While criss-crossing through much of southern Palestine, we stood near a dilapidated Soviet style building. Pointing at it, our driver told us that it is for refugees. Slightly bewildered, I asked, “Which refugees?” He replied that it is for refugees who were thrown out of Israel in 1948. Even more bewildered, I naively enquired, “Are they still alive?” With a contemptuous smile, he said, no, but their children and grand-children still live there. I asked him why the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t move them out, what is the need for keeping them in a refugee centre. He muttered softly as if revealing a secret, “Their homes are in Israel and, inshallah, they will all go there one day.”
Now this is a propaganda of the highest order. Nowhere in the world are refugee centres run for 70 years! The United Nations and Israel are willing to put in millions of dollars to settle these “refugees” in proper homes but the Palestinian Authority will not allow it. They want to ensure that children and grand-children of actual refugees also live as refugees, so that the hatred against the Jewish state is passed on from generation to generation. Let the ember of hatred burn, this will be used to light the fire of another intifada when the time is right!
Such propaganda is everywhere in the Palestinian territories. I noticed the street walls painted with maps of free Palestine, but only that their free Palestine included the whole of Israel. I came across a giant cut-out of keys, symbolising the “keys” of their homes in Israel. Our driver even had stock photos of dead children on his mobile phone to prove how Israelis kill innocent Palestinian children!
Israel is a tiny sliver of land on the coast of Mediterranean, more than half of which is the harsh and barely inhabitable Negev desert. Their land is not even 1 per cent of the entire landmass of Middle-East. The conflict between Israel and Palestine cannot possibly be about some land deal, it is more about the humiliation that the Arabs suffered at the establishment of the Jewish state in their “holy land” of Middle East. In their ideology, once the territory belongs to Islam, it belongs to Islam forever. You cannot reclaim it. Just as once you are Muslim, you always remain a Muslim. Apostasy is punishable by death in Arab countries. This ideology does not allow for any compromise or concessions. There can only be a temporary truce.
Their end goal is not some compromised Palestinian state, but a greater Palestine that includes the entire land from Mediterranean Sea to Jordan river, implying the obliteration and destruction of the Jewish state. While Hamas (a Palestinian Islamic organisation) and Iran make this clear, Fatah (the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority) and other Arab countries try to couch it in diplomatic terms. Decades of torturous negotiations have led to nothing. Negotiators often expressed surprise that despite the concessions that Israel was willing to make, the Palestinian delegation always rejected it as not enough, but without giving any counter proposals.
In negotiations after negotiations, Palestinian leaders make such demands on Israel that they know Israel will never be able to fulfil without jeopardising its own future. One of the demands is the “right to return” for families whose ancestors left Israel during the war of 1948. Israel cannot possibly allow something that will change the demography of their country, destroying the very concept of the Jewish state. Long time ago, even former British prime minister Winston Churchill had bitterly complained about negotiating with Palestinians. He said, “It is not fair to come to a discussion thinking that one side has to give nothing and the other side has to give large and important concessions, and without any security that these concessions will be a means of peace.”
Given the nightmarish results of handing sovereignty of Gaza to Palestinians, Israel has considerably hardened its stand on the question of Palestinian independence. Any Palestinian state will necessarily have to be a demilitarised one. The security of Israel demands it. But even in this newly demilitarised state, what is the guarantee that Iran or Hamas will not sneak in with deadly weapons to target at the heart of Israel. From Palestinian borders to Tel Aviv, the shortest distance is not even 20 kilometres! Iran still arms Lebanon-based militant group, Hezbollah to carry out attacks on Israel from Lebanon. This will just open another front for myriad of terrorist organisations to target Israel. A full-fledged Palestinian state might well be the death knell for the state of Israel. Israel recognises this.
That is why in public, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pays lip service to the western liberal intelligentsia fantasy of an independent Palestinian state, but in reality he tries everything to scuttle any chance of a two state solution. With Israel already targeted with thousands of deadly rockets fired at its civilian population from Gaza and Lebanon, it would be suicidal to take any more chances.
So what is the solution? There is no solution, there is only status quo. There is only an uneasy truce. As long as Israel maintains its overwhelming military superiority, as long as the daring spirit of the settlers who made the first Aliyah still emanates from every Israeli youth, as long as Israeli woman don’t give up on the demographic fight, Israel will continue to enforce this status quo. And in that hostile part of the world, this is the most it can hope for.
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