|AP Photo/Tomer Appelbaum|
10 June '16..
The day after a horrifying terror attack that took the lives of four Israelis sitting in a Tel Aviv café, the country was, as it always is after such crimes, back to normal. As the New York Times reported, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s new defense minister, made a point of having a cappuccino at the same place the terrorists had singled out for slaughter. Prime Minister Netanyahu also made an appearance there on Thursday. Shelley Yacimovich, one of the leaders of the left-wing opposition party in the Knesset was also there, having moved all of her meetings to the same Sarona Market area. Both said it was a signal that terror couldn’t stop Israelis from carrying on with their normal existence. As Lieberman said, “life is stronger than terror.”
A cliché? Sure. The idea that you can’t let the terrorists think they have won became so commonplace in the United States after the 9/11 attacks that it became something of a punch line. But as anyone who knows anything about life in Israel can confirm, it’s particularly true of the Jewish state, which has been under siege in one form or another for every day of its more than 68 years of existence. More importantly, it goes to the heart of the basic misperception of the conflict that afflicts the Palestinians. For all of the soul searching and deep analyses of what issues drive the conflict or are obstacles to peace, the problem can often be boiled down to a simple fallacy. The Palestinians still seem to be laboring under the delusion that if they can make the lives of Israelis miserable enough or to force them into military reactions that will isolate them internationally, that will somehow bring them victory. But it has never worked and, despite the constant predictions of doom that have been a staple of international and internal commentary about Israel’s dilemma, the Jewish state continues to grow in economic and military strength for seven decades.
The real cliché about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is that the status quo can’t be sustained. That was the conclusion many inside and outside of Israel for decades. At the core of that assumption is that Israel isn’t doing enough to end the conflict and that its West Bank settlements “corrodes the possibility of peace,” as President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice said earlier this week. The fact that Israel has made repeated offers of statehood to the Palestinians and withdrew from Gaza in 2005, thus providing a preview of what a Palestinian state might look like — i.e. a Hamas-run terrorist launching pad — never seems to enter into this discussion. But what also never seems to be talked about is what the Palestinians are thinking.
One would think that watching a powerful Jewish state that has developed a first world economy as well as a military that makes it a regional power arise in their midst would have convinced any rational person that the struggle to evict the Jews was hopeless. But so many have spent the past half-century buying into the notion that Israel is a settler state and that the Jews will eventually be shoved out the same way European colonial powers were evicted from their former strongholds in Africa and Asia. The assumption that Israel can be worn down, that it’s people will lose heart and leave or just give up the struggle is integral to Palestinian strategy, if we can dignify their long-running refusal to make peace while cheering terrorists as heroes with such a term.
It must be admitted that they get encouragement to think this way from many on the Jewish left who think Israel’s legitimacy or even its future depend on the Palestinians willingness to accept its permanence. They worry, not unreasonably, that the continuation of the status quo means a one-state solution, which will doom Israel’s Jewish majority or force it to truly become an apartheid state. But as unsatisfactory as the stalemate may be, it is preferable to a two-state solution in which the Palestinian state is a terrorist enclave where the war on Israel will continue from a more advantageous position.
Palestinians, critics of Israel, and even many Jews believe that time is on the side of those who seek the Jewish state’s destruction. But if there is anything we should have learned from the past 49 years it is that Israel can continue to thrive even while burdened by the standoff with the Palestinians.
Despite the predictions of doom and of decline in patriotism and willingness to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, every terrorist attack and crisis proves the contrary. Israelis united during the horrors of the second intifada, with its suicide bombings that left more than a thousand Jews (and far more Palestinians) dead. They united amid the 2014 war with Hamas, as thousands of rockets were shot at their towns and cities and much of the population was forced to spend parts of every day in shelters. That experience not only didn’t undermine the country’s will to keep struggling; it made it clear that Israel was stronger than even many of its citizens had thought. The reaction to the recent so-called “stabbing intifada,” which has now seemingly morphed into a shooting murder spree, was no different.
Israel isn’t perfect, and its political and military leadership make mistakes as often as those of any other democracy. Its citizens complain about their government’s shortcomings and the dilemma of dealing with a generational struggle with an opponent that is locked into myths of national identity that compels them to continue to act in a self-destructive manner. They worry about their future and the reality of a world where a rising tide of anti-Semitism now poses under the guise of anti-Zionism and a BDS movement that aims at their destruction. They would gladly make peace if there were only leaders on the other side that had the will, the wisdom, and the courage to do so.
But the main conclusion to be drawn from the reaction to this week’s terror and the thousands of attacks that have preceded it over the years is that the Palestinians still don’t get it. For all of its many serious problems, the notion that Israelis will grow weary of defending themselves or their state before the Palestinians tire of sacrificing their future, their prosperity, and the lives of their children on the altar of hatred for Zionism and the Jews is wrong. The clichés about not letting the terrorists win may be just as inane in an Israeli context as they are in an American conversation. But though Israelis may be tired, as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert infamously said in an ill-chosen remark, they are never giving up and are strong enough to keep resisting Palestinian terror for as long as it takes. It’s time Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders that continue to encourage them to keep making the same mistakes figured that out.
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