Deconstructing the myth that "both sides" are at each other’s throat.
The recent breakdown in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and its apparent implications distorts the day to day reality in Israel. Furthermore, the comments made by John Kerry paint a bleak picture of a country on the verge of becoming a pariah in the international community, or at the least indicate that it would be fair for Israel to be treated that way. While many are predisposed regarding the prospects of the peace process and who is at fault for the most recent breakdown, for those seeking the truth, it is of utmost importance to understand the reality on the ground. If we can move past the ambiguous phraseology and political rhetoric used by the United States and the international community concerning the “peace process” and lamenting its deterioration, we can begin to understand a less harsher reality, whose implications are far from the ominous remarks that John Kerry has made recently and in the past.
Since 1993, the Israelis and Palestinians have been involved in a “peace process,” which might imply that the sides are at each other’s throat and incessantly fighting. Furthermore, it would indicate that this “peace process” is the only way to bring an end to the incessant fighting and bloodshed. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is that Israel, not only as a country, but as individual citizens, lives at peace with the Palestinians. Hard to believe - but it’s true. Since 1947, when Israel accepted the U.N. Partition Plan, which gave them sovereignty over a crumb of land, Israel has continuously reached out to the Arabs for peace, only to be met with a just as continuous chant of no, no, no.
Palestinians, or any Arabs for that matter, are able to travel anywhere in Israel without feeling threatened. From Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem to Eilat, Arabs don’t have to worry that someone will threaten them simply because they are an Arab. They might raise suspicion, and hence be checked, but that is to merely determine that they have no terrorist intentions. This is certainly understandable in a country where at anytime, ordinary civilians could be on the receiving end of a bus blowing up or a suicide bomber in restaurant.
Many Arabs know that Israelis are a very sympathetic and kind people. It is not unusual to hear of stories where soldiers, or Israelis living in Judea and Samaria (AKA West Bank) help out Arabs in need, whether it be a woman who needs to give birth, a sick person or any other situation where an Arab could not find the help they need from their local community. Even at various checkpoints, Palestinians know that they can play on the sympathies of IDF soldiers in hoping to be let through. When the Palestinian terrorism was at its height in the first decade of the 21st century, Palestinian ambulances had replaced local taxis for transportation through checkpoints since Israel would always permit ambulances to be allowed through checkpoints because of its sensitivity to the sick, even though most of the passengers in the ambulances were not sick ( I was a soldier there and saw this firsthand).
Palestinians with work permits are hired and work for various Israeli companies in pre-1967 Israel, and many other Palestinians work for Israeli companies at various industrial parks throughout Judea and Samaria (Barkan, Mishor Adumim). It is well known that many Arabs and Palestinians work for the Supermarket chain Rami Levi.
Despite all of the rhetoric, there is no Israeli group, either on the political left or the political right who advocates violence against the Palestinians simply because they are Palestinians. While some groups may propose harsh responses to Palestinian terrorism, initiating violence against the Palestinians is virtually unheard of in Israel. While there have been some incidents of violence, the perpetrators are immediately condemned by all as radicals who have absolutely no political representation or social support for their acts. Even those ‘radicals’ who propose removing Palestinians from Israel, openly proclaim that the only way to do so is by offering them economic incentives to live elsewhere.
Israel teaches tolerance in its schools, accommodates Arabs at government offices recognizing it as one of the languages of the country, has organizations that collect charity for poor Arabs, treats patients from Gaza, the Palestinian controlled territories in Judea and Samaria, and from a variety of other Arab countries in the Middle East at its hospital and medical clinics – specifically those in need of unique medical treatments that are not available in their home countries.
Israel’s media even gives the Palestinians a platform to present their anti-Israel views. I recall a newscast during Operation Cast Lead where following an interview with Homeland Security Minister, Avi Dichter, who stated that Hamas was hiding militants in Shifa hospital, a Palestinian doctor was interviewed and claimed that Dichter’s comments were nonsense.
If a peace agreement were signed tomorrow, the Israeli people would not have to undergo any societal change, because we have been at peace with Palestinians and Arabs for many years now – we were merely waiting for them to let us know that they have truthfully given up their goal of destroying Israel and the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said regarding the Palestinian political leadership or the general populace. No sane Israeli would travel to any of the Palestinian controlled cities. Not only is it forbidden by Israeli law, but it is a possible death wish. The reason Israel forbids its citizens to enter Palestinian controlled areas is that the IDF knows that there is good chance that an Israeli travelling in a West Bank city will most likely need to be rescued by an army operation. Even travelling through certain Arab villages in pre-1967 Israel can be a dangerous undertaking for a non-Arab.
While some Palestinians might be ambivalent, or even friendly toward Israelis, lynching incidents, including the brutal lynch and disfiguring of two Israeli reserve soldiers by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah in October, 2000, indicates that the general populace is at least quietly supportive, if not openly supportive, of such acts. The only counter argument to this would be to say that the Palestinians are afraid to speak against these acts for fear of retribution by the government or terrorist groups (this could include being accused of treason, placed in front of a firing squad and then being taken for a complimentary tour of the city tied to the back of a car), which is certainly a good reminder to Israelis (and the international community) as to the type of people sitting opposite them at the negotiating table.
Most Israelis would not knowingly ask Palestinians or Arabs for help, unless the situation is so extremely dire, and even then, would only be done hesitantly as a last resort. Israelis whether in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Judea and Samaria, are always on guard if there is an Arab walking behind them or milling around in the area; not because they don’t like him, but because they have no idea if he may be a terrorist. Israelis will not frequent parks at night where there is a significant Arab population that also frequents these parks for fear of a possible attack.
Israelis would never possibly consider going to an Arab medical center for fear of leaving dead - and not because of natural causes.
The Palestinian schools teach incitement against the Israelis in their textbooks. Their textbooks and maps do not even mention Israel’s existence. Palestinian and Arab media continually incite violence against Israel - from political talk shows to children’s programs all advocate jihad against Israel. The incitement is so venomous and on such a large scale – yet ignored by the West and others in a fantasy world - that there is a website called Palestinian Media Watch dedicated to monitoring it.
Israelis do not work for Palestinian companies because 1) they can’t travel to Palestinian controlled cities; 2) they wouldn’t be hired anyway; and 3) even if hired they would always be taking the risk of being killed on the job. Furthermore, PA chairman Abu Mazen has repeatedly said that no Israelis will be allowed to live in a Palestinian state.
Palestinian leaders have not made any goodwill gestures to Israel or ever said anything positive about Israel itself, despite sending ill family members to hospitals in Israel for treatment. Palestinian leaders continue to spread lies throughout the international community about Israel and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Direct negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have temporarily ceased, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be peace or co-existence. Israel and its citizens will continue to work to improve the lives of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, even though the official Palestinian Authority policy continues to be the total destruction of Israel. The Palestinian Authority will continue beating the drums of war, violence, and delegitimizing Israel in the international community. Their incessant media incitement will provoke terrorist attacks, and thus exact an Israeli military response, which undoubtedly will be widely condemned in the international community.
Inevitably, the Palestinians will return to the peace process and direct negotiations since it has been expedient for them, as sitting at the table keeps the western money faucet running. When they do return, let us call the process by a name that will better reflect the reality on the ground and what is necessary for a real settlement: The process of Palestinian rehabilitation from hate and destructive behavior syndrome.
Gideon Israel is a research analyst for Sohlberg Consulting and the author of a comprehensive policy paper on the US aid to Israel. In the past, he has worked on projects with former Israeli Government Minister, Benny Elon, on issues such as UNRWA, Palestinian refugees, and int’l law in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
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