In meetings over the past month with several Pro-Israel friends and colleagues, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. These people are all firmly in the pro-Israel camp, are right-wing politically on Israel, maintain Israel has the right to govern and grow Judea and Samaria, and understand the Palestinian terror threat. The friends and colleagues I spoke with are Orthodox Jews who are rabbis, educators, professionals and businesspeople. Each one surprisingly asked me the same question, “Why can’t Israel lighten up and make the Palestinian situation better?”
Their question hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve heard the question from Israel’s critics almost every week for the past fifteen years but hearing it from Israel’s friends stunned me to the point where time and time again I blabbered an incoherent response.
Friends questioning whether Israel can do more for the Palestinians comes from a good place. It either stems from the Jewish value of mercy and wanting to help all people, or thinking that improving Palestinian quality of life will ease up Palestinian attacks on Israelis and international criticism of Israel. Regrettably, life is more complicated than acting mercifully automatically leading to better outcomes.
Questioning whether Israel can do better for the Palestinians is based on two mistaken assumptions. The first, Israel treats Palestinians in a manner that requires improvement and is deserving of criticism. This mistaken assumption isn’t based on witnessing oppression by Israeli forces, but from reading multiple Palestinian and media accusations against Israel. When the layers of lies are peeled away, even a cursory survey of Palestinian life under Israeli rule reveals a life with human rights, opportunity and fair treatment. Claims of a life of hardship are contradicted by the plethora of Arab-owned late model luxury cars and mansions spread throughout Judea and Samaria. Jobs in Israel and joint industrial zones are available to Palestinians, and the health care and education available to Palestinians is among the highest rated in the Middle East.
The second mistaken assumption is that Israel hasn’t worked hard to improve the Palestinian condition. When Israel reclaimed Judea and Samaria (The West Bank) from the Arabs, there were four Arab towns with running water, the rest were using 2,000-year-old Roman cisterns. Palestinians complained about wait times at checkpoints and Israel spent the time and resources on installing biometric ID turnstile type machines that drastically cut down on wait times at the checkpoints. These are just two of many examples of Israel working hard to improve the lives of Palestinians.
Most restrictions on Palestinian independence stems from Israel’s security concerns. A common Palestinian complaint against Israel’s security policies is pointing to any one policy and claiming it restricts Palestinians but doesn’t stop terrorists. Israel’s security strategies to counter terror are multi-faceted. Individually, no one policy can be proven to prevent attacks – which is why Palestinians love repeating their line – but together the policies combine to create a terror shield.
An example of complaints against a security policy concerns Israel’s demolishing homes of Palestinian terrorists. When a Palestinian terrorist plans an attack, they make a cost/benefit analysis. If the costs – making their family homeless – is greater than the benefit of killing innocent Israeli children (sic) they won’t attack. Palestinians try to discount the deterrent explanation by claiming there’s no proof home demolitions act as a deterrent to terror. It’s impossible to prove one way or the other because it’s one piece of a larger strategy.
A second example is Israel’s “Citizenship and Entry Law,” or as Palestinians call it, the Palestinian Family Reunification law. Palestinians and their advocates incorrectly claim the law is a hardship that prevents an Israeli citizen who marries a Palestinian who isn’t an Israeli citizen from living together in Israel proper, including Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
This isn’t true. Palestinians can live together and in Jerusalem. The Palestinian spouse can apply for a residency permit to live in Jerusalem. The law prevents the Palestinian spouse from gaining Israeli citizenship. Palestinian terrorists have a tough time getting into Israel to commit attacks. Palestinian terrorists employed a subterfuge and began sham marriages with Arab Israeli citizens supportive of Palestinian terrorism. After marrying an Israeli citizen and gaining their own citizenship, they’d be almost impossible to handle without a long and protracted legal process. Israel instituted a citizenship law that didn’t allow this trick to be used. Israel reported that 10 percent of terror attacks used these sham marriages to gain rights and kill innocent men, women and children.
A third criticism is that all of Israel’s many oppressive security policies are unnecessary. Israel can just use background checks and be just as secure. Background checks aren’t magic, they are just another tool in the shed. Critics with no security background who pronounce, “there’s just got to be a better way,” are being unrealistic. There isn’t a magic policy that Israel refuses to employ that makes Israel secure and Palestinians happy.
Palestinians demand a free Palestine, “from the River to the Sea.” It is naïve to think Palestinians or their advocates will be placated by an easing of Palestinian restrictions. Only when Israel cedes control of all the land and ends the Jewish state will Palestinians be truly satisfied. Until then, any easing of restrictions as an appeasement to Palestinians in the hopes of reducing criticism against Israel or satisfying Palestinian demands is an exercise in futility.
Until Palestinians make considerable efforts to stop terrorism from their ranks, Israel will always put its people’s security above Palestinian independence. Israel is also a moral country and to the best of its abilities, as it has consistently done in the past, will act generously with the Palestinians. Israel’s friends can do their part by investigating accusations made against Israel before accepting them as truth.