Another round of fighting in the unending series of rounds, and the Israeli arena is already flooded, as after every round, with “solution” proposals for the Gaza problem. The serious solutions cite the economy. The proposals are based on the assumption that man will always choose what’s good for him.
In the case of Gaza, a Hamas government committed to the people’s welfare will act in a way that will be good for them. Otherwise, the Western way of thinking goes, the people will get tired of Hamas, which will lose the key to power – being in control. But the lessons to be learned from the Strip show that this isn’t the Gazan-Palestinian logic; Gaza’s residents aren’t, as the head of the army’s Gaza division, Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, maintained this week, “Hamas’ prisoners.”
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, if Gaza is rebuilt and their economic situation improves, they may lose their devotion to their sacred, immutable destiny – their return to all their towns and villages. That is, if they renounce terror, accept the existence of a sovereign Jewish entity in their country’s heartland – and in exchange be allowed by Israel to build ports.
But if they invest the billions showered on them in infrastructure and not in missiles and tunnels, they will betray that destiny. As long as their children are burrowing in garbage heaps, as long as they get dozens more martyrs and hundreds more people hopping on crutches, the torch of tsumud (steadfastness) will keep burning. The world will remain on their side only if it keeps seeing them living in inhumane conditions.
The eminently logical humane concept that rising living standards will make the people elect a government that will abandon terror was shattered on the wall of sanctifying the Nakba and the right of return. But many Israelis, including officials, continue to hold on to this. To this day they deny the failure of the official assessment that the Gaza disengagement was based on: The moment we retreat, the government that arises will abandon terror and focus on what governments usually deal with – the people’s welfare.
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Israelis who can neither learn nor forget are once again coming up with reconstruction plans that even if carried out won’t achieve their goal: getting the Gazans out of the deep mire they have sunk themselves in; instead of extracting themselves, they’re digging in deeper and deeper. Few people are willing to understand what the Palestinians have been conveying to us all these years: What you see as the essence of good, we see as the essence of evil. If we leave the refugee camps, the Palestinian struggle will die. To advance the national cause – a full return to our land – the more we preserve the bad the better.
As long as Israel is still debating with itself and acts according to false conceptions, it’s doubtful it will ever have effective ways to pull itself out of the cycle of clashes – as the failed military campaigns since the uprooting from Gaza attest to. Israel's strikes at the Palestinians may be harsh, but they only inflame the suffering doctrine that’s the pillar of fire that has been stoking the flame of return for 70 years.
When Israel had full control over Judea and Samaria and Gaza, it had many tools to dismantle the right-of-return bomb, like dispersing the refugee camps. Today, when there’s a Palestinian state de facto in Judea and Samaria and an independent state in Gaza, the mission is almost impossible. So we can expect further rounds of fighting that won’t get us and them out of the tangle that, for our sins, we failed to unravel when the ability to do so was, as I said, in our hands.