A New Strategy for the Israel-Palestinian Conflict: Tell the Truth

For decades, the American government has implicitly and explicitly adopted the Arab narrative about the Palestinians. Thus, ranking U.S. officials have spoken as if Jews and Palestinians have equal claim to Jerusalem, refused to admit that west Jerusalem is Israel’s capital (or even part of Israel), pretended that the “right of return” of Palestinian “refugees” (really the descendants of refugees) is seriously up for negotiation, and acted as if Palestinian society or its leadership is sincerely interested in peace. Max Singer argues that Washington can do much good by insisting on the truth:

The biggest falsehood the U.S. needs to expose is that there exists “Palestinian territory” that Israel refuses to “give back” because of its expansionist ambitions and purported security needs. It would be controversial, rather than a falsehood, to say that justice and peace require Israel to turn over to a Palestinian state all or almost all the land it seized in its defensive war in 1967. But there is a big difference between the controversial statement that the West Bank should become Palestinian territory as part of a peace agreement and the false statement that these areas are now, or ever were in the past, Palestinian territory.

The distinction . . . determines whether Israeli proposals to provide land for a Palestinian state are returning stolen property or are offers to give up disputed land to which it has serious claims, in order to make a healthy peace with its neighbor. From the Palestinian point of view, [this is the difference] between an immoral submission to a thief who has more power and a wise compromise with neighbors who have overlapping claims of right. . . .

[Similarly], if the Palestinian people knew the truth [about Jews’ historical ties to the land of Israel], they might be more willing to accept a Jewish state on part of this land. This suggests that it might be constructive for the U.S. to remind the Palestinians that according to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount was built by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temple. . . .

If Israel were a stranger to the land, simply a colonial power taking Arab land by force, as the Palestinians falsely argue, it would be cowardly for them to yield. [F]orcing Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s historical and moral claim to the land would provide them with an honorable basis for compromise. . . . When the American and European democracies accept Palestinian falsehoods, it creates a disincentive for the Palestinians and their supporters to face the realities of their situation.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, U.S. Foreign policy

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict