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How Israel's nationalists hurt their own national security
Bibi's bluster does nothing for security
Israelis see themselves as part of the West whilst simultaneously being part of one of the longest running blood-feuds in the world.
Being part of the West means an established rule of law and freedoms in many domains. Rule of law means you cannot default to vengeance as punishment. The state is competent enough to investigate almost all crimes and deliver sentences after due process.
Someone may cut off your loved ones arms and get jailed for several years as a consequence. The cycle of violence is supposed to end there.
This seems like a very benign punishment but even 5 years in prison compared to living in prosperous first world conditions is a deterrent for most violent crimes.
The masses in Western societies can usually be convinced that solving systemic problems that cause violence is usually the way to go.
Different societies reach this point of maturity at different times. The Troubles in Northern Ireland is a very good example of this where, after decades of killings, the parties hashed out a solution in 1998.
This moral high ground of freedom and liberal values also somewhat extends outwards towards others.
Americans are vexed with all the illegal immigration across their borders but they don’t machine-gun these people. Their system has ways and means for even illegals to lead better lives than in their home countries while also contributing positively to the American economy.
If they do launch expeditions (like in Iraq), mindless violence is the exception and when found is usually condemned and results in consequences to the perpetrators. While there are mistakes, they don’t act like ISIS.
Many Israelis feel they are prosperous and competent enough to be a first world country. Their technology, living standards and income levels are good enough. But is it really there?
Let’s look at a few basic principles consistent with being a modern liberal democracy:
You cannot ask a people who have lived in a land for several generations to involuntarily vacate.
You cannot deny a people the right to live, move, work and trade.
These are not some fantasy utopian principles. These principles also serve national security goals. They have a basis in what works in the real world.
If you go against these statements, you have an insurgency to deal with.
Insurgencies set you back in every way. People die, resources get sucked in, there is an overhang on trade, the economy and so on.
No one wants mass conscription and a possibility of dying young, especially when you are making first world incomes.
If you accept these principles, you have only 2 broad possible solutions to the Palestine problem that don’t end in genocide or mass involuntary population movement.
Multiple states: Two (Israel and Palestine) or three (Gaza, Israel and West Bank) independent states
A single state where everyone lives happily ever after. This is not impossible. Remember, Palestinians and Israelis live in many Western countries without butchering each other and Arab muslims make up almost a fifth of Israel’s population.
Of course, these solutions can’t be reached overnight and need many years of focused negotiations while building up deterrence and power in parallel.
Is Israel working towards this?
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Israel is run by Netanyahu’s nationalist right wing coalition. Let us study their actions.
This coalition has rejected a 2-state solution.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas terrorists. You have to be able to separate the people from the terrorists when framing your security strategy. The people then over time might help you overthrow the terrorists. But the current Government has equated them as legitimate targets.
The West Bank is not controlled by Hamas terrorists. You have the space to explore solutions. But the coalition has deployed armed settlers and IDF to illegally take land here and perpetuate the feud.
The Hamas’ behaviour within Gaza and Israels’s behaviour within the West Bank differ only in degree. Their goals seem similar.
So the Israeli security establishment is wasting energy and resources on terrorizing the West Bank while clearly neglecting the threat from Hamas.
Many in Israel don’t like these policies and have been protesting against the Government. And the Government has been focused on crushing or bypassing the protests rather than make changes.
The strategy may have been misguided at the beginning but later turned into wilful incompetence.
One could argue that the intelligence may not have been very specific but the IDF response was 8 hours late indicating a lack of seriousness and a bubbling complacence.
Finally, we come to the nature of the response until now. We have seen bombing of Gaza on a scale worse than what Putin has managed in Ukraine albeit over a smaller area. We have seen unreasonable diktats to civilians in Gaza, and having issued them, Israel washing their hands off any accoutability toward minimizing civilian casualties.
We also have clear statements indicating that vengeance is the current national security strategy, which means there is NO real national security strategy.
If you retaliate by indiscriminately killing civilians, you perpetuate the problem. This is obviously disastrous for Palestinians. But another generation of Israelis will also suffer the consequences of these actions. This is not in the interest of Israeli people.
Israel could go forward in two possible ways. One is to decisively get rid of Netanyahu and his ilk and then applying their inward looking liberal democratic principles outward; identifying real solutions. They can do this while still building strength and managing their security with competence.
The other way is to keep this going for another generation by ploughing forward with the same vengeful tactics.
Israelis can get rid of Netanyahu much more easily than Gazans can get rid of Hamas. So will Israel really join the West?