There could also be bloodshed during forcible evacuations of West Bank settlements and rifts within the body implementing the evictions, the Israeli army, whose share of religious infantry officers now surpasses one third. Israel would lose military control over the West Bank, resulting in less intelligence-gathering, less room for manoeuvre in future wars, and less time to react to a surprise attack. Israeli intelligence services would no longer control which Palestinians enter and exit the occupied territories.
But chief among them would be the blow dealt to efforts to delegitimise Israel and the normalisation of relations with other nations of the region. Israeli businesses would be able to operate more openly in Arab states, and government cooperation with such countries as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would go from covert to overt. Through a treaty with the Palestinians, Israel could attain the relocation of every Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem, and receive additional financial and security benefits from the US and Europe.
But all of these combined do not come close to outweighing the deficits.
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Nor have the moral costs of occupation for Israeli society been high enough to change the calculus. For all the recent fretting about decreasing American Jewish support for Israel, the conversation today is not so different than it was at the time of the first Likud-led governments decades ago. Similarly enduring — and endurable — are the worries that occupation delegitimises Zionism and causes discord within Israel.
Israelis have grown adept at tuning such criticisms out. It was, is, and will remain irrational for Israel to absorb the costs of an agreement when the price of the alternative is so comparatively low.
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The consequences of choosing impasse are hardly threatening: mutual recriminations over the cause of stalemate, new rounds of talks, and retaining control of all of the West Bank from within and much of Gaza from without. Israel will go on absorbing the annoying but so-far tolerable costs of complaints about settlement policies. And it will likely witness several more countries bestowing the State of Palestine with symbolic recognition, a few more negative votes in impotent university student councils, limited calls for boycotts of settlement goods, and occasional bursts of violence that the greatly overpowered Palestinians are too weak to sustain.
There is no contest. T he real explanation for the past decades of failed peace negotiations is not mistaken tactics or imperfect circumstances, but that no strategy can succeed if it is premised on Israel behaving irrationally. Most arguments put to Israel for agreeing to a partition are that it is preferable to an imagined, frightening future in which the country ceases to be either a Jewish state or a democracy, or both.
Israel is constantly warned that if it does not soon decide to grant Palestinians citizenship or sovereignty, it will become, at some never-defined future date, an apartheid state. But these assertions contain the implicit acknowledgment that it makes no sense for Israel to strike a deal today rather than wait to see if such imagined threats actually materialise.
If and when they do come to be, Israel can then make a deal. Or, perhaps, the West Bank will be absorbed by Jordan, and Gaza by Egypt, a better outcome than Palestinian statehood, in the view of many Israeli officials. Israel has continued to reject the same Palestinian claims made since the s, albeit with a few added Palestinian concessions. Israel could instead wait until that day comes, and thereby enjoy many more years of West Bank control and the security advantages that go with it — particularly valuable at a time of cataclysm in the region.
Israel is frequently admonished to make peace in order to avoid becoming a single, Palestinian-majority state ruling all the territory from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea. But that threat does not have much credibility when it is Israel that holds all the power, and will therefore decide whether or not it annexes territory and offers citizenship to all its inhabitants.
A single state will not materialise until a majority of Israelis want it, and so far they overwhelmingly do not. If and when Israel is confronted with the threat of a single state, it can enact a unilateral withdrawal and count on the support of the great powers in doing so. But that threat is still quite distant. In fact, Israelis and Palestinians are now farther from a single state than they have been at any time since the occupation began in Palestinians have a quasi-state in the occupied territories, with its own parliament, courts, intelligence services and foreign ministry.
Israelis no longer shop in Nablus and Gaza the way they did before the Oslo accords. Palestinians no longer travel freely to Tel Aviv.
And the supposed reason that partition is often claimed to be impossible — the difficulty of a probable relocation of more than , settlers — is grossly overstated: in the s, Israel absorbed several times as many Russian immigrants, many of them far more difficult to integrate than settlers, who already have Israeli jobs, fully formed networks of family support and a command of Hebrew. Indeed, Israel has had a non-Jewish majority in the territory it controls for several years. All Sections.
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