Opinion

Israel Shows How Facts on the Ground Are Forever

Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of Palestine at an Arab League emergency meeting, Cairo, February 1, 2020
AFP

The moral message that the “deal of the century” sends to Israeli society, the one that will penetrate deep into the heart of its collective consciousness and be irreversibly absorbed, even long after the deal becomes a chapter in the school books of children yet to be born, is that “the stronger side wins.”

You can ignore the law. When facts are created on the ground, those facts will remain forever. And those children will simply live in the reality that the facts create without it ever occurring to them that once things were different.

All of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vision to “settle” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is based on the claim that the proposed solution must “recognize reality.” This means that it doesn’t matter at all if the situation is fair, moral or right.

According to this approach, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shares, reality is shaped by the stronger party. “Recognition” of it is an act of having no other choice. The ones who are being asked to “recognize” this reality are the Palestinians; that is, the weaker side. Recognition, therefore, is equal to surrender.

This isn’t the first time Israel has dictated its borders using the method of creating facts on the ground. It did so in 1947 and 1948, when it forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and forcibly prevented them from returning. Ethnic cleansing is forbidden from a moral perspective, but tactically, as a means for fulfilling a strategy of establishing a state, there’s no doubt that it worked. The Palestinians were left with the dream of return, while, in the real world, the Israeli aggression was victorious.

Now Israeli society, in all its branches, understands that the settlement project too, which was just the continuation of the David Ben-Gurion doctrine that created the Nakba, has won. The settlers created facts on the ground and overcame their opponents. The left and the Arab citizens of Israel will be forced acknowledge that too.

It’s not important in this context whether the settlers’ worldview is just or moral – clearly it isn’t. The sole question is whether it achieved its goals. And the answer is, simply, yes. From the tactical perspective, the settlers were right from the start. They understood how the world works. It rewards brutality.

Moreover, the hope of the left – according to which the world will punish the settlers’ aggression and force on Israel an arrangement in which the settlers will be forcibly expelled – has been completely shattered. Israeli society has learned that force pays, and the only way to win an argument is to use it.

This brings us to Netanyahu’s fate after the “deal of the century.” The narrative now being promoted in right-wing circles is that Netanyahu “sacrificed” himself for this deal: He could have retired a long time ago if the charges against him were dropped, but instead he decided to remain in his post at the price of losing his parliamentary immunity and being put on trial. (See, for example, Limor Samimian-Darash’s “Turning Point, Victory and Sacrifice” in Israel Hayom last week, Erel Segal’s fury on Channel 11 News, and Avishai Ben Haim on Channel 13 when the corruption indictments were filed against Netanyahu while he was still on a “historic mission” abroad.)

According to the polls, a clear majority of Israelis support the “deal of the century” – in other words, perpetuating the facts on the ground. If so, why not also support creating another fact on the ground: quashing the indictments against Netanyahu? It would be possible to legalize the move after the fact; after all, what’s the law if not the official recognition of the facts on the ground?