With its attack on Gaza Israel has once again upped the level of inhumanity in the conflict with the Palestinians. As the dominant power the conflict is mostly Israels making. Unfortunately Israel is just as blind as the US when it comes to seeing what it does to those less powerful.
The Palestinians in Israel are in a comparable position as the Serbs regarding Kosovo and the Germans regarding Prussia and Silesia. They will have to resign to the loss of some territory. On the other hand the Israeli will have to resign in the fact that not all Palestinians will immediately resign and that they will be the target of rockets and terrorist attacks for some time to come.
A sensible strategy for Israel would be:
- formulate a simple tit-for-tat strategy. They might for example for every rocket into Israel send one back into Gaza. For this strategy to work they need reticence: when they kill a Palestinian leader in a quiet period this undermines the credibility of the tit-for-tat. Yet this is exactly what Israel has been doing in the recent past.
- allow the Palestinian economy to flourish. Palestinians who are busy to get rich have less time to think about attacking Israel. And as a bonus they will get less kids - important for all those Israeli who worry about the demographic balance. It will also lead to a situation in which it will become easier for the Palestinians to accept the status quo.
- Allow free trade. Israel would still control the borders but it would do so only to prevent the import of weapons.
- stop the expansion of the settlements. Do something similar on the Westbank as happened in the Gaza when Israel withdrew its settlements: create one continuous Palestinian territory where the Palestinians can move freely.
- next item is are the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The UN is still financing those camps - 40 years after the war. The consequence is that the inhabitants are more or less locked up as hostages to Palestinian propaganda. Abolishing the camps would rob the Palestinians of a propaganda trophy, and so the Palestinian leaders forbid the inhabitants to move. The only solution in my opinion is that Israel - once it has allowed the economy in the Palestinian areas to recover - to abolish the camps. Most logical would be that Israel would forbid the UN any longer to financially support the refugees. Instead Israel itself would then provide unemployment allowances for those who need it. This will demand a good strategy and lots of money. But it needs to be done as living on allowances is one of the sources of frustration.
- Think about the Palestinians in refugee camps in Libanon and other countries. Give them the possibility to settle in the Westbank and Gaza and press their host countries to offer them citizenship. (this pressure can best be done by the US). And be prepared to pay them some indemnification in the end.
Only such a strategy can bring peace. It will still take a long time. And the corrupt nature of the Palestinian leadership will make it take only longer.
In contrast, the present strategy only moves the time of peace further away. When the Arab countries finally get their act together and modernize it might even be too late for Israel to survive.
Postscript: According to the Guardian the UN will ask the International Court of Justice an opinion about the legality of Israels actions. It looks like the legality of its economic boycott will also be asked. One can only hope that if the ICJ gives such an opinion the EU will proceed with sanctions to force Israel to give up its economic blockade.