Category Archives: Palestine-Israel conflict

Assessing the “Historical Ties” Argument for Zionism

[A recent conversation prompted me to get clear on the issues below. As in the past, my treatment owes much to Michael Neumann’s excellent “The Case Against Israel.” I’ll say it again: If you read only one book on the Palestine-Israeli conflict, make it this one.]

Defenders of Zionism—here, the idea that Jewish people are entitled to Israel—almost always begin from the assertion that “the Jews” inhabited the area in question some very, very long time ago.

In fairness, this is not the entirety of the Zionist argument; still, the point is always made to bear more weight than it should. For example: If Jews lived in the region long-ago, well, so did Arabs and a lot of other groups; some of these predate the Israeli settlement. Indeed, there is probably no spot of inhabited earth to which somebody else did not have title at some distant point; this poses no pressing moral issue for any of us (including the Zionists)—So why should it be so central to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

The most we can cede the Zionists is that certain Jews had some claim to certain parts of what is now Israel—some very long time ago. What we cannot say is which particular Jews had claims to which parts, and whether these persons are the direct ancestors of the Jews pressing contemporary claims, and whether those claims are to those actual parts. Yet this is precisely what we need if the “claims” in question are to fit the normal mold of modern proprietary justice.

Worse, even if we could establish with certainly that this ancestor had legal title to this parcel of land, and this modern person is his direct descendant—that wouldn’t be enough. First, property claims can be given up—sold, exchanged, abandoned. Sometimes they are gotten by coercive or fraudulent means and thus were never legitimate in the first place. Without knowing the whole history of exchanges in which a given parcel is embedded, we have no way to know whether a given later claim is just.

Second, as Neumann warns, “descendant” should never be conflated with “rightful inheritor.” Since when does property automatically fall to the biological offspring of-the holder? This isn’t the way we adjudicate property claims in the modern world. (Nor is it the way the Zionists set up the laws in the new government they formed.) If we are going to assess Zionist claims according to ancient rather than contemporary norms of inheritance—that is, if we are going to abandon that “modern propriety justice’” that holds in every other case—will we go the whole hog, and let Jewish property only pass to the male descendants, by way of each eldest son? That would warrant a radical redistribution of Israeli holdings, to say the least. (And what of other norms, unrelated to land? Will we permit contemporary Israelis to re-enslave the descendants of the Canaanites their ancestors overcame? This kind of reckoning gets ugly fast.)

***

Perhaps we might endorse nationalist land claims on the basis of group—“peoples”—rather than individuals: “The Jews” lived in what is now Israel; therefore, “the Jews” are entitled to it today.

One problem: The Israelites, by their own account, came to the land in question as invaders and conquerors. Do a thief’s descendants have a right to inherit items he stole? Typically, one is not entitled to stolen property even if the theft is many times removed from the transaction by which she came by it.

It may be said that after so many generations, we can let sleeping dogs lie. But the issue is more complicated. The Hebrews were just one in a long string of conquerors—the Canaanites before them, the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks (etc.) after. What warrant is there for plucking one “people” from the middle of this long chain, and saying, these, but none ofthe others, have the legitimate claim. Nor is there anything about the character of the Israeli tenure that might bolster that claim among the rest; it is distinguished only my its tenuousness, brevity, and the smallness of its geographic footprint.

The Jewish case is typical: In the ancient world, large displacements of people—“peoples,” no less—were typically full of violence and theft, and the history of world leading up to the present distribution of people is chock full of such large displacements. This makes it unlikely that anybody, anywhere has a just claim to the spot of land they occupy.

It also makes it impossible to figure out who should rightfully own any spot. Imagine a bicycle which has for eons been alternately stolen, sold, traded, lent, abandoned, split into parts which have been alternately stolen, sold, traded, lent, etc.; imagine that some of the “thefts” were legal according to the laws of the day or were made so retroactively—and that some of the bequeathments which were legal, customary or moral at the time would not be so under our own laws and norms.

A “long-ago” claim to land is like a claim to this bicycle: First, there is no obvious, non-arbitrary principle of justice according to which these competing “less-than-just” claims could be sorted out. Second, there is a practical problem: Even if we had the principle, the empirical history of who took what from whom, when, is lost to us. We simply have no data to apply a principle to.

