It’s the settlements, stupid! Israel has, in the past months, once again shown its disregard for international law with the inacceptable land grab of a 1,000 acres of Palestinian West Bank territory and last week’s decision to approve the construction of around 200 housing units in East Jerusalem, considered Israeli territory by the Netanyahu administration, but considered occupied settlements by, well, the rest of the world. In addition, a conflict between Muslims and Jews over the use of Jerusalem’s temple mount has caused a recent outbreak of violence in Israel, with terror attacks and arrests. Some even fear another Palestinian uprising, a third Intifada, may be near. But who is to blame? Who is right?
International law applies to everyone. Including Mr. Netanyahu
First of all, I am absolutely convinced that the Israeli government’s settlement policy is not only a blatant violation of international law, but also a major obstacle to peace. This opinion is shared by the Western world’s governments, like the Obama administration or the French government, who have harshly criticized Israel’s plans, but still seem far away from acting on this. And the Netanyahu administration already said it will carry out its construction plans as if nothing happened. But it is especially important to pressure the Israeli government at this time. And here’s why: the regimes in rogue states all over the world are closely watching what happens between Jerusalem, Washington and London.
If the West once again fails to do more than voice some diplomatic criticism, these regimes will use the events as evidence of the West’s double standards when it comes to international law. And they would be right: if Israel violates international right and gets away and even lands arms deals with the US, why should, say, Iran be treated differently. This is the point. International law is here for everyone. Also for Mr. Netanyahu.
However, there is no such thing as a black-and-white world, especially not in the Middle East. Israel is being constantly threatened by radicals in all of its neighbor countries. It could be attacked on three fronts: Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. Iran’s government might look more moderate and sensible now, but you never know. In Teheran, radicals still have a say.
No nation can tolerate constant rocket attacks threatening the lives of its civilian population
And although I think that Israel’s actions in this year’s Gaza offensive may amount to war crimes, and therefore ought to be properly investigated (Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the UN fact finding mission is outrageous by the way), I still am convinced that the Netanyahu administration had the right to start the war in first place. No nation can tolerate constant rocket attacks threatening the lives of its civilian population. The Hamas has behaved incredibly brutal and vicious and given Israel the moral right to use military action to protect its citizens.
However, Israel has to follow international law and do everything it can to prevent civilian casualties. And it is obvious this was not done.
The Hamas does try to provoke Israel into bombing and shelling civilian buildings. But why do the Israel Defense Forces always gratefully take that opportunity?
In addition, the Israeli government does have a responsibility for the miserable humanitarian situation in Gaza, but it shares this guilt with Hamas. Hamas is a corrupt and tyrannical group that is capable of letting its own people suffer from this hardship to demonize Israel.
(This is Hamas’ human rights record: under its rule in Gaza newspapers were banned, political activists detained and probably tortured, and people accused of collaborating with Israel were murdered). But once again, just because one side is behaving terribly wrong, that doesn’t mean that the other side (in this case:Israel) automatically is the force of good.
Palestinians, clean up your own mess before expecting Israel to act
So well, will the Hamas please let the population in Israel live in peace. Because only if the people of Israel live in peace, they will be ready for the finalization of the two-state solution. Palestinians, don’t forget there’s something you want from Israel: stopping the expansion of the illegal settlements. The end of the Gaza blockade. The release of Palestinian prisoners. But if Hamas continues to terrorize Israel’s civilian population, you, moderate Palestinians, are not in a position to demand anything from Netanyahu and his friends in Washington, London and Berlin. So why don’t you clean up your own mess first and send Hamas to hell? And meanwhile, Obama, Hollande, Cameron and Co. could stop talking about how wrong the expansion of the settlements is, and actually do something about it: while I find the idea of a general boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign exaggerated, I support something like a temporary stop of sales of arms and military equipment. However, even this decision should be made with caution, because if Israel is cut off military supplies for a long time, it might end up weak and defenseless. This is not what we want. Over a short term, however, limited sanctions could be necessary, justified and helpful in showing Netanyahu that he is wrong.
P.S: Can we please get over this comparison nonsense and stick to the facts
P.S: Can we please FINALLY end this terribly inappropriate and incredibly wrong idea of equating Israeli policy to Hitler/Nazi Germany/the Holocaust. The Nazis killed six million Jews (or even more, we don’t know for sure), their idea was to exterminate an entire people. While Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians do show anti-Arab behavior and there are extremists in Israel, the people and the government of Israel have NOT perpetrated genocidal acts against the Palestinian population. Oh, and there is a difference between Israel today and Apartheid-era South Africa. Why don’t we just stop trying to compare everything to everything and stick to the facts?
Image source: Pawel Ryszawa/ Wikimedia Commons
UPDATE November 19, 2014: The news of the vicious and brutal attack of Palestinian terrorists on a Jerusalem synagogue has shocked me and I feel very sorry for the victims. The issues mentioned in this text, however, still remain relevant for a peaceful solution