All Israeli governments since the collapse of the Oslo Process have lacked plans for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). A state of paralysis has taken hold of Israeli politics, and all major Zionist parties—from liberal-Left Meretz to quasi-fascist Israel Beitenu, agree on the following points:
1. Israel shouldn’t withdraw from the OPT unless a permanent peace can be reached with the Palestinians, as a unilateral withdrawal will.
2. Israel cannot control the entire OPT forever, because the international community doesn’t recognize the occupation and because the Palestinians will continue to resist it.
be perceived as weakness.
3. The Palestinians will never agree to peace without true sovereignty, East Jerusalem as their capital and recognition of the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees. *
4. Israel should never allow the Palestinian refugees to return to within the borders of pre-1967 Israel, and should never own up to all of the crimes committed in 1948 and since 1967.
This wide consensus in the Israeli political sphere leaves no room for proactive action, only for eternal procrastination. Unless the Palestinians will miraculously “forget” the atrocities committed against them and decide to compromise on all of their rights for which they have fought for many decades, Israeli governments will continue to contend that there is “no partner for peace.” No partner, that is, to accept Israel’s unilateral dictates.
This political paralysis has created fertile ground for the design and implementation of creative policies intended to buy time for Israel. Policies intended to put the Israeli public to sleep include the separation policies, forbidding Israelis to enter “Areas A” in the West Bank and Gaza, allowing the settlers to keep building, and finding countless excuses to avoid negotiations with the Palestinians. Privatized checkpoints in the West Bank also help the authorities temper resentment from soldiers, who are tired of the pointless and physically arduous task of manning the checkpoints.
Policies intended to deflect international pressure on Israel to end the occupation include the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” (in other words, announce their support of ethnic discrimination against them), the massive marketing efforts by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to convince the world of Israel’s righteousness and the fake withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 (which was called by a senior Israeli official the “amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians”).
But the trickiest part of the Israeli delay tactics is how to suppress Palestinian resistance. After the 1948 Naqba and 42 years of military occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians have become familiar with the various Israeli tricks. They cannot be fooled again with the disingenuous promise of negotiations, or with Netanyahu’s rehashed idea of “economic peace” that lacks real substance. The policy against Palestinians is therefore not merely deception, but containment and active suppression. Israeli authorities crack down on Palestinian institutions and organizations, deploy military force and extensive surveillance measures, but are also fighting a psychological war against Palestinians, striking terror into the hearts of people so that they will be reluctant to act against the occupation, and single themselves out for punishment.
The division imposed by Israel between Gaza and the West Bank is a classic “divide-and-conquer” policy, in which Israel attempts to present the severance of the two areas as an internal Palestinian conflict, as if Gazans are all Hamas supporters and West Bankers are all Fatah supporters. In reality, the two policies enacted by Israel towards the two regions are components of a single policy to contain the Palestinian resistance, and bide for time.
The siege on Gaza is a “primitive” form of containment, a simple repressive siege which has transformed the Gaza Strip into the world‘s largest prison. The people of Gaza are held as prisoners—by restricting them to a small location, and by strictly controlling everything going in or out of that area. Like in most prisons, a smuggling industry is thriving in Gaza and, like in most prisons, the prisoners are taught a cynical lesson that “might makes right.”
The containment strategy over the West Bank is more sophisticated and complex, but the message Israel is sending the Palestinians in the West Bank is clear: “If you resist the occupation, we can do to you what we do in Gaza!” The more violent and cruel measures Israel applies in Gaza, the more fear it can instill in the hearts of Palestinians in the West Bank.