Israel’s lack of strategy is strategy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends Israel’s actions and goals in Gaza in interview morning editionSteve Inskeep on Friday.


In covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I often recall A book about Israel’s perspective on this.

The late Ariel Sharon, Israel’s long-time military and political leader, confided his thoughts to his close friend, Israeli journalist Uri Dan.Their beliefs can be found in this burning land, Authors: Greg Meyer and Jennifer Griffin.

“The bond between the two men was built on unshakable faith. Jews and Arabs have been fighting for generations, and … there has been no resolution,” wrote This burning land.

As Sharon and Dan see it, “Arabs have never really accepted Israel’s existence,” so a two-state solution is impossible or even undesirable. They “acknowledge that conflict is a permanent feature of life in the Middle East, “part of the world into which they were born, and part of the world they will leave… in their hearts, and in the hearts of a significant number of Israelis and Palestinians” In your mind, if you don’t accept the persistence of the conflict, then you don’t understand the conflict at all. “

The 2010 book does not address the views of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then beginning a long tenure as prime minister.But the idea of ​​long-term conflict helps to understand Netanyahu interviewed Airs Friday on NPR morning editionand several past conversations.

When asked about the future of the Gaza Strip, which is currently being seized by Israeli forces from the control of Hamas, Netanyahu said: No Wants but is vague about what he wants didAsked who would rule after Hamas is deposed, Netanyahu said the Israeli army would have “full military responsibility for the foreseeable future. But there must also be a civilian government there.”

Netanyahu pointedly did not identify who the “civilian government” should be. He rejected the most obvious alternative to Hamas, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank. He also did not identify any other organizations that might be responsible.

So Israel wants free Attack targets in Gaza when it chooses but doesn’t want to responsibility responsibility for managing or delivering services to 2.3 million people, and is not yet ready to say who should bear that responsibility. In rejecting the Palestinian Authority, Israel is also rejecting an organization that supports a two-state solution — a solution that the United States and others believe is the only way to achieve lasting peace.

For those who believe that peace in the Middle East is the goal, this is a significant omission. But for those who believe the conflict is “permanent” and that no solution is likely to satisfy Israel, the lack of a long-term plan for Gaza is a serious problem. Desirable. That’s the point.

In my many interviews since 2013, Netanyahu has expressed little openness to a two-state solution, and none at all in recent years. What he told me was not the idea of ​​allowing the Palestinians to govern themselves only on issues that were of no interest to Israel, while the Israelis retained all authority over security matters.

In a 2022 interview, Netanyahu acknowledged that he offered the Palestinians something far from political equality. “I didn’t hide this for a minute. I said it openly,” he said. “The Palestinians are equally open to the point that they are not interested.”

If Netanyahu doesn’t propose an immediate strategy for peace with the Palestinians, he used to be Be willing to pursue peace without them. He spent years working to build diplomatic ties with Arab countries and bypass the Palestinians by making peace with Arab allies. He achieved great success. Until October 7, he seemed to be on the verge of his greatest victory, normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.

When this happens, the Israelis try to loosen some economic controls and encourage Palestinian prosperity in order to replace the Palestinian state. An Israeli military officer told me that until October 7, Israel believed that Hamas had acquiesced in the deal and that they were “not interested” in a large-scale attack on Israel.

Hamas has chosen a different route. Now Israel has pledged to destroy Hamas (or at least remove it from power in Gaza). Who will replace Hamas? If it’s hard to know, and even harder to know how to achieve peace, that’s probably on purpose. The question is the answer.

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