At the very core of the Israel-Palestine conflict are Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and immoral siege – with the help of Egypt – of Gaza.
For Palestinian hostilities against Israel to cease, at the very least, these have to end.
There are other more negotiable issues including the return (or compensation) of Palestinian refugees and the nature of Jerusalem. But the occupation and daily abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli “settlers” and Israel Defence Force soldiers, as well as the dire poverty of Gaza are the key issues.
Should a new Israeli Government emerge that is prepared to return to the Bill Clinton Oslo Accords table and resolve these two issues, peace between the two peoples and their respective lands is quite feasible.
But it can’t happen. The more than 600,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank are as unlikely to move as anyone who owns a family home in Werribee, Bronte, Cootamundra, Broome, Hobart or Fremantle.
Some have lived there for more than 30 years and two generations. Some are more recent and messianic. All are armed to the teeth and support – and are supported by – Israel’s major political bloc of Likud and the far-right party of Smotrich and Ben Gvir. Even the assassinated Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wasn’t prepared to move the settlers.
As for Gaza, the October 7, 2023 rape, butchery and mass abductions have not warmed the territory to Israel’s heart. Knowing that a radical band of Palestinian activists can tunnel, acquire weapons – including rockets and anti-tank missiles – and break out to cause murder and mayhem does not instil confidence in the Palestinian “partner for peace” – a mantra used by Israel against Palestinians since Golda Meir in the 1960s.
Israel is definitely not interested in accommodating Hamas and Gazan activists. West Bankers, maybe, but not Gaza. And pre-October 7, Gaza maybe, but not today and not for a very long time.
None of which excuses the abundant “collateral damage” of Israel killing more than 10,000 innocent civilians and effectively levelling much of Gaza.
This is the single cause of all the pro-Palestinian sentiment across the globe and the hardening of Palestinian – and by extension Arab and Muslim – sentiment against Israel. And causing a rise in anti-Semitism. Had Israel killed about 1,200 civilians and as many Hamas operatives as it liked, the world would not have cared. But one for 10 is what the Nazis did in Europe – and anti-social media is full of those memes.
While Hamas brought all this upon the people of Israel and Gaza (and under cover of the war, the West Bank as well), the normally well-oiled Israel public relations machine has been incapable of explaining that Hamas is the cause of all deaths and injuries in Gaza. The world blames Israeli air strikes and artillery.
Many Israelis and non-Israeli Jews – possibly not a majority – understand that the occupation and the siege are the root cause, but that doesn’t mean that they would support an end to both. Just because something is logical and correct – like an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament – doesn’t mean supporters are going to vote for it.
And therein is the rub. The most right-wing – some call it fascist – Israeli Government since inception in 1948 is democratically elected. The Government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who avoids being charged on multiple counts of corruption as long as he is Prime Minister, was elected by the people of Israel – just 12 months ago.
As incredible as it may seem, Mr Netanyahu is the democratically elected representative of Israel, just as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison were the democratically elected leaders of the US, UK and Australia, respectively.
For peace to be achieved between Israel and Palestine, the entire West Bank and Gaza – with a secure connecting highway – must be returned to Palestinian control. But that means removing most of the 600,000 illegal settlers and somehow making Gaza a safe place for its Israeli neighbours.
With tax and other financial incentives, and the threat of living under Palestinian rule, some of the settlers would return to Israel proper. It would have been much easier when Rabin was Prime Minster and there were only 100,000. But 600,000?
As for Gaza … if one opposes the Hamas radical Islamic doctrine would any reader want to live there? Or near it? It has a beach, but it also has 2 million people in a strip mostly about 5 kms wide and 42 kms long. That’s Carlton to Frankston or Bondi Beach to Mt Druitt.
This writer can’t see any Israeli voting for Gazan autonomy after October 7, nor any Palestinian accepting any compromise on the return of the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, either.
The answer is to compromise and make the land-for-peace agreement, along with some sort of security guarantee for both sides, to be policed by a large UN force.
As for refugees and Jerusalem, they are resolvable secondary issues.
But not in my lifetime.