Twenty Years Ago, Israelis Learned Something New about Their Conflict with the Palestinians. The Rest of the World Is Still Catching Up

In the years following the 1993 Oslo Accords—which gave Palestinians, for the first time in history, limited sovereignty as a step toward political independence—Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians became more common. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, suicide bombings became more frequent still, leaving hundreds dead. Shany Mor describes the state of public opinion at the time:

The consensus that a military offensive would be folly was not just the ramblings of mushy leftists and peaceniks. It was by and large the consensus of nearly all the experts in Israel and abroad. Any operation, it was argued, would result in hundreds of casualties to Israeli forces. It would not have the support of the United States or other major powers. It would leave in its wake hundreds if not thousands of civilian casualties. And, most importantly, it simply would not work. Every dead terrorist would spawn three new ones, increasing the sense of grievance and rage that was supposedly fueling the violence to begin with. We know today, with hindsight, that many of these premises turned out to be false.

In 2002, the IDF began extensive military operations that, contrary to all expectations, defeated the intifada. Israel has not since seen terror reach the levels of the 1990s, let alone the early 2000s. Mor assesses the impact of these events:

The 1993 Oslo Accords were pitched to Israelis with a double promise. They would improve the security of Israel, battered by decades of terrorism. And if that first promise remained unfulfilled—even after Israel recognized the PLO and carried out the staged withdrawals from the Gaza Strip and West Bank as called for in the agreements—then the whole world would see who the bad guys really were and stand by Israel. Neither promise was realized and each disappointment left deep scars on the Israeli psyche.

The rejection of statehood and descent into suicidal violence had yielded absolutely nothing positive for the Palestinian cause. . . . [Yet, the] idea that the final defeat of Israel is near if we just wish for it hard enough has never had more purchase on the pro-Palestinian intellectual discourse.

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Read more at State of Tel Aviv

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Oslo Accords, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas