I think the best way to describe the world’s response to the latest Gaza conflict is: confused. Who won? Who lost? What did people die for? With the right optic, the conclusions are really quite simple. It’s a lesson as old as the Iliad: wars are not fought over land or money, they’re fought over RIGHTS. The land and money are just spoils. What Israel achieved in this latest episode was the right to do as it will with the occupied territories.
But let’s back up a bit … 47 years, to be exact. When Israel was REALLY surrounded by sworn enemies on all sides. Enemy governments, with militaries, ready to invade and quash the adolescent state from all sides. The only way to stay alive was to wage a pre-emptive war and push their armies back to safer borders … annexing Sinai, the west bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights.
Taking the land, in that case, was the easy part. They took over the territory so they could demilitarize them and give them some breathing room against invading armies. But what to do with it? What to do with the people? This is where we see how important rights are.
Since 1967, Israel has been stuck in a quandary. They didn’t want to annex the territories, since that would mean granting citizenship to predominantly Arab areas, thereby diluting Israel’s Jewish identity and sovereignty. A double-whammy considering the outright hostility of local Arab states to Israel. They couldn’t just catch-and-release, since that would defeat the purpose of the entire war. So the solution was to just maintain them in some limbo where those living in the occupied territories became refugees.
Now when it comes to refugees, the UN has some jurisdiction. And this is the same UN that equated Zionism with Racism in 1975 – it wasn’t exactly friendly to Israel. Israel basically had to suffer the next 47 years dealing with Intifadas, Arafats, a UN that both funded the refugees and readily condemned Israel for its treatment of these refugees at every chance it could. Meanwhile, the other Arab countries refused to grant them citizenship within their own borders.
Indeed the whole “Palestinian” cause originated in 1967 as a political move against Israel. Where the Arabs couldn’t win militarily, they would win diplomatically. They would goad the refugees to make life as difficult as possible for Israel, and as soon as Israel was forced to respond militarily, they would rush in and call for an immediate end to Israel’s “aggression”. A UN friendly to their agenda made sure Israel had no choice but to comply.
And so It would take several decades – the Camp David accords, 9-11, an Intifada, Israel’s exit from Gaza, the Arab Spring – to shift the winds of diplomacy into Israel’s favor. The president of the USA no longer talks about Israel as an “apartheid state” but talks about its “right to security”. Jordan has dropped its hostility towards Israel, even the UAE talks about the need to normalize relations with Israel.
But what really sets this conflict apart from the last few is that this is the first one since the Arab Spring and subsequent crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. General Sisi has blown up the tunnels leading from Egypt into Gaza, making them completely blockaded.
So where once Hamas and Gaza had open support from the Arab world, they now were cut off with no way to survive. This is why they unleashed such an irrationally suicidal mission against Israel – they had no other choice. It was a Hail Mary (so to speak) in hopes that they could spark enough sympathy for their plight that Egypt or somebody similar would break the blockade.
Instead, whereas in previous conflicts other Arab countries would rush to their aid, this time they stayed back. Yes, we heard of the anti-Semitism and demagoguery flaring through Europe and Turkey and the like, but the relevant fact is no government offered them any official support. No military aid, no diplomatic pressure. The words against Israel were just words.
So, when Netanyahu says Israel came out victorious, what he means is that Israel set out its mission – Operation Protective Edge – and completed it as fully as possible with no need to scale back or cancel. This is a first. To go any farther than that against Hamas would have required invading with ground troops, and that was never a part of this mission.
This implies Israel now has other rights. And you hear the conversation around Jerusalem shifting to reflect it. For the first time, people are openly discussing programs to help the refugees emigrate to other Arab countries. It’s still in hushed tones, but give it time. The US is preparing a motion in the UN for an international effort to demilitarize Hamas.
Meanwhile, Israelis are clamoring for more to be done. More will be done, for sure. The irony of Bibi’s “decrease” in popularity is that people veered towards his RIGHT. They wanted him to go in immediately and finish them off.
So give it time. Already Netanyahu went and annexed the 1.5 square miles associated with the kidnapping of the three teenagers: a bold move that asserts Israel’s new confidence in its security position. The opposition has been vocal — but only a voice.
Meanwhile, a ground invasion, a feasible program to incorporate the occupied territories into Israel, abandoning the “two-state solution” or the “right of return”: these things were all unheard of just two years ago. Expect to hear these more and more from here on out.
These are the rights Israel has fought for, and won.