This is why virtually zero of the potential claimants to long-ago land press these claims, and why nobody would pay any attention if they did. (The Italians are not going to ask for the lands of the old Roman Empire, nor would even the most liberal among us demand all of the U.S. for the Native Americans.) The Zionists have a colossal burden of proof in showing what is special about their claim, or what is dead wrong about all of those that don’t get pursued—that is, what is dead wrong about the prevailing norm that those claims oughtn’t be pursued. (A norm, mind you, that they would support in every other case.)

One caveat: It is tempting to conclude that, if present land claims are all irremediably unjust, then “anything goes” in the way of re-distribution. (What’s wrong with stealing from a thief?) But this doesn’t follow. It doesn’t even follow that every legitimate claim—if we could figure those out—should be honored. As Neumann notes, even if the current inhabitants of the U.S. do not have a just claim to America, to force them from this land and “redistribute” it to the Native Americans (or to anyone else) would itself constitute a new and prohibitively grave injustice—or, if you like, would require new and prohibitively grave injustices in the course of enforcement. (Note that this is abundantly not the case in, say, returning the Occupied Territories and the post-1967 settlements to the Palestinians.)

The principle that makes this so is the same one behind the legal device of construction easements: Occasionally, a homeowner finds that the edge of her house rests on a neighbor’s property. In this event, it is almost never the case that the house must be destroyed or rebuilt; the property line is simply adjusted. The neighbor has a claim to that strip of land, but pursuing that claim would cause such hardship to an innocent party—the first homeowner—that he is not legally allowed to act upon it.

The easement example suggests a final point. Let’s assume that the Zionist claim to Palestine is legitimate, and that it is absolutely moral to pursue it. This still does not mean it should be pursued in just any old willy-nilly fashion. Implementing a claim requires both a just process and a proper authority to do the implementing.

By analogy: I work at a bank; a parent once came in with a check made out to her adult child who was away at college; the parent wanted to cash the check for herself. When this was denied, she pressed the point that she was paying for her child’s schooling and upkeep, and he owed her the money; she even offered to show receipts for some dorm furniture she’d bought. Of course, this was all worthless to the case. Even if she’d had a contract ordering her son to repay her for tuition on that date, it wouldn’t have worked. The point is not that she didn’t have a real claim to the money—she did. The point is that I wasn’t allowed to adjudicate her claim. I couldn’t just dip into his bank account and hand it to her. Nor could I, nor say, her local butcher or a random bystander, kick her kid’s teeth in, take his bike and sell it to get his mom the money. Enforcement of the claim is a job for the court system—and you can bet they can’t go about it in any way they please, either.

So even if “the Jews” had a right to move into Israel, it does not follow that David ben-Gurion had a right to form an army and unilaterally force the Arabs out, on his specific timetable, without compensation, warning, or arrangements made to facilitate the move.

* * *

In conclusion, there is an ironic sense in which none of the above really matters. For Zionism was never about “living in” the land but rather about ruling over it. The P/I “conflict” would be much simpler if the issue were just habitation. Indeed, the conflict was much simpler—or rather, nonexistent—until it became clear to the Arab population that their new Jewish neighbors were not content to continue living peacefully by their side, but rather intended to exercise sovereignty over them.

This is the heart of the issue: Even if we knew what we do not—that the Israelis had a claim to Israel, and the right to pursue that claim—and how to do this in a moral way and by whose authority—none of that would license anything like the racial-apartheid occupation state we know.

On the spurious idea of a nation’s “right to exist”

A bit about this whole “right to exist” that preoccupies Israeli political discourse:

Assuming any sense can be given to the concept of a “right” at all—it probably can’t; it certainly hasn’t—the origins of virtually any nation-state are so noxious, and so certain to have violated many hundreds of thousands of “rights” in the process of their establishment—that no state has the “right to exist.”

Of course, Israel and its defenders assume that to deny a “right to exist” is to endorse the dissolution of that the thing being denied. But this doesn’t follow. “Right” or not, the state of Israel does exist—and so do all the other states without the “rights” to do so. The question is not whether these entities have a right to exist, but whether it would be moral to dissolve them. Removing Israel as a national entity would be so reprehensible, cause so much pain and chaos—violate so many “rights,” if you like—that any such program would be immoral. The Israeli state—any state—should be suffered to exist not because it has the “right,” but because bringing about the alternative to its existence would be wrong.

