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Loosing the battle, winning the war. By Emmanuel Navon

“Part of an editorial cartoon that appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of the Economist”

Previously published on August 06th 2014, this article by Emmanuel Navon proves to be even more accurate now as new international developments prompt Israël to reassess its commitments towards the Palestinians.

“Palestine makes you dumb” wrote Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal’s foreign affairs columnist. This is because of the “Palestine Effect” which Stephens defines as “the abrupt and total collapse of logical reasoning, skeptical intelligence and ordinary moral judgment.”The Economist’s latest cover story on Israel (“Winning the Battle, Losing the War”) confirms Stephens’ diagnosis. When it comes to Israel, this otherwise insightful British magazine makes a selective use of reason (not least because its articles are levelheaded while its caricatures are bigoted: this week’s “KAL’s cartoon” depicts Benjamin Netanyahu furiously smashing miniaturized Gazans with an oversized and blood-soaked hammer).

The Economist’s editorial on the Gaza war recognizes that Hamas is anti-Semitic and barbaric, and that Israel is both a true democracy and a successful economy. It admits that Israel’s critics apply double standards to Israel and to other democracies at war; that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign is not only about occupation but also about undoing Israel as a Jewish nation state; and that anti-war demonstrations in France degenerated into anti-Semitic vandalism. By British standards, this reads like a Zionist manifesto.

Then the “Palestine Effect” begins. “The destruction is driving support towards Hamas and away from the moderate Palestinians who are Israel’s best chance for peace” goes the editorial. How does The Economist know that the war boosted Hamas’ popularity rather than the opposite? In fact, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections after Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip and after Israel’s acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly stated that Israel was ready to pull out of the West Bank as well were the Palestinians to choose “moderate leaders.” At the time, the only destruction was that of Jewish villages (by Israel) and of the greenhouses left in Gaza by the Jews (which the Arabs could have preserved to their own benefit, but which they chose to destroy instead).

As for the “moderate Palestinians,” who and where are they? Is that the PLO, which never repealed its charter, and which recently formed a unity government with Hamas before the war in Gaza erupted? The PLO, which posted on its Facebook page on 21 January 2014 (half-a-year before the current destruction that supposedly threw “moderate Palestinians” to the harms of Hamas) that “we shall turn Tel-Aviv into a ball of fire?” The PLO, which posted on its Facebook page two weeks ago (on July 22) that “Mahmoud Abbas] concluded his brief speech with the first verse of the Quran that permits Muslims to wage war for Allah” and on July 23 that “the land is forbidden for the enemy, and all Shabiba (Fatah’s student movement) members are potential Martyrs (Shahids) for our beloved Palestine?”

The Economist is correct when it argues that Israel should not ignore criticism simply because many critics of Israel are unfair and ignorant. But how does it expect to be taken seriously when it claims that the so-called two-state solution “remains the only one that will work” and that “time is not on Israel’s side?”

The two-state solution keeps working in theory and failing in practice. The 1937 and 1947 partition plans were accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs. In 2000 and in 2008, Israel agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza, but both Yasser Arafat (in 2000) and Mahmoud Abbas (in 2008) rejected the Israeli offer because it did not include the “right of return” (which would undo Israel’s Jewish majority and is therefore incompatible with the “two-state solution”).

As for the claim that “time is not on Israel’s side” it sounds fantastic given the fact that Israel is a success story surrounded by failed states. Obviously, what The Economistmeans is that demographics is not on Israel’s side. That is highly disputable. The Gaza Strip is out of Israel’s demographic equation since 2005. Even if Israel were to fully annex Judea and Samaria, it would retain a two-third Jewish majority. That majority would not only be stable but would likely grow because Arab birthrates have been declining since the early 1990s, because Jewish birthrates are on the rise since the late 1990s, and because Jewish immigration to Israel keeps growing (especially from Europe).

So it is not that Israel won the current battle but is losing the war. Actually, the very opposite is true. Israel lost the Gaza battle because a small democracy closely scrutinized by the world media cannot crush its enemies as America did in Afghanistan and as France did in Mali. But Israel is winning the war because its population is more resolute than ever, because our enemies are busy killing each other, and because more and more people in the West (though admittedly not The Economist) realize that Israel is the first, but not the last, target of Jihad.

Dr. Emmanuel Navon chairs the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.


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