March 19, 2012 Edition 10 Palestinian-Israeli Crossfire
Has violence served either side?
Not only violence has failed  - Yossi Alpher
The suicide bombings contributed to Israeli doubts about the credibility of a two-state solution.

Learning the lessons  - Ghassan Khatib
Violence is only increasing Palestinian determination to continue rejecting the occupation.

This conflict has no military solution  - Ephraim Sneh
This seems like an appropriate time to review the history of violent clashes between the two sides--and their outcome.

Palestinians had no choice  - an interview with Imad Al-Frangi
Because Palestinians continue resisting, Israel is considered a foreign body in the Middle East.

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Not only violence has failed
 Yossi Alpher
In reviewing more than six decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a cost/benefit analysis of the two sides' reliance on violence produces a very mixed record. Whereas Israel has generally triumphed in its conventional wars against neighboring Arab states, success in fighting non-state actors--primarily the Palestinians but also Hizballah--has been much more difficult to achieve. The Palestinian record against Israel is no better.

Beginning at the end: observing the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organizations, we can only conclude that with regard to Gaza, violence does not represent a viable means to a strategic end for either Israel or the Palestinians.

Rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets certainly does disrupt life in southern Israel. But it does not move Hamas or the Gaza-based jihadist organizations any closer to achieving recognizable strategic objectives such as the well-being of Palestinian civilians, exporting the Hamas cause to the West Bank or dismantling Israel as a Zionist state. On the contrary, it brings death, destruction and impoverishment upon the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, Israel's military response to rockets from Gaza--effective interception by the Iron Dome anti-rocket missile along with air attacks on military targets and, in the past, ground invasion of the Strip--appears to reflect little more than the tactical objective of minimizing Israeli losses and achieving short-term deterrence. It does not address the strategic lacuna since 2007 of a viable Israeli strategy for dealing with the Islamist threat from Gaza--such as coexisting with it by means of an effective ceasefire or, at the other end of the spectrum, destroying it through invasion and reoccupation.

Violence, then, serves neither side very effectively in and around Gaza.

Violence does seem to have served the Palestinian cause in two instances I can recall. The airplane hijackings and terrorist attacks on Israelis and Jews that were carried out during the early 1970s by Palestinians based in Arab countries succeeded--albeit at a heavy cost in the lives of Palestinian leaders targeted by Israel in response--in making the world more aware of the Palestinian cause. And the first intifada that began in late 1978, which in contrast consisted primarily of low-level violence, made Israelis aware that a growing body of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza desperately sought a genuine two-state solution.

In both cases, Israel fought back quite effectively and suffocated Palestinian violence. Yet the Palestinian strategy of violence worked. I testify to this as one who was involved in combating the terrorist wave in the 1970s and who was influenced by the first intifada in the late 1970s-early 1980s to begin serious strategic research, dialogue and writing on the two-state solution--activities that, I would like to think, eventually contributed to the evolution of a peace process.

In all other instances--the Palestinian role in the 1948 War of Independence/Nekba, cross-border terrorist attacks in the 1950s and 1970s, the second intifada and the suicide bombings--the use of violence has been disastrous for the Palestinian cause. In particular, the suicide bombings launched from the West Bank during the second intifada in the early years of this century traumatized Israelis in a manner that has clearly contributed to Israeli doubts about the credibility of the Palestinian goal of a two-state solution.

The question of the effectiveness of Israeli violence toward Palestinians would appear to be more complex. We mentioned two clear-cut instances above. But if we expand the definition of Israeli violence to include settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem--representing the confiscation by force of arms of land claimed by Palestinians--then it has clearly "failed" in the sense of exacerbating the conflict, rendering a two-state solution more difficult and catalyzing violence by both sides, from last week's stabbing in the Jerusalem tram to "price tag" operations by anarchic settlers.

We began by noting that Israel's record of combating Palestinian non-state violence by force is problematic. But, to be fair, Israel's record of dealing with the Palestinian issue by non-violent means has proven equally spotty. Unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 did not seriously advance the cause of a two-state solution; instead, it set the stage for a Hamas takeover and rocket attacks on Israel. The Oslo formula did seemingly advance the two-state cause by creating the autonomous Palestinian Authority, but it too has failed to generate peace and a Palestinian state.