For this reason, demanding that Hamas recognize Israel’s “right to exist” before any negotiations or concessions can proceed is unreasonable—because the concept is unreasonable. But even if it were reasonable—that is, even if Israel actually had a “right to exist”—it wouldn’t mean that a demand that others recognize that fact is reasonable. I mean, if Israel has a right to exist, it has many other things as well—say, lush hillsides. Should we demand that Hamas recognize Israel’s lush hillsides before anything can happen? Again, since a right to live in security, or defend itself, does not depend on any “right to exist,” we should no more care how a political party in a neighboring region feels about Israel’s “right to exist” than we should care how it likes its eggs in the morning.

Noam Chomsky’s analysis seems to me correct: An abstract “right to exist” is unique to the Israel-Palestine conflict; it isn’t talked about anywhere else in political science. It emerged in the 1970’s when the Arab states accepted Israel’s “right to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries.” This, of course, is something all states are minimally granted—it’s more or less a part of the very definition of statehood.

When certain Israeli political elements sought to obstruct meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians, they elevated the standard from the usual “right to live in peace (etc.)” to this goofy “right to exist.” They knew that Palestinian negotiators would feel a “right to exist” would validate of the origins of Israel—the dispossession of Palestinian lands out of which Israel was carved. They knew this was too much for the Palestinians to swallow, and would buy Israel time to create new “facts on the ground”—namely, the settlements, which make negotiations, and concessions of land by Israel, even harder.

By analogy: Let’s say you have built a house on my land without my consent. I’ve fought you for years about it but now I realize what’s done is done. You have a house and it isn’t going away. I agree to let you “live in peace and security,” which is little more than to recognize you as, indeed, my neighbor. But as soon as I endorse your “right to” live there, I suggest that it was OK for you to have stolen the land in the first place. This is another matter entirely.

On the nature of Israeli apartheid

John Spritzer has an older but relevant article on what just makes the Jewish state Jewish. To quote:

“The Jewishness of Israel is embodied in a set of laws which confer rights and benefits on Jews but not on others.” […]

“The second-class status of Arabs inside Israel is enforced by laws that privilege being Jewish, rather than by a formal denial to Arabs of citizenship or the right to vote and hold office. Thus the document says that Arabs shall have ‘complete equality of social and political rights’ and ‘full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its [Israel’s] provisional and permanent institutions.’ But the Law of Return, passed in 1950, begins: ‘Every Jew has the right to immigrate to the country.’ Yet one of the central grievances of Palestinians is that they cannot do the same thing; they cannot return to their homes of many generations in Israel. Even Arabs who never left Israel, but who only stayed for a few days in a nearby village with relatives to wait for the fighting in 1948 to end, are now categorized in Israel as ‘present absentees,’ a category in which they remain forever, and in consequence of which their homes and property remain in the possession of the Custodian of Absentee Property, who puts the property at the disposal of Jews.”

“Private organizations serving only Jewish interests hold quasi-governmental authority in Israel for policies that affect non-Jews. The main example of this is the Jewish Agency, which calls itself ‘the agency for Jewish interests in Eretz [‘the land of”] Israel…[it’s] role is defined…as a voluntary, philanthropic organization with responsibility for immigration, settlement and development, and coordination of the unity of the Jewish people.” The (Jewish) Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs describes the Jewish Agency as ‘a quasi-public, voluntary institution sharing many, often overlapping, functional jurisdictions with government.’ Yes, Arabs could set up a private ‘Arab Agency,’ but it would not have the quasi-governmental power, for example, to dispose of Jewish property the way the law allows the Jewish Agency to dispose of Arab property: the state’s Custodian of Absentee Property hands Arab property to the Jewish Agency, but it does not hand Jewish property to any Arab agency. Jews don’t have their property confiscated as “present absentees” because Jews, unlike Arabs, enjoy the “Right of Return.’”

“The U.N. Conciliation Commission estimated that about 80 percent of the land in what is today Israel is property formerly owned by Palestinians that was confiscated by Jewish organizations like the Jewish Agency. Palestinians are forbidden by Israeli law from owning it. Of all the land that may be legally sold in Israel, 67% of it may not legally be sold to Arabs, while none of it is barred from being sold to Jews. Thus, while Palestinians may be citizens in Israel, they are second class citizens, which is precisely what it means to live in a ‘Jewish state’ when one is not Jewish. Yet another feature of Israel that makes it an apartheid state is that it aims to separate Jews and Arabs on a personal level. For example, a Jew and an Arab cannot legally marry each other in Israel; such marriages, if performed outside the country, are not recognized under Israeli law.”

