The issue with the Palestinians is much like the issue of abortion. It’s a tool being used to achieve a completely unrelated goal. In both cases, there are underlying issues that have some legitimacy. Killing babies can be a bad thing. Subjugating people can, too.
In neither case, though, do the people agitating for those issues actually desire a solution. Their goals are, instead, purely political. In the case of abortion, it’s long been clear that nobody actually wants to reduce abortion. Mere sex education is proven to do that better than any other option yet they oppose that because they want to preserve the controversy.
With the Palestinians, there have been many sincere attempts to come to terms with the problem that have been jettisoned. In particular, during the series of meetings around the Camp David Accords, Yassir Arafat specifically rejected what, I read some years ago, was a real, two-state solution that was, by any logic, acceptable to everyone. Nobody can really know his intentions, he was acting single-handedly, but, it is thought that he was keeping the issue alive for his Arab masters.
Israel, of course, has its politics, too. They are, however, analogous to our liberals here. Just as we are happy to settle for “safe, legal and rare” with restrictions that don’t please everyone but keep abortion from being used as normal birth control, the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution with security arrangements that prevent the two areas from being used to launch a war. They would prefer to have the Palestinians be absorbed into Arab countries where they would have more resources, a society to live in and would allow them to treat the territories as security buffer zones, but they are practical.
You probably know that the Middle East, overall, was, like much of the rest of the world, colonized by Britain. Their practice was, like the Roman Empire before them, to move in, use a combination of intimidation and bribery to co-opt the local leadership, and extract resource, influence and wealth from the region. In many places this worked perfectly well until the international community developed sufficiently that atrocities were punished. Then the locals ejected the Brits and became independent.
In the Middle East, it appears to me that things went somewhat differently. As with America, there were native peoples but in those two places, they were nomadic cultures. Over here, the country was simply too big and too far away for Britain to co-opt and exploit the Native Americans so they sent British citizens to exploit the place.
In the Middle East, the region was close enough for them to really exert their influence but, as nomadic cultures tend to be, there was no head of state they could dominate. The tribes were independent and, since they lived in a really hostile environment, were tough as nails. Worse, there wasn’t a lot of wealth to be extracted. Oil wasn’t important (I don’t know if they even knew about it at all) back then. There were no minerals, no crops, nothing. The place was a desert.
Still Britain kept at it for a good long time until the end of the colonial era in the early part of the last century. They realized that the Middle East was not profitable and decided to grant independence. Since this was also not going to be profitable, they did a hack job of it. (I can’t remember exactly but, the countries of the Middle East were drawn up by some guy who’d never been there or something. It was really stupid.) They formed countries with nearly arbitrary boundaries, installed their most bribable strongman as the boss and got out of dodge.
Comes the end of World War II and there were a lot of displaced Jews that nobody wanted hanging around their country. Not only is anti-semitism a completely real, important motivation in history, but they were poor, sad people with a weird religion and no jobs. A guy named Theodore Hertzl had previously come up with the idea of a Jewish homeland and everyone thought, “Oooo, we could, in the name of a ‘principle’ get rid of these Jews. Let’s make a homeland!”
So they did. Since this was near the time that the Middle East was being partitioned by England, it wasn’t very hard to do it. Just as they were doing with the rest of the Middle East, they drew a nearly arbitrary country (inspired by history, but only a little) and, Voila!, Israel was born.
There was one difference with Israel. It was not intended to contain the previous indigenous peoples. It was supposed to be a dumping place for the European Jews. This didn’t sit well with the locals. They were also anti-semitic. They also didn’t want a bunch of foreigners hanging around.
So, shortly after Israel was formed, the Arabs in the region started a war. Turns out the Israeli Jews had learned from their experience with extermination. They kicked Arab ass big time. By the time it was done, they had kicked almost all the Arabs out of the country. This was more reasonable than it seems. The Arabs in their country were, to a substantial extent, the main fighters trying to kill them.
And so, the ‘Palestinians’ were born. This is not an historical cultural group. There are occasional attempts to portray them as such because, of course, they are descendants of indigenous people. However, they are actually just the people who happened to be living in the region that became Israel. There exists, for example, a cultural group called Persians. They were named long, long ago. They have a cultural identity that is distinct from others with cultural practices that are discernible, etc. There never were Palestinians, per se, in history. It became a cultural group purely in opposition to Israel.
