Foresight Analysis: Palestine: Two Upcoming Strategic Israeli Moves

//Foresight Analysis: Palestine: Two Upcoming Strategic Israeli Moves


By: Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay.

Introduction:

It seems impossible to understand the current Israeli-United States (US) strategic alignment, while disregarding the history of US-Israeli relations on the one hand, and their current power structure on the other. The ruling Israeli authority, led by the Likud, consists of extremist religious forces (Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home), Kulanu (All OF Us), The Jewish Home, etc.), while the dominant forces in the current US Republican administration are a multi-polar triad comprising the Military-Industrial Complex, Christian Zionism, and the Israel lobby.[1] The two powers share common interests and knowledge systems.

There are two priority objectives regarding Palestine, on which the Israeli and US strategic plans agree. First, the “disarming of Palestinian resistance in Gaza Strip (GS),” being the last shoulder Palestinians and their allies lean on; the second is the demographic problem in the West Bank (WB) following Israel’s seizure of most of its territories.

Israel and the US have worked to accomplish these two objectives through a number of phased tactics:

First: The Issue of Resistance Weapons in GS

To accomplish this objective, Israel, with US support, adopted a number of tactics as follows:

1. Traditional military action (direct attack on GS): this tactic has failed despite the fact that it has been repeated three times since 2008 (in 2008 “Operation Cast Lead,” in 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defence,” and most recently in 2014 “Operation Protective Edge”). In spite of this series of attacks, Israel failed to curb the growing capabilities of the resistance forces, despite their lack of resources and the continued blockade against them. However, Israel will continue to threaten with this tactic from time to time in order to turn it into a confusing and exhausting factor that puts the leadership of the Palestinian resistance on edge. The Israeli military and security forces may launch a number of qualitative attacks to lend credibility to this tactic, after losing a fair amount of it among Israeli public. [2]

2. Economic strangulation: which is being implemented to varying degrees by four parties, namely: Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, and the Egyptian administration, together with the US decision to cut aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the threats to cut aid to Palestinians. They want to exhaust the Strip economically and socially in hope to stir up political instability. However, the high turnout at Marches of Return in response to calls by the resistance movements this month (May 2018) has proved that this tactic has been a major failure. The crowds’ response has shown that the distance between the grassroots and the resistance leadership is much closer than many have thought. Moreover, the high number of those killed and wounded proves the failure of economic strangulation—despite being ruthless—in making Gazans fall into political despair and weakening their spirit of self-sacrifice. [3]

3. The de-legitimization of Palestinian resistance: Arab and foreign states issued successive statements designating the Palestinian resistance movements as “terrorist movements,” a process that began with the famous Sharm el-Sheikh conference in 1996. Afterwards, meetings continued at this particular place and for the same purpose, most recently the February 2017 conference. Behind all this is a specific goal: Putting Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements on “Terrorist” Lists. Consequently, some of these were actually put on “Terrorist” Lists in hope of restricting their movements.[4]

However, Israel and the US believe that de-legitimization should not stay only within the legal framework and official procedures; rather, it must penetrate the Arab public conscience. Moreover, it must not be exclusive to politicians or intellectuals, who take turn on Arab satellite TV channels to achieve this goal.

There are targeted and planned media campaigns constantly reveal communication and normalization between Israel and Arab regimes, political forces, and some Arab scholars, artists, or intellectuals. These campaigns have two objectives: [5]

a. Re-shaping the Arab public opinion and re-structuring the psychological state of the Arab street so that ensuing wider levels of normalization would look normal, and would not come as a shock. Small and gradual normalization steps have paved the way for bigger ones, and for more accepting public attitudes.

b. Israel believe that re-structuring the psychological state of the Arab street will make public sympathy with resistance movements dissipate.[6]

It seems that the success of this tactic is still much less likely than what Israelis hoped for. Arab and international public opinion polls, as well as the results of the popular (credible) elections, has showed the extent of Arab public support for resistance movements.

