columnIsrael at War

Israel is both traumatized and sober-minded

The supposition that Israelis are simply acting out of pain or suffering trauma is deliberately manipulative.

Hamas terrorists who were caught during the Oct. 7 massacre and during the ISrael Defense Forces operation in the Gaza Strip, at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Hamas terrorists who were caught during the Oct. 7 massacre and during the ISrael Defense Forces operation in the Gaza Strip, at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

There’s a “new wisdom” making the rounds in foreign-policy circles in Washington. It goes something like this: Israelis were so traumatized by Hamas’s brutal invasion on Oct. 7 that they can’t think straight about their interests. This is the reason why 85% of Israelis oppose Palestinian statehood and 99 out of 120 Knesset members voted for a resolution opposing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by foreign governments on Feb. 21.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew took the new line public. In his address on Feb. 18 before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem, he asserted therapeutically that “discussing” Palestinian statehood “is a huge challenge for a nation still in a state of trauma.”

On Thursday, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a similar argument in a conversation with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Gates acknowledged that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state is shared by the people of Israel. Like Lew, he attributed Israel’s wall-to-wall opposition to a Palestinian state to “the traumatic effect on Israel of Oct. 7,” which, he asserted, “had a huge impact psychologically inside of Israel.”

The “new wisdom” that Israelis are acting out of trauma is deliberately manipulative. Obviously, Israelis were traumatized by Oct. 7. The atrocities meted out that day by thousands of Palestinians—in and out of Hamas—against thousands of Israeli civilians and soldiers left a gaping hole in the hearts of every Israeli. How could it be otherwise? Any population in any country whose fellow citizens suffered far lesser atrocities simply because of their national identity would be traumatized.

But while it’s true that Israelis were traumatized by the slaughter that Black Shabbat, it doesn’t follow that their post-Oct. 7 positions are an emotional response to trauma, which Israelis can be expected to abandon once they get past their emotional angst.

As a people, Israelis have responded rationally and bravely to the events of that day. In the face of the Holocaust Hamas and its civilian followers enacted on southern Israel, Israelis immediately mobilized for war. The goal of the war—embraced by more than 90% of Israelis—is total victory over the enemy that did this.

Although it is seldom said outright by politicians afraid of American wrath, victory for Israelis means no Palestinian state—ever. This isn’t a vengeful or emotional determination. It is a rational understanding that Oct. 7 was the outcome of Palestinian statehood.

Gaza has been an independent Palestinian state since Israel withdrew all of its civilians and military forces in August 2005. The fact that the Palestinians chose not to present themselves as such doesn’t change the basic fact that they have been fully sovereign for more than 18 years.

Rather than build the institutions of a state, the Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria freely chose to be ruled by Hamas, which they overwhelmingly support. And as is the wont of jihadist terror groups, Hamas used its control over the Palestinian state in Gaza to build a sadistic death machine.

On Feb. 21, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel submitted a 39-page report to the United Nations. Titled “Silent Cry: Sexual Crimes in the October 7 War,” the report details the systematic, methodical employment of gang rape, sexual mutilation and other sexual violence that Hamas employed against Israeli women, men, girls and boys at multiple locations on Oct. 7. The report demonstrates that sex crimes were a premeditated tactic deliberately deployed against the Israeli victims to cause maximum humiliation and trauma for the victims, the victims’ families and Israeli society as a whole.

When then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, he and his associates promised that free from Israeli control or presence of any kind, the Palestinians would turn Gaza into a Singapore. The Association of Rape Crisis Centers’ report served as yet another reminder of how deluded they were. Rather than build a mini-Singapore, the Palestinians chose to organize themselves around the doctrine of jihad and its call to annihilate Israel. The Palestinians chose this path and continue to support it in Gaza, Judea and Samaria because they are a jihadist society. Jihad, meaning Islamic holy war for global domination. It seeks the extermination, subjugation and humiliation of its perceived enemies, starting with the Jews.

The Palestinians have never hidden their jihadist sentiments and convictions. They call the Oct. 7 invasion and the current war “The Al-Aksa Flood.” Likewise, then PLO chief Yasser Arafat called the terror war he initiated against Israel in September 2000 the “Al-Aksa Intifada.” Palestinians view Al-Aksa, the mosque that stands at the center of the Temple Mount—Judaism’s holiest site—as the epicenter of their jihadist war to destroy the Jews and the Jewish state. Every aspect of Palestinian society is directed towards Al-Aksa.