In other words, not only has violence generally failed both parties, with the few exceptions noted above--but so have other means. Accordingly, any attempt by both sides to reassess our failures and identify new strategies must focus not only on violence, but on diplomacy as well.-Published 19/3/2012 ©

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Learning the lessons
 Ghassan Khatib
Violence has been always a prominent characteristic of how Israel handles its relationships in the neighborhood. The state was created through violence wielded against the indigenous Palestinian population, resulting in the exile of 800,000 Palestinian refugees to surrounding countries. Afterwards, the use of force became a doctrine in Israel, used to intimidate its neighbors and impress its friends.

From the start of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, Israel has used force as a tool in "handling" the Palestinians living there. Palestinian land was taken by force. Palestinian water was taken by force. The Palestinian public was prevented from expressing its rejection of the occupation--mainly by force. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian young people were put in Israeli prisons, including thousands of individuals held without charge.

Nor has this behavior been limited to officials of the Israeli government or army. Israeli settlers--armed, protected civilians--have also used violence to frighten or intimidate Palestinians, especially in recent years. Lately, the phenomenon has become so prevalent that more than one Israeli military leader has described it as "terrorism".

The objectives of Israel's use of force have never been secret. Israel's goal has been to frighten Palestinians in order to subjugate them and prevent resistance of any form. Israel's ultimate objective has been to maintain and consolidate its occupation, responding with violence to non-violent Palestinian activities of resistance that threaten its hegemony.

Israel treats peaceful Palestinian demonstrators in East Jerusalem or the rest of the West Bank very differently than it treats Israeli non-violent demonstrations in Tel Aviv or other parts of Israel. Recent examples of this are the 25-year-old Palestinian demonstrator who was shot and killed with live ammunition two weeks ago between the town of al-Ram and Jerusalem. A few weeks before that a Palestinian was killed when a tear gas canister was fired directly at his face during a non-violent demonstration against Israeli settlement activities. One can count hundreds of similar cases that illustrate this point and show that Israeli violence is not necessarily a response to Palestinian violence, but rather an attempt to quash any rejection of the occupation.

What Israel seems unable to understand is that this approach, which permeates all aspects of Palestinian life--through incursions in the night-time hours, to injured or imprisoned relatives, to the fear we see in our children--is backfiring. It is only increasing Palestinian determination to continue rejecting the occupation. Recent history has shown that the more violence Israel generates, the more determination Palestinians express.

Palestinians, on the other hand, seem to have learned some lessons from their use of violence. Recent years have witnessed a dramatic and positive change towards abandoning violence as a means of achieving legitimate objectives. The last four or five years have witnessed successful Palestinian policies of legal, diplomatic and popular attempts to end the Israeli occupation. Not only has this strategy been propagated through security means, but by educating the Palestinian people of the importance of avoiding violence because it gives a comparative advantage to the other side. In this field, Israel is far superior. More importantly, Palestinians have learned how important it is that they gain the sympathy and support of the outside world by employing legitimate means to reach their legitimate objectives.

The question is whether this approach is going to pay off. Will Palestinians conclude that focusing on legitimate means to achieve legitimate objectives and avoiding violence will bring them nearer to their objective of ending the occupation and achieving freedom, self-determination and statehood within the 1967 borders? I think that if this approach succeeds, it will be consolidated and become transformative. However, if it does not succeed in bringing Palestinians to their objectives, the only winners will be the minority of extremists who believe that Israel simply does not understand the language of peace, but only the language of force. -Published 19/3/2012 ©

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views.

This conflict has no military solution
 Ephraim Sneh
We are in a period of loss of confidence in the peace process, when the chances of reaching a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear distant. Now, again, we hear Palestinian voices calling for a return to violent struggle. This seems like an appropriate time to review the history of violent clashes between the two sides--and their outcome.

The hostilities that erupted after the United Nations declared the establishment of two states on November 29, 1947--attacks on Jewish transportation and the siege of Jewish towns--led to an invasion of Israel by the armies of Arab states on the day Israel declared independence, May 15, 1948. Despite massive support for the Arab cause from Britain, this war ended with Israel holding 78 percent of the western Land of Israel, as against 56 percent allotted to it by the UN. A Palestinian state was not established, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and property and became refugees. A display of violent defiance against a two-state solution ended in a disaster for the Palestinian people.

