Should Iran be permitted to go fully nuclear, which now seems pretty much certain, it could plan, in the future, to fire advanced ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads against Israeli cities. Operationally, this could be undertaken in managed coordination with certain non-nuclear rocket attacks, launched simultaneously from Gaza, West Bank, and/or southern Lebanon.
To meet indispensable protective objectives, Israel’s primary ballistic missile defense system, the Arrow, would require a 100 percent reliability of interception against incoming Iranian missiles.
Achieving such a level of perfect reliability, however, is technically impossible.
The core strategic problem facing Israel, therefore, is one of critical “synergies” or “force multipliers.” Working together against the Jewish state, Palestine, Iran, and assorted other enemies could quickly pose a cumulative hazard that is tangibly greater than the arithmetic sum of its component parts. Perhaps in anticipating this dire prospect, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to speak hopefully of a Palestinian state that would be “demilitarized.”
This expectation is naive and unsupportable. Whatever else it may have agreed to in its pre-state incarnation, any presumptively new sovereign state is entitled to “self-defense.” Under authoritative international law, this right is fundamental, immutable, and (per Art. 51 of the United Nations Charter), “inherent.” Further, to use proper terminology from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, it is also “peremptory.”
About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.
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