“Section 7A(1) of the Basic Law of Israel explicitly prevents Israeli citizens – Arab or Jewish – from using the “democratic” system of Israeli elections to challenge the inferior status of Arabs under the law; it restricts who can run for political office with this language: ‘A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if among its goals or deeds, either expressly or impliedly, are one of the following: (1) The negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish People. …’ In a 1989 Israeli Supreme Court ruling (reported in the 1991 Israel Law Review, Vol. 25, p. 219, published by the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) Justice S. Levine, speaking for the majority, ruled that this law meant that a political party could not run candidates if it intended to achieve the cancellation of one of the fundamental tenets of the State – namely ‘the existence of a Jewish majority, the granting of preference to Jews in matters of immigration, and the existence of close and reciprocal relations between the State and the Jews of the Diaspora.’”

[Spritzer’s full article here.]

There is more to the issue than Spritzer covers. To quote something I wrote some time ago:

Resource allocation [in Israel] is skewed toward the Jewish ‘sectors’.  Examples of this could fill books (and indeed do).  Human Rights Watch has extensively documented the Jim Crow nature of the state, calling Arab schools and neighborhoods “separate and unequal” as a matter of policy. (See HRW, “Second Class: Discrimination against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools” here.) Another report notes the many Arab neighborhoods in Israel which, despite housing thousands, have been declared “unrecognized” by the state and hence remain ineligible for public goods (like electricity and water) altogether. (There are no cases of “unrecognized” Jewish-majority neighborhoods, and there are “recognized” Jewish neighborhoods further out on the periphery of the country than non-recognized Arab ones, indicating the problem is deliberate and not logistical). (See also Lustick, “Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel’s Control of a National Minority.”)

There is self-determination and then there is ethno-tyranny (the Jewish state is the latter)

Following up the last post:

Israel indeed has laws that apply only to, and favor, Jews (ergo, discriminating against non-Jews). These mostly concern ownership of property. (For example, most of the land in Israel cannot be legally sold to non-Jews.) This is why the “only democracy in the Middle East” does not have its own constitution, with anything resembling a Bill of Rights; declaring universal equality before the law would run counter to the content of those laws.

None of this should be surprising given Israel’s nature as a “Jewish state” whose founding document declares the “sovereignty of the Jewish people” to govern. What is puzzling to me is why this strikes almost nobody as nastily racist.

The typical defense against such a charge is to cite the virtue of “self-determination,” arguing: The State of Israel is the product of the Jewish self-determination struggle, which is parallel to and just as valid as the self-determination struggles (Vietnamese, Haitian, Philippine, etc.) that gave birth to many other nations.

But this strikes a flawed analogy: There is a key difference between a group of regional inhabitants throwing off colonial shackles and forming a nation “on the spot,” as it were—and a group of persons, scattered all over, gathering on a spot where another group of regional inhabitants already lives, and declaring legal rule over them.

It’s the difference between painting the house I already live in, versus somebody’s breaking into another’s house to paint it, against the owner’s objections—and then defending it by saying there is no real difference between the two scenarios: “We’re both just painting—if he can do it, why can’t I? Everybody paints, right? Why are you picking on my painting?”

The problem, of course, is not the painting but the breaking in. The problem with Israel, of course, is not the “self-determination” but the circumstances under which it was undertaken.

Whatever other reasons might be given in favor of Jewish supremacy in Israel, the “self-determination” analogy does not work. Determination on the basis of ethnic or religious or any grounds other than shared geographic locality is, all things being equal, immoral, not to mention tyrannic.

What’s going on with Israel and the Gaza Strip?

The current hostilities: The bigger picture

The current fighting in Gaza can only be understood in context of the broader Israel-Palestine conflict; and that conflict is only understood in light of a few basic facts:

First, Israel’s long-term goal—laid out in its founding documents and affirmed by every Prime Minister since—is to annex the Occupied Territories. This is why Israel still refuses to declare its own borders after fifty years.

Second, being the world’s only apartheid state—with one set of laws governing (and favoring) Jews and another for Arabs—the key challenge to this plan is maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel. A nation “by Jews, for Jews”—to paraphrase the founding Declaration—should probably mostly be Jews. Anything less than that in the Territories makes annexation a problem.

