The boxing match continues and Israel is about to get bloodied.
As I’ve written in the past few weeks, the Palestinians believe the timing is propitious for them to pursue their endgame. I believe they think their endgame – the knock-out punch that will bring about the final part of this century-old conflict and finally give them control over the Jews and the former Ottoman Palestine – is what happens when a single state, run by an Arab majority, exists from the Sea to the River (I would argue they believe they would next lay claim to Jordan, but that’s fodder for another discussion).
To achieve this goal, the Palestinians must keep Israel off-balance while continuing to jab and throw the occasional left hook or two. Their jabs and punches take many forms: terrorism (not just blowing up buses, restaurants and hotels, but also rockets launched at civilians), diplomatic warfare, propaganda that vilifies Jews and Israel, strong media relations that consistently depict Israel’s actions as that of an evil ogre (especially if they are security based), international and domestic law-fare and pressure upon Israel’s allies which is supported and strengthened by the Arab and Muslim
entourage blocs who sit in the Palestinian’s corner profiting from the Palestinian’s black eyes and bloody nose while watching from the sidelines.
This fighter, the Palestinian nation, has shown moments of brutal aggression in previous rounds, showing that it indeed belongs in the ring and doesn’t need proxies fighting its wars, but in the latest, current round, is taking a more sophisticated approach to the fight.
This fighting strategy has evolved in the past few years partly as a response to prize-fighter Israel’s success in winning the Palestinian War of 2000. For years, the Palestinians succeeded in penetrating Israel and committing atrocities against Israeli civilians, inflicting severe emotional and physical blows against their opponent. However, their opponent is a middleweight and they’re lightweights. Israel wore them down with efficacious punches that became harder and harder to counter. It evacuated Gaza, leaving that strip of land without a connection to the West Bank, forcing the Palestinians to fight with two uncoordinated arms. It parried punches with stronger punches, stopping most of the terror attacks through intensive intelligence gathering, using targeted killings, developing defensive strategies such as the security barrier and large increases in the number of check-points, and decreases in the number of Palestinians permitted to travel into Israel to work. While doing these things, Israel also kept pushing the Palestinians into a smaller and tighter corner. With Gaza gone, additional territory in the rink was being overwhelmed by Israel as it grew settlements in Judea and Samaria/West Bank and built out parts of Jerusalem. To fortify their claims, the over-confident Israelis kept pointing to their increasing activities such as archaeological digs to point out that the ring should be theirs because of the historic connection of early Jews to Jerusalem and Israel.
But the Israelis don’t know how to close a fight, and when they had the Palestinians down for the count, they stepped back and offered peace. They did this in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Every time, the Palestinians refused to accept a truce and stepped right back into the fight, even more fiercely than before. Even after the pain of fighting a losing war in the Palestinian War of 2000, faced with extensive body blows and reeling from the loss of their charismatic promoter, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians did not bow down or give up – after all, this fight is in an inescapable iron cage and since the
UN ref won’t let either side kill off the other, the fight must go on, blow after bloody blow.
It took a few years, but the solution came in the form of a new trainer, Salam Fayyad, a western-trained economist who worked in the highest echelons of international finance. Fayyad understands that the crowd which matters here is the West and they can influence the ref to give advantages to the Palestinians. Fayyad and his boss, Mahmoud Abbas who had once written a doctoral dissertation denying parts of the Holocaust, understood well that fighting a bigger, stronger fighter with brutality would only lead to greater injury and a possible loss. No, that was not the way to win an uneven fight. The only way to beat a stronger opponent is to make him work harder, make him work non-stop, tire him out, weaken him with painful and confusing jabs to the side and wait until he is too fatigued to resist. Time will do the rest.
So the Palestinians went into the rope-a-dope.
Instead of terrorism, the Palestinians began to demonstrate using civilians at B’ilin; instead of loud proclamations in the Arab media, they wooed European and North American activists to proclaim for them that Israel was an unjust state; instead of fighting fire with fire, they fought fire with fake media demonstrations like Muhammad al-Dura and the bomb that killed the family on the beach in Gaza; instead of calling Israel names, they let their shills from the Left (especially sympathetic Jews and university activism) vilify Israel in the most heinous terms (genocide; apartheid), and of course they counted on the confusion their elusive rope-a-dope strategy was sowing upon their opponent.
