Israel's 'Occupation' Keeps Palestinian Society Afloat

Palestinian leaders have failed generations of Palestinians. Israel can help improve their conditions, but as long as ISIS is their idyllic example, no change seems to be in the offing.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces (unseen) in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 18, 2015.
A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces (unseen) in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 18, 2015.Credit: AFP
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

“Five years after a wave of uprisings, the Arab world is worse off than everwhat underlies the rot is the failure of generations of Arab elites to create accountable and effective models of governance and to promote education,” writes the Economist.

And Palestinian society is no exception. Palestinian children knifing people while yelling “Allah Akbar” are a sign that Palestinian society is plumbing new depths. Years ago, it was Palestinian terrorists who hijacked and blew up planes, then there were the suicide bombers who blew themselves up in buses and hotels, and now it is the turn of the children with kitchen knives and scissors, attacking rabbis and pregnant women.

Those who tend to ascribe this to the Israeli “occupation” are offering no more than lame excuses for a culture that glorifies death and killing, a culture that can bring no succor to its people. Copying the example of ISIS, with its brutal executions, is doing incalculable damage to Palestinian society and the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian leadership – from Haj Amin el-Husseini to Yasser Arafat, Ismail Haniye, and Mahmoud Abbas – has failed generations of Palestinians. They have educated Palestinian children to dedicate themselves to terror and death. The murder of innocents has been held up to them as an example, and paradise is claimed to lie in wait for the murderers.

If the situation in Judea and Samaria has not reached the level of that in Iraq and Syria it is because the population there lives in proximity to Israel, and daily sees the advantages of a functioning democracy which provides for the welfare of its citizens. It is the presence of the IDF and its cooperation with the security services of the Palestinian Authority that prevent a descent of Palestinian society into complete anarchy.

Had it not been for the Israeli “occupation” in Judea and Samaria, ISIS or Hamas would be running the show and the Palestinians there would be longing for a return of the Israeli “occupation.”

The Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have a right to participate in the decisions that determine their fate. The fact that the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, under nominally Palestinian sovereignty, are denied that right, and that their fellow Arabs in the Middle East have never been given that opportunity is no comfort to them.

There is little reason to believe that an Israeli withdrawal would provide them with that opportunity, and good reason to believe that it would lead the area into anarchy. The “benefits” to the local population of an Israeli withdrawal were demonstrated by the IDF’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the subsequent takeover by Hamas. Just compare the situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to that of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.

Israel is not in control of Judea and Samaria for the benefit of the Palestinian population there. It is there because it was from that area, conquered by the Jordanian army in 1948, that Israel was attacked by Jordan in 1967, because of the legitimate rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area recognized by the international community after World War I and out of concern for the safety of the State of Israel. In the absence of a Palestinian partner capable of negotiating an agreement, implementing the agreement and surviving such an agreement, no change seems to be in the offing.

There is a great deal that Israel can and should do in the meantime to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria. But the education of Palestinian children is a job for Palestinian parents and Palestinian schools. If ISIS continues to serve as an example for Palestinian children, then Palestinian society is in a bad way.

The latest wave of violence, conducted by individuals and primarily by children, creates a new challenge for Israel’s security forces. But they are assisted by an alert public, many of whom are armed. Together they will overcome it.

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