For decades, Israeli supporters of the two-state solution insistently denied this basic truth about the nature of the Palestinian war against Israel. After Oct. 7, they were no longer able to do so. This is why today, 92% of Israeli Jews oppose Palestinian statehood. This is why the largely undiscussed “day after” vision for post-war Gaza—and indeed, post-war Israeli-Palestinian relations—is a vision in which there is no Palestinian state in Gaza or Judea and Samaria.

The idea of a Palestinian state was a way to ignore jihad

If Israelis are intent on preventing a recurrence of Oct. 7, then they have no choice other than to oppose completely the re-establishment of the Palestinian state in Gaza, much less its expansion into Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. This isn’t an overblown emotional reaction to trauma; it is a rational response to a brutally clarifying event.

The real question is not why Israelis now oppose a Palestinian state. It is why President Joe Biden and his administration, and the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, continue to support its creation.

The answer is that for the West, as for the pre-Oct. 7 Israeli left, a Palestinian state was never a means to achieve peace. It was a way to ignore jihad. If the cause for unrest, violence, terrorism and mayhem in the Muslim world is the absence of a Palestinian state, then the culprit has to be Israel. All you need to do to stop Islamic extremism is force Israel to give parts of its territory to the Palestinians, or in extremis, to abandon its Jewish national identity.

The American determination to ignore the jihadist core of the wars, WMD proliferation, terrorism and instability both within and emanating from the Muslim states and societies of the Middle East has been the foundation of America’s serial failures in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The only U.S. president who predicated his Middle East policy on the recognition of the centrality of jihad in the Islamic world was Donald Trump. It was Trump’s willingness to base his Middle East policy on reality—rather than willful blindness to reality—that made his tenure in office so successful. His ability to oversee the Abraham Accords was a consequence of the faith the Sunni Arabs and Israelis had in a U.S. policy that was willing to stake out a clear position against jihadists and their imperialist and genocidal goals.

In his conversation with Ignatius, Gates noted that the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have conducted “more visits to Beijing and Moscow … in the last three years than there have been to Washington, D.C.” He attributed this phenomenon to a common desire to hedge their bets in light of the unpredictability of America’s Middle East policies. There may be some of that behind the shift. But more likely, the Saudis, Emiratis and Israelis view Biden’s Palestinian-state-focused and Iran-appeasing policies as delusional and dangerous.

Gaza must be fully demilitarized and deradicalized

Buoyed on by the Knesset vote against unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu presented his plan on Feb. 22 for “the day after” the war in Gaza to the security cabinet. He said that the precondition for any day-after policy is the full achievement of all of Israel’s war goals. Those include the eradication of the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; the return of all of the hostages; and the prevention of Gaza’s re-emergence as a military threat in perpetuity.

The plan envisions Israel retaining security control over Gaza and total freedom of operation in the area indefinitely. To this end, Israel will set up a buffer zone inside Gaza to prevent terrorists from infiltrating Israeli territory. It will exert full security control over the Gaza-Egyptian border to prevent the regeneration of the Palestinians’ terrorist infrastructures and military capabilities after the war. It further stipulates that Israel will have full security control on air, land, sea and the electromagnetic spectrum over the entire landmass west of the Jordan River.

On the civil governance front, Netanyahu’s plan calls for the establishment of local governing structures in Gaza staffed by people with management experience and no ties to terrorism whatsoever. This rules out the transfer of control over Gaza to the terror-soaked Palestinian Authority. The Netanyahu plan involves deradicalizing the population of Gaza by, among other things, shutting down UNRWA and replacing it with a humanitarian organization with no ties to terrorism. UNRWA, the U.N.’s Palestinian aid agency, currently runs most of the schools in Gaza. In the past 18 years, UNRWA has been fully integrated into Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure. Not only are its facilities Hamas facilities, but its employees are full participants in Hamas’s terrorist operations and command-and-control structure.

Netanyahu’s plan stipulates that Gaza can only be rebuilt after it has been fully demilitarized and deradicalized. The reconstruction plan will be conducted only by countries that receive Israeli approval.

Finally, resonating the Knesset resolution, the plan asserts: “Israel rejects out of hand international dictates regarding the final settlement with the Palestinians. Such a settlement can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the sides with no preconditions. Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition after the massacre of Oct. 7 would constitute “an unprecedented, massive prize to terrorism and will prevent any future peace agreement.”

Unsurprisingly, the Palestinians rejected Netanyahu’s proposal. But the United States would be well-advised to adopt it. It is not the ravings of an overwrought leader. It is the sober-minded, shared position of the vast majority of Israelis. Both those Israelis who have long understood the implications of the Palestinians’ jihadist aspirations and those who came to terms with them on Oct. 7 understand that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River is an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Come what may, it must never again be allowed to arise. It is irrational for America to pretend this reality away.

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