Not that they don’t exist. Obviously, the Palestinians have become a distinct cultural group. That they were formed a recently doesn’t make them illegitimate. However, it changes their historical claim. They are not, for example, the descendants of a long, honorable culture that has cherished the land under Israel since time immemorial. Nor are did they have a culture that was brutally disrupted by the arrival of the Jews. When Israel started, they were just people living there. The Jews wanted to live there, too. (And, have a plausibly greater claim to the territory. The Jews actually had a country that was stolen from them in pre-Biblical times.)
The Palestinians are, simply put, the people who had tried to kill the Jews and failed. In the attempt, they were ejected from Israel, ended up living outside the country.
In 1967, only twenty years after Israel was formed, the Arabs made a second attempt to destroy Israel. They failed yet again. This time Israel realized two things. One, the Arabs were implacable enemies. Two, the borders drawn by the British were stupid. They were simple not defensible.
Since they had well and truly beaten the Arabs in ’67, they were able to enforce their will at the treaty table. What they wanted was a secure buffer zone between Syria and Israel and between Egypt and Israel. These became known as the Occupied Territories. You know them better today as the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip (adjacent to Egypt).
I’m not expert in the details but, roughly speaking, they stopped being part of any country. Israel established settlements in each region, mainly for the purpose of early warning if the Arabs started building up troops or started to attack Israel. There were, of course, plenty of people living there, mainly the refugees of the earlier war, now called Palestinians. However, it was pretty much live and let live.
As time wore on, the Palestinians noticed that they were poor and that Israel was rich. This made them feel like they wanted stuff. The rest of the Arab world was still pissed that they hadn’t been able to destroy Israel in ’67 and so pushed their strongman into leadership of the Palestinians. His name was Yassir Arafat. Considering how it turned out, it’s pretty clear that his goal as leader was not to secure a good, peaceful life for his people.
The Israelis liked living in Occupied Territories. Just as some people really enjoy the expansive solitude of mid-Iowa or Montana, it was nice to have some land and less traffic, etc. Whatever rules had allowed the creation of the earlier security oriented lookout settlements were used to create settlements to accept excess population from Israel proper. Eventually, I suppose those rules were pushed beyond their intentions to create settlements without a security mission and eventually, there were a lot of Israelis living in the Territories.
There have been many twists and turns but Israel has, as far as I know, never been much opposed to the Palestinians having a decent life. The problem of security would have to be solved but, given that, having a happy peaceful country on the border is better than having a miserable one. Consequently, Israel has been available for attempts to solve the situation. That lead to the Camp David Accords which established the Palestinian Local Authority headed still by Yassir Arafat who sandbagged the negotiations that would have lead to an independent state of Palestine.
Israel has actually tried many strategies to manage relations with the PLA but, much of it has been angry and suspicious. They remember the many wars and that those wars were not fought to gain territory or seek justice but mainly to exterminate them, to “push them into the sea.” After the failure of Camp David, the culture decided that there really was nothing to do with these essentially evil people. Settlements continued apace. Security arrangements were less good-natured. The wall was built. The regular Palestinian people were subjected to endless propaganda by their leaders that concealed Yassir Arafat’s selling them out and inflamed their hatred of the Jews.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. It was partly because they were overextended (Lebanon had attacked them and there was war and security problems in the North), partly because they thought it might help to make nice with Hamas, partly because international pressure wanted them to do something. They pulled 8,000 settlers out of Gaza, much to the consternation of the Israeli right wing, and deeded a lot of useful property to the Gaza government.
Among those things were, I think the number is, 3000 agricultural greenhouses. These were functioning, commercially viable industrial farms. A group of American Jews put together funding of, I think, thirty million dollars to help the Gazans keep them going while they got started. Hamas blew them all up.
Some time later, Gaza held elections and put Hamas in charge of their government. Hamas, as required by its charter, declared Israel illegitimate and declared war on the “Zionist entity”. They had been shooting rockets into Israel previously (Israel had hoped that removing themselves from Gaza might reduce this problem) and they continued to do so subsequently.