Acts of sabotage inside Israel carried out by groups within the Palestine Liberation Organization from January 1964 until the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967 produced no political benefit. The June 1967 war, which was intended by the Arabs to cancel the outcome of the 1948-49 war, ended in the conquest by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula.

Palestinian attacks into Israel and the West Bank that were launched from Jordanian territory generated conflict, indirect and direct, between Israel and Jordan. The result was the expulsion of the Palestinian organizations from Jordan in September 1970--"Black September". This round, too, did not lead to any gains for the Palestinian people.

During the following 12 years, PLO groups established a base in Lebanon from which they undertook a worldwide terror war against Israel. They set up a military infrastructure and launched ground attacks against northern Israel, terrorist attacks in Europe and naval attacks on Israel's Mediterranean coast. Following one naval raid on the coast north of Tel Aviv in which some 30 Israeli citizens were killed, Israel occupied a strip of land in southern Lebanon, which it held until the year 2000.

The PLO continued to fortify its Lebanon base and developed a new military tactic: bombarding Israeli towns with Soviet-made rockets. These rocket salvos disrupted life in northern Israel to the extent that in one instance, in July 1981, the prime minister of Israel was obliged to accept a mutual ceasefire negotiated by American emissary Philip Habib. The PLO's "military option" appeared to have reached its apogee in terms of capacity and impact.

Yet when the Israel Defense Forces invaded Lebanon in June 1982, the PLO's military alignment collapsed within days, virtually without putting up a fight. The PLO leadership abandoned Beirut for exile in Tunis. It was clear to the Palestinians themselves that the "military option" had failed.

There followed five years of Palestinian political inactivity until, in December 1987, the first intifada erupted. Its significance lay in raising the profile of the "internal" Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as against the "external" leadership in Tunis. By taking their fate in their hands, the residents of the territories affected leadership decisions in both Israel and the PLO.

The violent face of the first intifada was suppressed by force. Yet within less than a year, Israel and the PLO were negotiating secretly in Paris. I represented Israel in those talks, alongside Canadian Jewish Professor Steve Cohen. In November 1988, Israel held general elections and it was agreed that if Labor leader Shimon Peres formed the next government, overt negotiations would begin between the two sides.

But fate intervened. A Molotov cocktail thrown by unaffiliated young Palestinians near Jericho incinerated an Israeli mother and her three children. This horrifying attack took place 60 hours before the polls opened. The next government was formed by Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir.

The signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993 was an outcome not of the first intifada but rather of different developments that can be discussed elsewhere. The wave of terror that visited Israel following Oslo was led by an Iranian-supported organization, Islamic Jihad. Scores of Israelis were murdered in bus and restaurant explosions. These attacks led to victory by Binyamin Netanyahu in the 1996 elections and to the slow death of the Oslo accords.

The next outbreak of violence, the second intifada, took place in September 2000. It was far more armed and violent than the first and, accordingly, destructive for both sides. Some 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians lost their lives. Palestinian society and the Palestinian Authority suffered disastrous damage. The cause of a Palestinian state was not advanced by a single millimeter. The Israeli political right was strengthened, and it never really extended a hand to the new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who was courageous enough to criticize Palestinian reliance on violence.

Since 2006, and particularly since Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, armed Palestinian violence has returned, with Gaza as its base. The suffering of 1.5 million Gazans and the frustration of any chance for an agreed Israeli-Palestinian solution are the indisputable outcome.

This, then, is a brief historical reply to the question: whom has violence served. But it is incomplete without the Israeli side. We too have learned that this conflict has no military solution. Our military might is necessary for victory in war, yet it cannot produce an agreement. For that, there is no alternative to negotiations, particularly when the principles of an agreement are known to all. Both sides to the conflict must recognize this simple fact of life.-Published 19/3/2012 ©

Ephraim Sneh, a retired IDF general, served in Israeli governments as minister of health, minister of transportation and deputy minister of defense. He is currently chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at the Netanya Academic College.

Palestinians had no choice
an interview with  Imad Al-Frangi
bitterlemons: In the history of the Palestinian cause, have Palestinians ever gained by using armed resistance?

Al-Frangi: First of all, armed resistance was imposed on Palestinians because their enemy wielded weapons from the very first second [of battle], killing and deporting them from their land. At that time, Palestinians had only simple rifles they carried to defend themselves and their lands from the sudden occupiers. As you know, 60 years ago there was no "Israel", this was Palestine. In other words, Palestinians had no choice but to resist the Israeli occupation of their land.