Since the late 1960’s, one strategy for “Jewish-ifying” (read: ethnically cleansing) the Territories has been to build Jewish-only settlements there, to compress the Palestinians further and further toward the east and gobble up the western land as it is vacated. Another strategy, used in tandem with the first, has been to create enough violence, misery and mayhem in the lives of Palestinians to make them simply leave (or perish in sufficient numbers).

A change of strategy in Gaza

However, Gaza, being the most Arab-dense, radicalized, and “ungovernable” of the Territories, has proved unready for settlement. Sharon’s “disengagement” of 2005—dismantling the settlements and removing IDF ground troops from Gaza—was not about abandoning the annexation goal (much less about “peace”) but about tweaking the strategy and timetable for achieving it. Israel simply traded a settlement strategy in Gaza for one of (increased) conventional violence.

“Disengagement” accomplished two things: First, it freed Israel to expand the settlements elsewhere. In Sharon’s words, “[t]here is no chance of establishing a Jewish majority” in Gaza, so “we are turning our resources to the most important areas, which we need to safeguard for our existence: the Galilee, the Negev, Greater Jerusalem, the [remaining] settlement blocs, and security areas.”

Second, clearing the Jewish settlers from Gaza, along with the soldiers that protected them, opened the way for a massive escalation in violence and state terror against the remaining Palestinians (in essence, “warming up” the region for settlement down the road).

At the time of disengagement, Israel publicly reserved the right to invade Gaza whenever it wanted. Not three weeks afterward, Israeli planes knocked out Gaza’s infrastructure, hitting power grids, roads, and bridges. Near-daily air strikes have continued ever since. These always kill civilians, as do Israel’s artillery shell attacks into Gaza, which were escalated also. In the April following evacuation, Israel lobbed more than 3,000 shells into Palestinian villages in Gaza.

And Israel added a perverse new weapon to the arsenal: the sonic boom. Low-flying jets break the sound barrier, producing a massive shockwave across the region, disrupting sleep, bloodying ears and noses, inducing miscarriage and heart attacks, and causing general fear and disorientation. This could never have been attempted when the settlements were in place.

for-israel-gaza-blog

From Dec. 28, 2008, when Israeli air strikes killed 200 Palestinians in a single day. (Hamas rocket fire has killed 28 Israelis since 2001.)

Direct violence is not the only issue. Israel retains total control of Gaza’s borders, coastline, and air space. It takes a tax bite from every product that enters. It forbids Palestine to negotiate its own trade and foreign policy. Israel uses border closings as a weapon, halting food and medical imports and blocking people from accessing work or medical care. After the Palestinians voted for the “wrong” party in January, 2006, Israel cut off water to Gaza—water-starved as it already was—and kidnapped a third of the new Palestinian legislature. Israel continues to kidnap civilians from Gaza, holding them in Israeli prisons without ever charging them with a crime. (About a thousand Palestinians remain in this predicament.)

Conclusion

This, keep in mind—all of the above—is why Hamas is led to fire those rockets into Israel.

Four points follow from this analysis:

(1) The rocket fire is not an intransigent part of daily life in Israel. The current hostilities are not “complicated” or “delicate.” Hamas’s violence is not “senseless” or primarily ethnically or religiously motivated. You can call Hamas assholes, you can critique their strategies, but their demands are legitimate, and any reasonable person would share them in the same situation.

(2) Since Israel continues to control all aspects of life in Gaza, it makes no sense to quibble over “who fired the first shot” in the current wave of hostilities. If I have broken into your house, locked you in the basement, and camped out in your living room, it matters little who casts the first blow when we get into a fight.

(3) Even if you don’t want to call the situation in Gaza an “occupation,” nobody, including Israel, denies that there is an occupation of the West Bank. And, to paraphrase Noam Chomsky, since the West Bank and Gaza are a single unit, if resistance is legitimate in the West Bank, it is legitimate in Gaza. Again, if I limit my “occupation” of your house to the living room, it still makes sense to throw things at me from the den. The house is “a unit” and if one room is occupied, the house is occupied.

(4) Finally: If you don’t like the Palestinians using violence to resist, ask yourself what else they are supposed to use. They have no other leverage. They have nothing to concede to Israel except cessation of violence. Everything else they either cannot do without, or Israel has already taken from them.

