Charles Krauthammer states Israel’s position quite nicely in today’s column, “Why They Fight.”
Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. For four decades we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the “cycle of violence” ceases.
The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel’s right to exist and declared Israel’s pre-1967 borders — now deemed sacred — to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.
Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks such as the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.
Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the cabinet, launched an attack into Israel on Wednesday that resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers and the wounding of two others, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.
What’s the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the United Nations to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon’s southern border and retreated behind it. This “blue line” was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.
Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turned it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah’s 10,000 Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded 120 in Israel’s northern towns.
In 1967 Israel acquired the “occupied territories.” In 1948 Israel acquired life. The fighting raging now in 2006 — between Israel and the “genocidal Islamism” (to quote the writer Yossi Klein Halevi) of Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran behind them — is about whether that life should and will continue to exist.
Krauthammer is certainly right that “occupation” was always a pretext for grievance and that the real issue is the refusal of most Arabs to recognize Israel’s right to be. The problem, however, is how to address this situation.
Clearly, simply giving up territory isn’t working because, as I explained in an earlier piece, the terrorists can dominate the agenda. Just as clearly, though, military action hasn’t garned Israel much peace, either. Major wars in 1948, 1967, 1973, 1982, and countless smaller uses of force have made Israel’s might respected, to be sure, but have done little to cause their enemies to give up their desire to wipe Israel from the map.
I’m afraid I have no solutions, simple or otherwise, for this dilemma.