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The occupation severely endangers, not enhances, Israel's national security

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Wednesday, 22 September 2021

The Israeli argument against the establishment of a Palestinian state on the grounds of national security concerns is baseless as it not only defies the reality on the ground but also renders any argument in support of the occupation completely false and misleading.

Righting the wrong

For decades, Israeli leaders have been engaged in a deliberate and persistent false public narrative to justify the occupation on the grounds that it is central to Israel's national security and that the creation of a Palestinian state will pose an existential danger to Israel. While many top Israeli military officers and national security experts disagree with this assessment, no Israeli prime minister or defense minister in office has yet convincingly argued how a demilitarized Palestinian state is more dangerous than maintaining the occupation. In fact, a Palestinian state immersed in nation-building and fully collaborating with Israel on all security matters (which will be a precondition to the creation of a Palestinian state) enhances rather that threatens Israel's national security.


It is about time for the Israelis to wake up and stop swallowing the falsity of this narrative that makes Israel's national security synonymous with the occupation, which has been regularly dished out by self-serving leaders like Netanyahu, current Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, and their ilk. They portray the Palestinians as perpetual enemies who pose an existential threat and must therefore be forcefully controlled. Their real agenda, however, is to annex yet more Palestinian land, populate the West Bank by at least a million Jews, and make the establishment of a Palestinian state with a contiguous land mass virtually impossible.

To be sure, the occupation continues to galvanize the Palestinians' resistance in and outside the territories, deepens their resentment and hatred of Israel, and poisons the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians alike, who view each other, like the past three generations, as sworn perpetual enemies. They are preparing for the next war rather than for a peaceful, neighborly, and prosperous relationship.

There are three arguments that clearly demonstrate how the occupation is actually inviting violence, undermining Israel's national security, and shattering its moral solvency.

Instigating continued resistance

To begin with, how can Israel claim that it is the most powerful country in the region and yet be more fearful of small groups of renegade Palestinian extremists than a unified Palestinian state that is committed to protect its independence and willing to cooperate with Israel on all security matters? Yes, the occupation allows Israel to roam unrestricted in most of the occupied territories in pursuit of militants and conduct night raids, evictions, home demolitions, and incarceration at will as a means by which to subjugate the Palestinians. However, these brutal measures taken in the name of national security in fact make Israel less secure and far more vulnerable.

No Palestinian who had a child killed, or a home demolished, or was forcefully evicted can ever forget what has befallen him by Israeli forces. Basically, Israel is sowing the seeds of the next Palestinian generation which will grow even more militant and far more determined to end the occupation by any means necessary-even if they must sacrifice themselves to that end. When they have nothing else to lose, they would rather die as martyrs than remain perpetual slaves living in indignity and despair. It is only a question of time when they will rise up again-and rise they will, which will be far more violent than ever before.


Emboldening Israel's enemies

The occupation further emboldens Israel's enemies, who use it as a pretext to further their own regional agenda. If Israel is so concerned about Iran's threats, it should know that Iran does not have any ideological bent to destroy Israel. In 2003, Iran offered a secret peace proposal in which Iran would accept peace with Israel, end material assistance to Palestinian militant groups, and pressure such groups to stop terror attacks within Israel. The proposal, which was obtained by Inter Press Service (IPS), was conveyed to the US in late April or early May 2003. There is no reason to assume that a future Iranian proposal would materially change in any significant way once Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace agreement.

Ending the occupation with or without such a proposal would have neutralized Tehran's opposition to Israel's existence and pulled the rug from underneath its proxies-Hezbollah, Hamas, and other jihadist groups-which use the occupation to justify their violent resistance against Israel. So, one might ask, in which way does the occupation counterbalance extremism? In fact, it only exponentially intensifies violent reactions.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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