Demanding Palestine cease its violence before any peace negotiations can proceed is one-sided. The occupation is violence—Israeli violence; if both sides renounced their own violence, the Territories would be vacated and there would be nothing to negotiate over. So the ball is firmly in Israel’s court, as it has always, basically, been. (There wouldn’t even be a court if not for Israel’s behavior.)

“Bad idealism” and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

[Much of this post is inspired by Michael Neumann’s analysis in his book, “The Case Against Israel.” Tidy and eloquent, if you read one book on the P-I conflict, make it this one.]

American and Israeli thinking about the P-I conflict is a great example of what might be termed “bad idealism” in politics. By this I mean a preoccupation with “telling facts”—as in, “It must be very telling that x is the case.” Idealism uses a prestanding theory to show, by inference, how the world must be when we could just look at how it is. Recalling the Democratic debates, Obama must be unpatriotic if he doesn’t wear a flag pin—no matter what the man has ever done. Similarly, many socialists of the “third camp” persuasion refuse to lend political support to the Cuban revolution because of Fidel’s bourgeois background, or bourgeois participation in the revolution, on the Marxist specification that the working class is the “motor” of the revolution. This, instead of looking at what the actual character of Cuba looks like, wherever it “came from.”

Regarding P-I: There is an idea that getting the Palestinians (Hamas) to “accept Israel’s right to exist” is important before meaningful negotiations can proceed. Notwithstanding that Israel’s refusal to declare its own borders means that it is unclear just what “existence” Hamas would be agreeing to—there are deeper issues.

For one, no matter what Hamas says, they know that Israel’s existence is a fait accompli. We know this not only because (a) they are not stupid, but more importantly because (b) they are not fighting against the “existence of Israel”—again, no matter what they say they are doing. This (b) is an important point if you are of the view that the negotiations and the violence are connected, or rather, that the preparedness of Hamas to accept Israel’s “existence” and its preparedness to cease violence against Israel, are connected.

The position amounts to “bad idealism” for two reasons. For one, Palestinians can perfectly well negotiate with Israel without renouncing violence. In fact, a sincere renunciation of violence against Israelis would make meaningful negotiations impossible—precisely because the Palestinians have nothing with which to negotiate except for violence. If they renounce this, the Israelis can simply do what they want to them. They might treat them well or poorly, for all we know, but the Palestinians will have conceded them all the power of deciding.

Second, for precisely the same reason, a solution to the P-I violence can be met without anyone’s even negotiating at all. Again, it isn’t Israel’s “existence” that Hamas fights against, but rather their settlements into Palestinian territory. These settlements, begun in the 1970’s, are fatal to Palestinian lives, homes, culture and sovereignty. The settlement policy has maintained, and the settlements themselves deepened, across every Israeli cabinet since their beginnings, and, all things being equal, Israel intends to spread them across the West Bank as far as they can. The most unsavory Israeli actions in the territories—roadblocks, detainings, and the like, are geared toward protecting and supporting these.

Given Palestinian options, a violent response on their part is rational and, I think, moral, if a violent response to anything is ever warranted. It also shows why a Palestinian renunciation of violence would be worthless: They have to resist the settlements, and whatever they say, so long as the settlements remain it will always be the case that somebody will. In this way, the settlements block peace even if they aren’t the cause of the fighting.

(Note: The fact that the fighting began before the settlements does not change this assessment. There is no amorphous P-I “violence” to speak of. The establishment of Israel prompted one wave of Palestinian violence in 1948; the settlements, a distinct action, prompted a distinct response that continues to the present day as the settlements maintain and spread.)

Conclusion

Israel could withdraw from the Occupied Territories without striking any agreement with Israel. This unilateral action would lessen the violence by removing its chief cause. It would have the added effect of allowing Israel to firm up its borders, now indefensibly jagged and porous due to the settlements. A secure border would enhance peace even if Hamas, inexplicably, remained more ravening to murder every Israeli than they (allegedly) are now. Defining Israel’s borders would ipso facto define the Palestinian borders, making a way for genuine Palestinian statehood. This would aid any subsequent negotiations by providing a “legitimate” party for Israel to negotiate with, and would, again, give the Palestinians something to lose. As of now, the Palestinian leadership lacks the resources, the authority—and again, the real incentive—to police the anti-Israeli “terrorists” in their midst. Sovereignty in the Territories would change all that. Not to mention the support of the world that would result from a good faith withdrawal.

Against this ready prospect, only a bad idealism could cast what Palestinians think, or say they think, as the more important consideration.