Treating Israelis Like Rational People, Not Pawns

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Then he offered the lessons he didn’t want to learn—what we might call inconvenient truths. The first of these is: “occupations can work.” It’s a corollary to the pronouncement that Gaza is quiet. But it rests on a statistic he offered in his opening remarks where he noted that only one suicide bombing was successfully carried out against Israel in 2008. In 2002 that number was 53. IDF antiterror operations in the West Bank, the construction of the system of early-warning chain link security fences, and the decision to maintain a ready IDF presence in the West Bank (what he might call in other circumstances an “occupying army”) enabled Israel to keep the peace.

Another lesson was that “deterrence can work.” And, as he told the audience, you cannot have both deterrence and proportionality.

Byman also played the “demographics pose an existential threat to Israel” card, and he said Israel may be strengthening Palestinian rejectionists and extremists with the lack of a deal. Eighteen years after Oslo, they may reasonably say, “Where are we?”

But while this question implies that Israel is at fault for the lack of progress, Byman needs also  to understand is that Israelis are asking the very same question—and it’s worth exploring further.

When an Israeli looks around and says “where are we?” what he sees, externally, are two kinds of states. The first is Egypt, which has effectively suspended its peace treaty with Israel now that the one defender of that treaty, Hosni Mubarak, has been expelled from power and is being replaced with an anti-Western figurehead catering to influential Islamist parties.

The second is Lebanon, a borderline failed state with a sovereign nonstate controlling its security and its legislature. It is a state no one would seek to create if it didn’t already exist.

Is either of these two states an attractive model for a “Palestine”?

And what do Israelis see when they look at the Palestinian territories? They see a quiet border with the West Bank and a relatively calm one with Gaza.  And while the border with Lebanon may be tense, Ashkenazi offered some guarded optimism: “I’ve known Hezbollah since 1982,” Ashkenazi said, recalling his days in the elite Golani Brigade.  “For the first time ever, the border is quiet… that is deterrence.”

The question that must be asked, although negotiators and dedicated peace processors will avoid it,  is this: Is Israel safer, purely from a security standpoint, than it would be by advancing the cause of Palestinian statehood?

In this current political climate, it is difficult to imagine Israelis trading relative peace and security for the opportunity to create another Egypt or Lebanon (or, in the case of Gaza, Iran) on its border. And that is something that Byman, try as he might to resist, seems to have accidentally understood. That’s what he means when he says he learned something he didn’t want to. It is the realization that Israel, imperfect but just, knows what she’s doing.

Seth Mandel is a writer specializing in Middle Eastern politics and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.

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  • emmess

    Mussolini made the trains run on time.

    • gray man

      you're point?

      • intrcptr2

        Sad attempt to equate Israeli self-defense with fascism, by pointing out that Italians liked Il Duce for the good things he did while ignoring the bad things (Invading Ethiopia, befriending Hitler, invading Greece…).

    • Terry

      I'm sure that Netanyahu will remember that if Israeli trains start running late.

  • adamjw2

    Stand with Israel on 8/24. The Restoring Courage event.

  • AL__

    Stand with Israel for ever.

  • LindaRivera

    Islam fully intends to perpetrate a Second Holocaust of Jews. Surrendering Jewish land is an act of national suicide.

  • Asher

    I Stand with Israel, committed and relentless against Islamic Terrorists!

  • http://henach.blogspot.com Henach

    If I am not for myself, who will be? If that doesn't include the right to life, what does it include?

  • steven l

    The West believes that throwing the Jews to the dogs will solve their problems.
    That is why Jews better realize that they are on their own.
    Up to 1948, the Jews were powerless!
    That goes for the Muslims, many Christians, seculars, liberal’s, crypto-communists and fascists from all sides.

    • nocal

      Yeah Steve, sadly there are people who CALL themselves christians who do not stand with Israel. Their postion is NOT biblical. Israel and the Jewish people are the apple of Gods eye and His Elect per scripture. Its really no different than those who call themselves JEWS and side with the palistinians or believe that jews have no special right to the Land in which they now reside. They are sadly misguided . The point is don't lump all christians into the same pot based on the errant actions and statements of a few. Most Bible believing Christians stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

      • intrcptr2

        nocal,
        I would rather suggest that blessing or cursing Israel is the litmus test of faith in Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzkak, Elohei Yacov. If anyone claims Jesus, he will obey his words, and that most assuredly means standing for Israel.

        Steven is right, "The West" will live or die on this issue.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    If Israel would stop trying to treat it's enemies as though they were some
    group of poor misguided mental patients it would not have them at the
    gates like hungry vampires thirsting for blood. Leftists have taken the
    kick out of punch and the IDF must recognize that the next war can not
    be waged as a medical experiment. The one aspect of wanting life, liberty,
    the pursuit of happiness and a loving life, you must be alive to appreciate it.
    Long live Israel and it's people, pray for peace while cleaning your guns.
    Israel does have friends and as a friend of Israel I implore you to destroy
    the threats to you no matter where they are for once and for all…………William

  • Terry

    If Israel listened to the un, eu, ngo's and successive US administrations, it wouldn't have survived. Israel must do what Israel must do. If assorted leftists and islamofascists don't like that, tough. If they die trying to test Israel's resolve. Tough.

    Am Yisroel Chai.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The reality with respect to the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel is that the jihad of conquest being waged against it by the Islamic world primarily through its proxies – the so-called Palestinians – is permanent and will continue to be waged perpetually against the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel as long as Israel continues to exist and regardless of any and all fake peace processes used to weaken Israel and to dupe gullible useful idiots.

    In addition, the permanent jihad of conquest being waged against the Jewish infidel unbelievers in Israel is no different from the permanent jihads of conquest also being waged against the Hindu infidel unbelievers in Kashmir and Jammu, the Buddhist infidel unbelievers in Thailand, the Christian infidel unbelievers in the Philippines, the atheist and Orthodox Christian infidel unbelievers in Chechnya and Russia, the animist and Christian infidel unbelievers in Sudan, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, the Christian Serb unbelievers in Bosnia and Kosovo, and on and on ad nauseum.

    The fact of the matter is the Islamic world is at war with all unbelievers around the world and until we realize this reality, then the USA will continue giving 2 billion dollars a year to Islamic countries like Pakistan to fund the jihad it is waging against the USA, while also increasing its nuclear arsenal in anticipation of Iran rendering the NPT not worth the paper it is signed on and on it becoming the nuclear supermarket for the Sunni Islamic world.

    The fact of the matter is when we pretend that certain Islamic countries are our friends and allies while others are not, we are in fact deluding ourselves. The reality is the entire Islamic world is at war with unbelievers as the subjugation of the world into a very draconian form of Islamic totalitarianism via the imposition of Sharia is the fundamental sole purpose and main goal of Islam.

    • LindaRivera

      Excellent comment!

      America should not be giving one single dollar to any Islamic country. Islam intends to conquer ALL nations. For 1,400 years, Islam shows NO mercy. To give money to an Islamic country or Muslim organization, PLO/Palestinian Authority, Hamas, etc. is TREASON. Because of US/Western pro-Islam leaders, we are in great danger of losing our human rights and freedom.