What did they gain? From the beginning, Palestinians had to spread awareness of their resistance, whether armed or unarmed. This meant adopting all types of resistance--economic, cultural, educational, in addition to armed [resistance].

At the end of the day, the balance of power was not on the side of Palestinians. Their Arab brethren didn't help, and those [internationals] who pretend that they are civilized and democratic also denied [Palestinians] their rights.

bitterlemons: So Palestinians paid a price...?

Al-Frangi: The Palestinian people are paying the price of the injustice of this world, which banished the Jewish people from Europe to Palestine and established a state for them here, and [in another instance] refused to recognize [the Palestinian people's] choice of representatives in the 2006 elections.

Palestinians may not have gained a lot through armed resistance but they at least perpetuated the principle of resistance in the memories of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim nations, [modeling] dealing with the Israeli as an enemy not as a friend. Israel today, because Palestinians continue resisting, is still considered a foreign body in the Middle East--a body that must be eliminated one day. The hatred towards Israel is increasing noticeably day by day.

On the other hand, Palestinian awareness about resistance has also increased. In the past, Palestinians were afraid to carry rifles. Some used to cut off their fingers so as to be considered unfit and therefore escape their duty to confront the Israelis. Now, [the Palestinian] doesn't mind blowing himself up in [the midst of] his occupiers. This is one of the gains of the Palestinians. There is a new generation that insists on their rights whatever the cost.

Another gain is that most of the world recognizes the Palestinian right to live and to have their own state (although as I mentioned before, the balance of power still favors Israel).

Another achievement of the resistance is that the majority [of people] in Europe considers Israel the most destabilizing country in the region.

When the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked airplanes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many learned that there is a Palestinian nation suffering and its land is occupied. At that time, it shook the world, [saying]: "We Palestinians are here, we are suffering and we are seeking our rights." Even when Palestinian fighters blew themselves up in Israeli busses and restaurants, many started to ask, "Why are they doing that?" The world started to point at the Israeli occupation and to the injustice it imposes on Palestinians.

bitterlemons: What about Israel, what does it gain by using violence?

Al-Frangi: Israel, on the other hand, was established by killing another nation, destroying its homes, deporting it from its land. The main Israeli principle was totally violent. But Israel, by continuing its violence against an occupied nation, has always been criticized by international human rights organizations. In addition, most consider Israel the greatest "troublemaker" in the region. Israel's leaders and soldiers are pursued by the world courts because they use violence against Palestinians.

In recent years, fewer Israelis have been willing to join the Israeli army as a result of its violence against Palestinians. When Israel used violence outside Israel, when it tried to assassinate [Hamas leader] Khaled Meshaal or when it assassinated [Hamas operative] Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai, many countries stood against it, especially when it used forged passports from other countries. Israel is now enflaming a religious war through the violence it is using in Jerusalem. About 1.5 billion Muslims are angry with Israel because of that.

bitterlemons: Do you think that there has been a deep change in Palestinian views about the use of armed resistance, or is this a natural rise and fall according to events?

Al-Frangi: I believe that there has been development in Palestinian "management" of the battle and use of suitable tactics in suitable times. This means that [there are] times when we should fire rockets or use popular resistance or [choose] suicide bombings or other options, either armed or peaceful. Now Palestinians' awareness of their environment is much greater than before. Upon reading the circumstances, they decide which option to adopt. When we say that on March 30, there will be a global march for Jerusalem where people all over the world will try to head to Jerusalem [as a form of] peaceful resistance, this is a new kind of siege on Israel.

bitterlemons: A recent study of polls over the last 15 years showed that Palestinian support for armed operations against Israel has declined. At the same time, Hamas and other parties that support armed resistance appear to have grown more popular. How do you explain this seeming contradiction?

Al-Frangi: I don't think that these polls express the reality or are a real indicator of the reality, as we have seen on many occasions. I believe that Palestinians increasingly support using special tactics on special occasions, but are not less supportive of the principle of armed resistance. I think the argument is over priorities but not principles.
Even inside Hamas, some believe that we should go back to suicide bombing, some believe in firing rockets and some believe in peaceful resistance. -Published 19/3/2012

Imad Al-Frangi is one of Gaza's most veteran journalists and is considered an expert in Islamic movement affairs.