Netanyahu can call the prisoners he frees “murderers,” and emotionally eulogize Rehavam Ze’evi. He prefers a strong Hamas, since he prefers a dead end. This is why he prefers to leave in prison the two most important Palestinian leaders – Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat – behind bars.
By Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz
Israelis do not like war any more than anyone else, and particularly not being on the receiving end. Nonetheless, a future historian who explains the decline of Israel will need to also spend a bit of time on their great blindness.
Here are two examples: Israel occupied Lebanon to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization and thereby solve the problem of Palestine, including an attempt to make use of the Shi’ites. From this violent coupling, Hezbollah was born. The other initiative was even less funny: Israel encouraged the establishment of Hamas in Gaza. Here too, the illusion that Hamas could stop the PLO and the Palestinians’ striving for independence stood at the forefront of the occupier’s thoughts – as if the struggle against the occupation would disappear into the mosques.
This stupidity was born from the Orientalist knowledge learned in the universities, and transmitted from there like a fungus on the skin to the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service. Based on this knowledge, [they believe that] the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, the mother of Hamas, is opposed to nationalism and is interested in spreading religion over the face of the earth. It seems reasonable therefore that the Palestinians will congregate in the mosques and forget about oppression.
Then, in the 1980s, none of the wise men of the army even thought that every organization in the occupied territories would be required to fight the occupation, sooner or later, since the lives of the Palestinians under the occupation were insufferable. The academic Orientalist experts who sold the defense establishment the Shi’ites, and Hamas thereafter, “in order to stop the PLO,” failed in their understanding of the simplest matter: Occupation gives birth to opposition; opposition gives birth to death; death leads to more conflict, etc.
The nurturing of Hamas was of course done in the days of the Likud – after the fiasco in Lebanon. For the Likud and its descendants, the occupation is not occupation at all. Opposition to occupation for them is some type of plot by the wicked Haman or Hitler, and not the refusal to make do with a dog’s life. Nevertheless, the Israeli disregard for the fact that this is an occupation does not need only Middle Eastern studies and public blindness. From the army’s perspective, the war is a normal state of things. True, no general wants to be killed, even in return for a street or bridge named after him. It is almost certain that even the military funeral of one of his soldiers does not make him happy. The chance that our lives will be disrupted by the rocket fire also does not exactly cause the generals to rejoice: They remember Dan Halutz’s banishment after the Second Lebanon War. But despite all that, the military mentality has not succeeded in understanding the definition of “not to assassinate,” after one Grad rocket was launched into Israeli territory. They cannot possibly behave differently, just like the scorpion told the frog in the folktale. This is how they have educated Israelis for years: “They started.”
But the Orientalist blindness and an army starving for action are not the entire explanation. In the end, after every bloody cycle like this one, even if it is short, sits the Israeli rejection [of the need] to truly divide up the land with a real bridge between Gaza and the West Bank and [of a] true willingness to create new relations. As time passes, the occupation deepens and the opposition becomes more extreme. Without a radical solution, one that takes into account the freedom of the Palestinians as a significant factor, there will be no change in our lives.
Netanyahu can call the prisoners he frees “murderers,” and emotionally eulogise Rehavam (Ghandi) Ze’evi. He prefers a strong Hamas, since he prefers a dead end. This is why he prefers to leave in prison the two most important Palestinian leaders, those who can bring about a solution – Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat.
This is how Israel continues to sink into the swampy real estate to the east, and the air force’s volleys to the southwest. In the summer, we travel to Europe. When we return, we must sigh: How awful the Middle East is.