Latest update: January 10th, 2013
There is a widespread misconception that the Middle East conflict is complicated. In fact, it is really rather simple.
Indeed, one can basically summarize and explain the entire conflict in the context of the words “occupation” or “occupied territories” and people’s beliefs about the effects of such “occupation.”
For most of the past 44 years (since 1967) there has been more or less of a universal consensus that eliminating the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza, areas dubbed “occupied Palestinian territories,” would reduce tensions and make the region more tranquil, possibly leading to full peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let us dub this theory the “Removal of Occupation Lowers Violence” axiom.
It is impossible to overstate how broad the ROLV consensus is. Outside of Israel it is essentially taken as Divine Truth. Even within Israel, ROLV has, for much of the past two generations, been the consensus position on most way stations along the political spectrum.
Nearly all of Israel’s parties have long agreed, certainly since the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, that the key to reducing tensions between Israel and the Arab world is via partial or total removal of Israeli “occupation” of those territories. With the exception of small parties on the Israeli right, basically the entire Israeli political elite, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud, is at least nominally committed to the ROLV vision.
But the average Israeli understands by now that removal of Israeli occupation does not reduce violence – it actually escalates it. Nearly all Israelis understand that were a cut-and-paste version of the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza applied to the West Bank, which is pretty much what the world is demanding, the result would be tens of thousands of rockets and missiles – and, eventually, weapons of mass destruction – fired at the Jews of Israel by the Arabs in the “liberated territories.”
The ROLV axiom is simply wrong and almost all Israelis realize it is wrong, even if nearly 100 percent of the rest of the world and most American Jews think it is correct.
And wrong it is. The unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza proved better than any controlled laboratory experiment how invalid ROLV is and what the real effect of “ending occupation” is. True, the anti-Semites and their terrorist allies claim Israel never really relinquished its occupation over the Gaza Strip, though that claim exhibits Orwellian levels of NewThink pretense and cognitive dissonance.
If there is not a single Jew in Gaza, and Gazans enter and leave Gaza freely and smuggle in unlimited stocks of weapons from Iran while running their own economy, in what way exactly can this be considered to be Israeli occupation? It is occupation only in the sense that the U.S. “occupies” Castro’s Cuba by imposing some limits and restrictions on the trade done with the pseudo-occupied by the pseudo-occupier.
Israeli Arabs as well as Israeli Jews understand perfectly well that the ROLV dream that removal of Israeli occupation would produce tranquility is just that – a dream, and a dangerous one at that. Israeli Arabs and Jewish far leftists support ROLV precisely because they know, along with other Israelis, that it will produce an escalation of violence and tens of thousands of rockets and missiles landing on Israeli Jewish civilians.
For the rest of the Israeli public, skepticism regarding ROLV is all but unanimous – almost as unanimous as the belief in ROLV one finds outside of Israel. Unlike Israeli Arabs and Jewish far leftists, who support ROLV because it would destabilize Israel and worse, the small group in Israel that still sincerely believes in ROLV as the best possible solution for Israel’s future wellbeing is confined to one or two political parties of the less extreme left – parties that combined are expected to win fewer than one vote in six in the upcoming election.
While Israeli political parties, especially Likud, may still pay lip service to ROLV, almost none of their rank and file supporters and voters believe in it. Indeed, the parties pay the price for their superficial posturing in favor of ROLV. Some of the posturing is to gain support (including financing) from overseas believers in ROLV, or to curry favor with the Obama administration and other foreign governments. But those going through the posturing are as aware as everyone else that ROLV is just plain wrong in theory and would be terribly dangerous to Israel if implemented.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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