Nothing has provoked such a division of opinion as the current Israel/Gaza war – on the background to it, its execution and its resolution. Today we publish two considered but different perspectives on these issues and the necessary or inevitable conclusions each leads to.
MANY years ago Dean Inge, a great Anglican priest and scholar, summarised the case against pacifism and appeasement in these words: ‘It is no use the sheep passing resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.’
The same truth applies to the constantly repeated attempts to bring about a lasting and peaceful resolution of the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli concessions can never bring peace as long as their enemies remain committed to the destruction of the Jewish State and the physical removal of its inhabitants from the land.
Nothing has demonstrated this more dramatically than the story of Gaza. To quote Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post on July 17 2014, nine years before Hamas’s savage and unprovoked assault on Israel provoked the current war:
‘Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Does no one remember anything? It was less than ten years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza. And there was no blockade. On the contrary, Israel wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed. To help the Gaza economy, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce. The whole idea was to establish the model for two states living peacefully and productively side by side. No one seems to remember that, simultaneous with the Gaza withdrawal, Israel dismantled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank as a clear signal of Israel’s desire to leave the West Bank as well and thus achieve an amicable two-state solution . . .
‘And how did the Gaza Palestinians react to being granted by the Israelis what no previous ruler, neither Egyptian, nor British, nor Turkish, had ever given them – an independent territory? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. Then, instead of building a state with its attendant political and economic institutions, they spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with terror weapons, to make ceaseless war on Israel . . . they built mile upon mile of underground tunnels to hide their weapons and, when the going gets tough, their military commanders. They spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms, even drones. They deliberately placed them in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes to better expose their own civilians . . .’
The same hatred for Jews and denial of Israel’s right to exist has characterised the attitudes and policies of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) ruling the West Bank, undermining the prospect for peaceful co-existence between Israel and a Palestinian state. To quote Abu Iyad, who until his death in 1991 was Yasser Arafat’s No 2 in the PLO: ‘There should be no illusion as to the solution, whether through the United States or through an international conference. According to the phased plan, we will establish a Palestinian State on any part of Palestine the enemy will retreat from . . . We cannot achieve the strategic goal of a Palestinian State in all of Palestine without first establishing a Palestinian State on part of its territory.’
That this remains the strategy of the current Palestinian Authority is borne out by the fact that its logo still brazenly shows a map of a future Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean – i.e. not alongside Israel but instead of it. More importantly, its media, mosques and educational institutions continue to demonise Jews and encourage violence against Israel, and the PA persists in honouring Palestinian terrorists as ‘heroes’ and ‘martyrs’, providing financial support for their families. The result? Most West Bank Palestinians, according to at least one recent poll, fully support Hamas and welcomed the October 7 savage and sadistic massacre of Israeli civilians.
It is hardly surprising, against this background, that Netanyahu and other Israelis are opposed to the ‘two-state solution’ favoured by Western leaders, and determined to retain control of security around all their borders. So would we be if we were facing the constant existential threats they do.
What, then, is the solution to this tragic conflict? If I knew it, I could claim the Nobel Peace Prize, but one thing seems clear to me. Public opinion in the Western democracies, and their governments, should stop accepting uncritically the narrative of Palestinian dispossession, which delegitimises and weakens Israel, encourages anti-Semitism, and is wholly and provably false – as I tried to show in my previous article on this website, and in a much longer paper I wrote in 2015 and which is freely available from me on request.
We publish Donald Forbes’s view in the previous article.