Prior to Galileo Galilei, the 17th century Italian astronomer, the scientific world had a problem: Astronomers would make calculations for a variety of data based on the Christian notion that the sun orbited the earth. Alas, every few years, the data would become obviously skewed, which pushed scientists of the day to re-formulate their calculations, but never their basic assumption. It took Galileo to suggest that the basic assumption was flawed, but indeed – once Galileo’s revolution took hold, scientific data in a realm of disciplines began to take more solid form.
I was reminded of this story when reading Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz’s proposal to increase public transportation to Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria in response to the abduction of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel (or, it should rightly be said, in response to the left-wing attempts to blame Judea and Samaria Jews for the abduction because “irresponsible” parents allow their children to hitchhike). Katz’s proposal is surely welcome. The dearth of bus service, even to “settlement blocs” like Gush Etzion (to say nothing of outlying Jewish communities such as Itamar or Har Bracha) is a serious impediment.
But the assumption that hitchhiking is the problem here is analogous to Christian insistence that the sun orbits the earth. Like the medieval scientific community, Israeli and Western politicians remain mired in a faulty assumption; namely, that Israel’s “occupation” of “Palestinian” land is the root of Arab terror. Necessarily, then, that faulty assumption leads to faulty data, so periodically, the “land-for-peace” brigades in Israel and abroad are forced to re-calculate.
Teenage boys kidnapped? Better fix public transportation. Young man lured to Ramallah and killed by Palestinian killers? Parents better watch over their teens on the internet a bit more. Palestinian sniper kills a baby in Hebron? Well, you know… Hebron is “occupied,” after all. Jewish prayer on Temple Mount sparks Arab riots? Better warn those pesky Jews.
Hamas holds and IDF soldier hostage for five years? It’s because Israel holds Palestinian security prisoners. “Friendly” Arab countries and political entities feature anti-Semitic cartoons in state-run media? It’s domestic politics, you know. And the list goes on, and on.
Eventually, however, political king makers will be forced to grapple with a paradigm shift; namely, that the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel – and not Israel’s “illegal occupation” of Judea and Samaria – is the root cause of Palestinian terror. As in years gone by, the Tzippi Livnis and Zahava Galons of the world will be forced to reconcile with the unhappy (for them) truth that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is not at issue today, but rather Israel’s presence.
Unless and until Israeli decision makers change the context of the domestic political discussion vis-à-vis the Arab world, they will consistently be forced to re-calculate when the data comes up skewed.
(Incidentally, here, too, is another comparison to Galileo, who was considered an enemy of the Church and was punished severely for challenging accepted Church orthodoxy. One need only look at the fever with which the cadre of Oslo messianists denounce individuals who questioned, and continue to question, the wisdom of that folly, to prove this point).
Only when Israel discovers the humility to recognise that the Oslo Process has led to nothing but heartache on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian divide will the country be able to begin the process of healing. This is primarily, but not exclusively, incumbent on people who originally supported Oslo. Even for whom the “peace” process seemed like a good idea in 1993, no further proof than the abduction of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel should be needed to understand that Israel is in deep need of a new paradigm vis-à-vis our neighbors.