The shiny new slogan in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is “shrinking the conflict.” It represents a policy that falls between maintaining the status quo—“managing the conflict”—and trying to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon solution, known as “solving the conflict.”
Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than repackaging a tired, old concept.
Those arguing for its implementation, most notably its author, Micha Goodman, use terminology reminiscent of Oslo, disengagement and various other, less notable but equally failed, strategies of the last few decades.
Proponents of “shrinking the conflict” argue for greater Palestinian autonomy (as in the Oslo Accords); greater Palestinian separation from Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (as in the withdrawal from Gaza); and the removal of friction points, as in the elimination of the vast majority of checkpoints. However, they ignore the elephant in the room: that the heart of the conflict remains ongoing Palestinian rejection of Jewish sovereignty.
Managing, solving and shrinking the conflict have all been tried, time and again over the last three decades, and the conflict hasn’t gone anywhere, frequently descending into bloodshed, as it did in May this year.
Does anyone believe that the Palestinian thugs on the Temple Mount, lobbing projectiles at Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, Hamas terrorists launching thousands of missiles into Israel or those who laud and glorify mass-murdering terrorists will suddenly have their heads turned by bypass roads in the West Bank?
Call them Israeli concessions, confidence-building measures or a reduction of friction between the two populations, they will be seen in the same light by Palestinian decision-makers and opinion-shapers: as capitulation.
Oslo only increased the number and ferocity of terrorist attacks; disengagement brought about the Second Lebanon War and increased the number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets on Israeli population centers; and the freeze on building in Israeli communities beyond the Green Line pushed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas further away from the negotiating table.
If the Palestinians wanted more control, or greater sovereignty, all they had to do was accept one of the many overly generous offers by Israeli leaders, such as Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.
This is not about who currently controls what; it’s about who ends up controlling territory in the future.
Only last month, the P.A.’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein, assured P.A. TV viewers that the destruction of Israel, the “liberation” of Jerusalem and its “return to Islam” is only a matter of time.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, shortly after the P.A. mufti promised Israel’s demise, official P.A. TV broadcast a filler between programs, which spoke of the fact that “history has never let the colonialist remain, and the occupiers have always left in the end. One day they [the Jews], too, will return to where they came from.”
These are excerpts from the so-called moderate P.A., which continues to educate its people with the belief that eventually, the State of Israel will cease to exist. “Shrinking the conflict” will merely intensify this, as all such Israeli proposals have done historically.
The only way this conflict ends is with the reversal of vicious, violent Palestinian rejectionism, which has to be dealt with as the foundational pillar that ensures the endurance of the conflict.
Only when this rejectionism is defeated will an end be put to the conflict. Then, and only then, will the Palestinians be able to build up their polity and spend their energy and resources on social welfare, education, health and construction, rather than on the funding of terrorists, the supporting of bloodthirsty hate-preachers and on an education system built to negate the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in its indigenous and ancestral homeland.
This is an important point because while it is certainly not the easiest way to end the conflict, an Israeli victory over Palestinian rejectionism is the only way. Anything less simply convinces the Palestinians that their ultimate future will be free of an entity that keeps on conceding ground and leverage without demanding anything in return.
So, while “shrinking the conflict” sounds nice in intellectual and foreign-policy circles, it is doomed to failure, because history has already proven the fallacy of the idea, and a repackaged product with glossy verbiage still has the same contents.
It is possible to spend another 30 years trying slightly different variations of the same failed policy, which brings a lot of attention and opportunities for its authors, but does not save a single drop of blood; or Israel can face the fact that every other such option has been exhausted.
This conflict only ends when the Palestinians give up, not a moment before.
Alex Nachumson is an IDF Military Commander (Res) and CEO of Mivtachi Israel, an organization of former senior IDF Officers.