This is no surprise. Hamas is not some righteous Moslem organization formed to achieve glory and a Palestinian state. Hamas is an offshoot of some political party in Iran. It is supported by Iran for Iran’s purposes. Iran’s purpose is to avenge the various wars it lost against Israel, to kill Jews and to spread it’s special brand of Islam throughout the entire Middle East. Hamas, as their representative in Gaza, does nothing to improve the lives of the people there.
Israel gave it the old college try, though. When they pulled out, they not only gave the Gazans all the stuff they had built there but, they also opened the borders, removed their police and established trade. Both Israel and international Jewry put together substantial foreign aid for Gaza.
I don’t know how long it lasted but the glory days soon ended. Hamas kept shooting rockets at Israel. They did absolutely nothing to develop a viable society. They did import armament and started building the underground fortresses being called tunnels these days. Eventually it became clear to Israel that they were soon going to have a well-supplied army in Gaza and they closed the borders, only letting in materials that could not be used as weapons.
This, of course, enraged everyone. Gaza is certainly the literal worst place on earth. It is the most densely populated place in the world. It has no resources of any sort. Its people cannot leave or go on vacation, even if they had any money. Their schools are run by the UN because they can’t do it themselves. There are 1.26 million people in, I think, 25 square miles with absolutely no hope.
And, their government not only does nothing for them. It cynically puts them in harms way not only as human shields but as sacrificial lambs on the altar of public relations. Many have said, and I completely believe, that Hamas does not expect locating their weapons in civilian areas (apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, etc) to protect the weapons but exposes those locations in way that will maximize the likelihood of civilian deaths. It good PR for their purposes.
There is no such thing as a good guy. Good guys do charity. They make peoples’ lives better. They are happy and sing songs of beauty. Nobody in the Middle East is a good guy. But, there are bad guys. Hamas is bad. It’s motivations are indefensible. The Gaza people are probably not mostly evil, just stupid. They are uneducated, primitive people living in difficult circumstances with an active, vile propaganda effort dominating their culture. However, they voted in a free and open election, for Hamas. The Palestinian people have actively chosen strife. Israel did not.
Israel has tried, with greater and lesser enthusiasm, to find a solution. Sometimes they have been nasty and unfair. Sometimes they have been generous. Often they have been muddled. They are, however, surrounded by people who explicitly refuse to accept their right to exist and call for genocide. Their good overtures have been rejected. Nobody in the world except for America helps them at all.
And, they have this implacable enemy shooting rockets into their country. Dozens a day for years. Occasionally, things get out of hand and there is war. Even then, the Israelis hewing both to their religious ethos and the needs of international public relations, try to do the right thing.
Let’s be clear. Israel has it within it’s power to literally exterminate Gaza. Not only do they have nuclear weapons, but they have every other kind, too. They also have what is probably the toughest, most highly motivated military in the world. They also feel their survival is threatened unfairly. I got into an argument with someone who used the phrase, “raining down death”. Rain is universal, indiscriminate and un-targeted. The attacks by Israel are the opposite. Not only are they not indiscriminate, they are scheduled.
They are not pointed at civilians, they could be, there’s a lot of civilians there, they are pointed at specific military targets. Then the people there are warned (and Hamas says, intentionally lying, "it’s propaganda, you should stay”). Then, when the bomb is about to happen, they drop a notification on the roof of the building. They make phone calls to let people know to get out. This is the opposite of a brutal, mean-spirited attack.
And, what else can they do? Nobody can have a country and let someone shoot rockets into it. It’s not reasonable to think Israel could open the Gaza border to allow any armaments into the country to resupply the rockets and add other, more effective weapons. And, in any case, they tried that and it turned out very badly.
The Palestinians have it within their power to throw off the yoke. The problem is that they are too busy hating the Jews. The people they need to fight off are the Arab countries around them, Iran especially, that are keeping them at war. Once they, and I don’t see how it will ever happen, find a way to get rid of Hamas and make peace with Israel, their lives will get better.
But, you can’t expect Israel to allow themselves to be attacked. Nobody would but, even more, these are all descendants of people who did make a peaceful response to genocidal madmen and experienced the Holocaust. They’re not going to allow that. They will never be Gandhi. It’s impossible.