Their lumbering opponent, unable to see that the underdog’s strategy had changed and was now making use of their smaller size and sympathetic crowd to form a dangerous advantage, kept acting with unsophisticated brutishness. it kept pushing the settlements, watched its economy grow and its society become more entrenched even in areas that it knew it may not be able to keep, it announced a law that made it look bigoted because it prevented Palestinian Arabs from moving into Israel and bulldozed buildings under judgmental reporters’ watchful eyes. Whenever stung by jabs, Israel fought back with a barrage of heavy blows against Lebanon and Gaza, proving that a media victory can overwhelm a military victory.
Winning few points against the elusive smaller fighter who kept bouncing against the ropes, the lumbering middleweight began to feel tired and to question his own motives and tactics. And that’s the moment in which we find ourselves now: the moment when the smaller fighter against the ropes senses the weakness and fatigue of the larger fighter and comes out of the ropes quickly and aggressively to fight in the hope that time has done its share and given the advantage to the less tired and extremely motivated underdog.
Over the past few weeks, the Palestinians have come out of the ropes with threats that they won’t even discuss peace unless Israel treats not just the settlements as illegal by stopping all construction there but also give the same status to Jerusalem. The US, a fight enthusiast that had been trying to support both sides even as it kept sending messages of support to Israel’s corner, immediately supported this idea.
The Palestinians followed that jab with a second jab to the other side by announcing that their leader, Abbas, would resign, throwing the ref and the crowd into a tizzy since Abbas is believed to be a “moderate” and the only one on the Palestinian side with enough heft to deliver peace.
After these couple of jabs, the Palestinians followed with a strong right hook, allowing leaks to Ha’aretz and other reporters that Fayyad was planning to unilaterally announce a state on the 1967/1949 Armistice lines. The Israelis, tired and hurt, began to lobby the Americans, the Europeans and even the ref hard to stop this from happening. Feinting to the right, the Palestinians announced that Abbas was not in favor of Fayyad’s action. Somewhat relieved, the Israelis went to Washington to meet with the American President, who treated them as if they were from the enemy’s gym, not as their supporter and mentor. In fact, he apparently informed the Israelis that he was now supporting the Palestinian fighter unless the Israeli fighter backed off with his heavy-handedness.
Israel got the message. Bloodied, hurt and surprised by the new-found strength and crowd-support the other fighter was bringing to the fight, the Israelis lowered their defenses a little and announced a settlement freeze. Sensing weakness, the Palestinians lured in the Israelis with a light punch as Saeb Erakat announced that even the announcement to stop settlement building wouldn’t open the door the crowd demanded to talk peace. Duped, the Israelis felt they had gotten out of trouble and already began to make crowing noises about how they had put the ball in the Palestinians’ court and the Palestinians were the ones refusing to play. The Palestinians ignored this entirely. They had the Israelis right where they wanted them.
That was today’s announcement that they will seek to have the ref change the rules by which the fight had been fought to their advantage. They are asking the UN to relinquish UNSCR 242 and 338 by replacing them with a new resolution that grants the Palestinians the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as well as the eastern part of Jerusalem before the next round begins. It’s official.
UNSCR 242 demands that before any peace deal is achieved and any land is given up – and specifying that not ALL the land is to be given up – peace and acceptance of all states in the region, including Israel, must be achieved. Suddenly these rules are to be changed and if they are, the price is not the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, it is Jerusalem itself. The holy part of Jerusalem.
Lo and behold, it appears the Palestinian wooing of the crowd in previous rounds as well as Israel’s perceived brutishness, mixed in with unfair singling out of this fighter because he wears a star of David on his shorts, have solidified the crowd’s support for the move and the ref will have no less than the EU supporting this move. He might even have the US’s support.
Do the Palestinians think this is the end? Heck, no. They think this is the beginning of the endgame; a final round of this fight that will last the next several years. Victory for them will be when Israel is no longer even fighting in the ring but is subjugated to their control. To accomplish this, whether they get the UN Security Council to accept the changes to 242 or not, just by having the General Assembly record these new rules and then kicking it into the Security Council, which has authority to create international law, they know that the pressure on Israel to succumb will be great, and they also know they will have the moral backing of the world as they continue to lash out at the weakened prize-fighter in front of them. After all, it will now be their land, as promised by the UN, that they will be “defending.”
Can Israel get out of this predicament? Yes. It will be tough, and I doubt that any of Israel’s current leaders in the government and the opposition have shown they have the acumen to do it, but some well aimed moves at their opponent can put Israel back in control of the fight. Sadly, if they don’t do these things soon, there is a very good chance we will see another war soon. A real war this time, where the Arabs bring the war into Israel itself.