Declarations and Reality
By Richard Bell | Special for the AJT
Despite the angry Israeli reaction to the Swedish Premier’s declaration on an intention to recognize the non-existent Palestinian state this really shouldn’t be a matter of great concern to the Netanyahu government. Even if many European and other countries follow suit this will have little or no effect at all on the reality on the ground.
Israel with the assistance of the Palestinian Authority has virtually full security control in the West Bank and even if the PA embarks on a full scale political-diplomatic offensive in the international arena it will continue the close security cooperation with Israel because it is a vital and even existential interest for it. Without it, the PA would collapse and be taken over by Islamic extremists. I assess that most of the Europeans will recognize a Palestinian state in the coming years to placate the Palestinians and other Moslems and Arabs, including the many who live in their countries despite the fact that they realize that there is no chance for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, not in the foreseeable future and not in the distant future.
Just yesterday (October 13), the British Parliament passed by a huge margin a decision recognizing a Palestinian state. The move was led by the opposition Labor Party. The decision does not obligate the British government and is only of symbolic value. Premier David Cameron (Conservatives) and his ministers didn’t participate in the vote. Both the British Labor Party and ruling Swedish Social Democratic Party are sister parties of the opposition Israel Labor Party. While political declarations of recognition of a Palestinian state won’t change the policy of the Netanyahu government, the question must be asked what will be the accumulative effect of all of this on Israel’s international standing. Time will tell.
The political gaps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are unbridgeable. Israel will insist on total security control over the key points in a demilitarized Palestinian state. The Palestinians reject this and insist on flooding Israel with hundreds of thousands if not millions of refugees. A not few Israelis still don’t believe the Palestinians when they say they will demand a choice between compensation or return to Israel. Those Israelis who say this simply don’t understand the Palestinians and explain that since such a demand is unreasonable, the Palestinians don’t really mean it. But a right of return is the very heart and soul of the Palestinian ethos and narrative. They will never yield on it because it would mean the end of the Palestinian national movement. Also the Palestinians don’t understand the Israeli side although they claim to. The Palestinians have always and still do view Israel as a colonialist imperialist creation like South Africa was and therefore don’t believe the Jews truly love the Land. They believe that like South Africa external pressure can cause it to collapse, as it is an artificial creation with no real inner fortitude. Tragically enough this is also the view of many in the Israeli Arab sector, including intellectual circles. They live side by side with Jews but don’t understand them.
To stop thinking so would be an abandoning of their ideology. At first the PLO tried terror and now it is resorting to diplomatic warfare.
Back to Europe. The Swedes have a tradition of being path makers for the Palestinian cause. Late premier Olaf Palme opened the gates of European legitimacy for the PLO when he invited Yasser Arafat to Stockholm in the early 1980’s despite Israel’s protestations. Despite the partial boycotting of Israel by Europe (mostly on settlement goods), the future of Israel-EU relations actually looks quite rosy. The two sides maintain strong high tech, scientific, commercial and defense cooperation. Both greatly fear Islamic extremists and this of course includes the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Most Europeans would even welcome an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if it would be effective although they won’t openly admit so. Iran’s long range missiles can strike almost anywhere in Europe. European Jewry was almost totally destroyed during World War II and we are again witnessing a sharp rise in anti-Semitism there, and not only in France and Hungary. It is safe to say that while Europe is no place for the few Jews who remain there, this will not negatively affect European attitudes towards cooperation with the Jewish state.
Europe will likely never again produce the likes of Freud, Einstein, Marx and Kafka just to name a few, but the European countries still seek to benefit from the Jewish brainpower. The fact is that many right wing and even far right wing European politicians seek close ties with Israel. Cooperation with the Jews is fine as long as it is at a distance. This is a sad and tragic fact of history. There is no long term place for Jews in Europe even though the large majority of European Jews are content to stay put at present and likely will do so in the near future.
The traditional European and Moslem anti-Semitism won’t allow a long term Jewish presence. They should leave, if not to Israel, then to the US, Canada, or Australia. 1945 marked the end of Jewish history in Europe. Europe like Israel will now live in daily fear of Islamic extremists, particularly those who return home from the fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
While Israel shouldn’t be overly concerned by the Swedish declaration or over such action by other European countries, it has good reason to keep a wary eye on its borders, and not just the Gaza border with Hamas. Israel’s main concern on its borders is no longer Arab conventional armies. Despite declarations at times to the contrary, the strategic relations between Jerusalem and Cairo and Amman are very good. They share almost identical interests against extremists and terrorists. And at this stage, the Syrian army doesn’t appear to be a threat to Israel. At the conclusion of the recent Gaza war, Premier Netanyahu explained the reason why Israel decided not to conduct a second ground assault on Gaza. He said that Israel doesn’t want to get bogged down in Gaza at a time when it faces terrorist threats in the North on the borders with Syria and Lebanon. His decision and assessment are correct, and the recent violent incidents on the borders with these two countries proves that there is always a danger.
Hezbollah is again declaring that it does not fear a military confrontation with Israel, and it reportedly has many tens of thousands of rockets and missiles. In general it can be said that Netanyahu has a very good feel for the situation. I say this because his predictions do materialize. For example many years ago he predicted that terrorists would topple tall buildings. He also predicted that the Oslo accords would lead to rockets on Ashqelon. He also predicted that the fall of Arab governments would be precipitated by exposure to the outside world through the internet. Netanyahu’s political savvy is one of the main reasons he has no real opposition in Israel. He is really the only statesman Israelis have confidence in, opinion polls show.
Netanyahu seeks to maintain the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza but in order to do so he must facilitate the economic situation there. Europe, despite its talk and threats, won’t be a serious obstacle for Israeli prosperity, and in any event should Abu Mazen embark on a full scale diplomatic and political offensive against Israel including a call for sanctions and a turning to the Hague Court, the US Congress will likely counter this with sanctions of its own. In any event I don’t assess that Europe has a reason or desire to harm relations with Israel.
Richard Bell was the founder and editor of Israel Media Digest from 1990-2008. He resides in Jerusalem.