Palestinians have a moral right to statehood - but their wish will not be fulfilled until we engage Israel’s strategic security
Whenever it had the chance, Iran supplied extremist factions with weaponry and money to hit Israel: such has been the case with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. If the Israeli military withdrew from the West Bank, is there anything that would prevent Tehran from supplying rebellious factions there as well?
The question hints at a crucial aspect of the Middle East peace process: The recognition of full statehood and military independence for Palestine must necessarily go hand in hand with a new military security concept. Without such an element, an Israeli exit from the West Bank would not be the end of current problems but the beginning of new and deeper ones. The question of “defensible borders” has too long be deemed a “conservative” or “hawkish” issue. The Left should sincerely engage with the problem to pave the way for a feasible approach.
The peace process highlights the classic conflict between morals and pragmatism. Few people would criticize the Palestinians’ right to enjoy full recognition as state entity (hence the moral justification of the claim), yet that moral conviction does not answer the question of Israel’s defense and strategic position. Retiring from Gaza in 2005 was a bold choice by Israel. Relocating settlements ignited a hard national discussion about “Jews evicting Jews”. The Gaza Strip was left to the Palestinians - and soon thereafter Hamas took control of the territory and increased its military activities. Israel’s fear is that reducing control on the West Bank may lead to an equal radicalization of military attitudes in the territory.
The problem isn’t so much the political choices made by the Fatah-led Palestinian authorities but the inability of any Palestinian state-like entity to control the West Bank. Let’s take Gaza again as an example: After a truce between Hamas and Israel had been decided, missile operations still went on, performed by uncontrollable maverick groups, some of Salafist inspiration. Moreover, it has become clear that the IDF lacked the capacities to reach the smuggling tunnels to Gaza in the Sinai - and Operation Pillar of Defense has further weakened Israel’s military capacity in the Gaza Strip.