Middle East

Middle East reality check: Israel won, and so can the Palestinians if they give up victim status

Jim Hanson

Israel won. That sums up the more than half a century conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. They won the wars, they won the peace, and they won the prosperity.  So, it’s time for them to act like it, and more importantly it’s time for the Palestinians to accept they lost.

We have somehow gotten past the custom in war to fight to a decisive point and then have the losing side submit. Only a few years before the Palestinians began their decades-long losing streak, the Italians, Germans and Japanese surrendered unconditionally to end World War II. They left behind their failed attempts at conquest and consequently they were treated to the benevolence of the Allies and a rebuilding process that turned them into modern nations.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have maintained belligerence and failure to even accept the existence of Israel in any meaningful way. Their Arab friends have made multiple attempts to destroy Israel and failed each time. Then the Palestinians switched to terrorism as a strategy and turned their proto state into an international pariah. This profound failure to comprehend their profound failure to destroy Israel has kept them in perpetual victim status.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in aid have flowed into the Palestinian territories. Some studies show it to be 25 times more per capita than was spent to rebuild Europe after World War II. Yet there is little in the way of progress and the standard of living is unacceptable. There are still “refugee” camps that have stood for decades. Their state of perpetual grievance has prevented them from using this largesse to build an actual state. This all stems from the failure to accept the uncomfortable and painful fact — they lost.

If they were to do so, they could rededicate themselves to the challenge of giving their people quality of life rather than a false hope they will somehow drive the Israelis out of Israel or exercise a right of return that is not a right by any meaningful standard. That didn’t happen before Israel became a nuclear state and certainly won’t now. So, a reality check and the recognition that their best bet is to rebuild not refit for more failed aggression.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have visited President Donald Trump who  seems set on brokering a deal even saying, “It’s something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Some tough love will go a long way toward jump-starting the process. Israel is a powerful and prosperous nation state and the Palestinian territories are not, there is no reason to treat them as equals.

This does not mean the Palestinians should be treated as lesser from a human perspective. But Israel has been denied that basic tenet of the aftermath of war, to the victor go the spoils. They have not even asked for spoils, they simply wish to be left to live in peace.  Let the Palestinians accept that and make the assurances they accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, and Palestine can begin the actual path to nationhood.

They can expect an even greater wealth of assistance from all the same countries and organizations that have been sending aid to them in their quasi war camp status. And the energy, lives and treasure they have wasted in a failed effort to destroy Israel can now be spent building their own homeland.

Jim Hanson is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.