If the left had its wish for Israel
Imagine an alternate universe in which an enlightened Israeli government did almost everything progressive America demanded of it.
An immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza. The end of Israeli controls on the movement of goods in the territory. A halt to the construction of settlements in the West Bank. Renunciation of Israel’s sovereign claims to East Jerusalem. Accelerated negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state, with the aim of restoring the lines of June 4, 1967 as an internationally recognized border.
Oslo would make phone calls to Jerusalem and Ramallah in October to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Arab states like Saudi Arabia would establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel. The international community would agree to a multibillion dollar aid package for the new state of Palestine.
But there would be flies in this ointment.
Damascus would refuse to recognize Israel until it agrees to return the Golan Heights, which even the most left-wing Israeli government would refuse to do, given Bashar Assad’s record of brutality and the significant military presence of Iran in Syria.
Lebanon, dominated by Hezbollah (an Iranian proxy), also reportedly refuses to recognize Israel, under the pretext of the Shebaa Farms, a piece of land which Beirut claims is occupied Lebanese territory, even though the UN says otherwise. .
As for Gaza, the end of the so-called blockade (many licit goods reach Gaza today through Israeli border crossings) would turn the steady trickle of military equipment in the strip, largely from Iran, into a waterfall. . Hamas, which is currently content with relatively unsophisticated rockets, would replenish its arsenal with more powerful guided munitions capable of hitting any target in Israel.
This would require Israel to change its military doctrine towards Hamas. The solution would be to periodically degrade the group’s military capabilities through targeted strikes. This would be a strategy calling for a large-scale ground invasion and reoccupation of the gang in order to defend the core of Israel against Hamas missiles. The number of casualties in the next war would be multiples of what it is today.
Hamas would also be strengthened politically. Its policy of resistance – that is, guerrilla warfare and terrorism – against Israel would look to many Palestinians as if it imposed a change in Israeli policy, while the more peaceful policies of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party would have the scent. of an unsuccessful collaboration.
The international community will try to help Fatah with generous economic aid and technical assistance. But Fatah has a long history of corruption and mismanagement, two factors that helped Hamas win the 2006 parliamentary elections. Since then, Abbas’ approach to his political opponents has been to suspend the elections and persecute rivals like Muhammad Dahlan and Salam Fayyad.
But at 85, Abbas will not be able to prevent the election forever. Eventually, Hamas will come to power, doubly legitimized by its success at the polls and its commitment to wipe Israel off the map.
Before that, however, Israel would freeze all settlement building in an attempt to force settlers out of their homes or find themselves stranded inside a future Palestinian state.
The result would be massive radicalization among Israelis against their own government, eclipsing the ungodly furies that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Any decision to repartition Jerusalem in such a way as to risk or impede access to the Western Wall and other sacred Jewish sites like the Mount of Olives would likely spark a civil war.
But perhaps Israel’s progressive government could still be successful if a US-led, UN-approved force agreed to deploy peacekeepers to ensure the rights and safety of Jews. America’s appetite for such deployments has not really increased in recent years, and its resilience is easily tested. Some Israelis might wonder how long their purported benefactors would stay if a suicide bomber killed several hundred Marines in an attack on the barracks in Beirut.
In the meantime, a Hamas administration in the West Bank would not take long to replicate the formula that paid such dividends in Gaza: the complete militarization of the territory, putting any Israeli in immediate danger of rocket attack.
In that, it would be greatly helped by Iran, especially if rising oil prices and the potential lifting of economic sanctions under a new nuclear deal replenish Tehran’s coffers and its appetite for regional adventures.
And what about peace? A Hamas government would likely renounce any deal with a Jewish state that does not honor the “right of return” of descendants of Palestinian refugees. Anti-Zionist groups such as the Jewish Voice for Peace are said to champion the Palestinian cause in the United States, while the Tucker Carlson wing of the Republican Party is reportedly calling for severe restrictions on immigration.
As for the Israelis, they would eventually emerge from the quagmire, at a terrible cost in terms of blood, for they have no other choice. When they did, they could be sure that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would be quick to denounce them for having the temerity to survive.
Stephens writes for The New York Times.