Let's imagine the Israel Defense Forces operations in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps were an unqualified success. Imagine that all terror suspects were apprehended, all hidden firearms were discovered, and all armaments factories where mortars and missiles are manufactured were destroyed. What difference would it make? Does anyone doubt that the next morning more armaments factories would spring to life, and manufacture more weapons for use against Israel? Does anyone doubt that this morning hundreds of Palestinians are showing up in Tanzim and Hamas compounds, vowing that they are prepared to carry out attacks against Israel? Has the reservoir of suicide attackers from Nablus and the Gaza Strip really run dry?
Let's imagine that the Palestinian Authority were to announce total surrender: Imagine the PA declaring that the armed struggle has come to an end and ordering all terror groups to disarm. Imagine the PA allowing IDF troops to enter unmolested all streets and alleyways in its territory, and to establish military rule anew. What would Israel really do under such a scenario? Would would it do with millions of humiliated and infuriated Palestinians?
Let's imagine that Ariel Sharon's dream were to come true, and Yasser Arafat were to disappear from the scene without leaving seeds of disorder and ruin in his trail? Suppose that the Oslo accords were to be filed away with the curious oddities of history, and that the Palestinian-Israeli dispute were, miraculously, to return to its pre-1993 state. How, under such circumstances, would Israel manage its affairs? What sort of future would it have, with 20 percent of its citizens defining themselves as Palestinians, and with millions more Palestinians both within and without, lacking official status, and rapidly reaching a population level which would exceed the number of Jews living within the Green Line, and the newly re-controlled territories?
And let's imagine that the fantasies of the extreme right were to come true, and that as a result of a rare alignment of international circumstances the state of Israel were to be allowed to annex officially the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, without the Arab world lifting a finger, and without the international community saying a word. What would really happen? If the Yesha council and Tourism Minister Benny Elon were to really get their way, what would the state of Israel actually look like? Major sectors of Israel's public lack an answer to this last question. Neither Likud nor Labor have answers.
As they confront the state's daily worries and problems, Israel's leaders are not thinking about how the operational steps they are implementing will influence the future of the dispute, and ways of resolving it. Under pressure to respond to events, and to show that they have attained results, they get themselves entangled by ordering showcase military operations whose practical results are dubious. They sense that the domestic consensus in favor of military steps which involve Israel casualties has limits, and also that the international community, led by the United States, is wagging a finger of warning.
The extreme right has a solution: It proposes either transferring Palestinians, or giving them inferior status in the territories. This proposal, however, is implausible, since it would put the Zionist enterprise in an insoluble existential trap. The Zionist idea was conceived with the aim of providing a sanctuary for the Jewish people somewhere on earth. In light of the lessons taught by history, this was a justifiable, correct ideology. Zionism upheld principles of democracy and equality; it was not designed to confer to Palestinians the trials and tribulations experienced by the Jews. Whoever, in the name of Zionism, demands Jewish control of all parts of the Land of Israel, must give full citizenship rights to Palestinians.
Israel must retain a Jewish majority if it is to fulfill the Zionist idea. It must thus cast off the Palestinian yoke, a burden it undertook after the 1967 Six-Day War. The Likud and Labor parties refrain from acting upon this imperative due to political cowardice, and blind adherence to views that have lost their validity.
The extreme right is trying to redeem the Zionist idea in Greater Israel by distorting the essence of the ideology: It wants to retain control of the territory, but confer inferior status to its Palestinian residents (under designations such as "autonomy" or "local administration"). Alternatively, it wants the Palestinians in the territories to migrate to Jordan ("voluntary transfer"). Neither the National Union party nor the National Religious Party proposes granting voting rights to Palestinians, and making them full citizens in the state of Israel. Acting as they are, they are validating the defamation which holds that Zionism is racism.
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