4. Bending the truth to achieve goals: Arab, Israeli, and US parties continue, directly or indirectly, to increase pressure to achieve a Palestinian reconciliation in which the dose of “temptation” is high; especially for resistance movements (Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in particular). All these efforts have a specific goal, which is to empower the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take over security forces in GS, and consequently replicate the WB situation there, such that all forms of militarization are eliminated. Hence, achieving Israel’s objectives with least possible damage. However, in case resistance movements reject this security takeover, which would include security coordination with Israel, they would be held responsible for the failure of the “Palestinian reconciliation” that Palestinians aspire to. It would further tighten the noose around the Palestinian street and the resistance. The PA appears to be largely in tune with this tactic.[7]

5. Tempting the resistance movements away from International forces that support them: Widening the chasm between the movements and those sympathizing with them, by searching for any differences they have—no matter how small or big they are—and by working to add to this disparity as much as possible.

Second: The Issue of WB Residents

The PA succeeded in confiscating resistance weapons in WB, but Israel is also facing a demographic threat in WB and the 1948 occupied territories. Its US-supported strategic vision for this matter is currently being deliberated by Israeli elites, think tanks, and officials. It is based on a precisely defined equation: After successfully seizing the Palestinian land, it is time get rid of the Palestinian population. But how?[8] To answer this extremely difficult question, we should think about the following indicators:

1. Territory Confiscation: Israelis Currently Control the Following:[9]

a. The 1948 Occupied Territories: Israel was founded on 77% of Palestine’s land. Of this 77%, Jews control about 74%, while Palestinian Arabs live in the remaining 3%, especially in Galilee.

b. The 1967 Occupied WB: Israelis seized 9% of the total area of Palestine (or 42% of WB), which was the area occupied by Israel in WB for settlement purposes, especially in Area C. It contains 87% of WB’s natural resources, about 50% of the roads, and more than 88% of the forests.

c. GS: which represents about 1.3% of the total area of Palestine. Israel withdrew from it in 2005, but kept it under siege.

Adding up the above data, the Palestinians are clearly concentrated in historic Palestine: WB 13%, the 1948 territories 3%, and GS 1.3%, making the total area currently inhabited by Palestinians 17.3% of historic Palestine. This means that Arabs’ and Jews’ population density in Palestine is as follows (excluding the sea area):

• 1,302 Palestinians per square kilometer.
• 301 Jews per square kilometer.

However, the Israeli strategic mind develops its future vision on the basis that Israel currently has the highest population density among industrialised countries, in addition to the fact that Israel’s population of Jews increases by 5 million every twenty years. Consequently, the number of Israeli Jews in 2038 will be about 11.5 million, making it an urgent need to provide more space, an inevitable objective in the Israeli strategic thinking.

2. Studies by Alon Tal (a professor at Ben-Gurion University) and Raphael Israeli (a professor at the Hebrew University), in addition to studies by Ofer Zalzberg and statements by Netanyahu, Lieberman, the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, etc., indicate that the next step is about how to get rid of the Arab population after controlling most of the area of Palestine. This process will focus on WB and Galilee, and the discussions on this subject revolve around the following possibilities:[10]

a. Replicating the Gaza model: giving up a few areas, which accommodate a large number of Palestinians (for example, the withdrawal from 365 km2 of Gaza eliminated the burden of about 1.94 million Palestinians currently there).

b. Working in WB to encourage migration from the Palestinian countryside to Palestinian cities, a practice fuelled by the development policies adopted by the PA in Ramallah. These policies prioritize the development of the city over the countryside, which contributes to increasing migration from the countryside, giving way to further Israeli settlement in rural areas. Currently, 74% of the population lives in Palestinian cities and about 10% live in Refugee Camps, while 16% live in the countryside. Accordingly, the Israeli scheme continues based on cramming the population in small areas (similar to the Bantustans in South Africa), and then abandoning and withdrawing from these areas, especially the ones with the largest population, similar to the Gaza model.

c. Forced displacement through revocation of citizenship, economic and social pressure, stirring up tensions between Palestinian forces, and creating civil unrest among Palestinians, in order to encourage them to flee to neighbouring countries.

d. Urging Arab states to further normalize relations with Israel, in preparation for opening Arab markets to unemployed Palestinians, and then naturalizing them.

e. Land swaps, along the lines of the Sinai project and the GS expansion, to pull as much Palestinian population as possible out of Palestine.

f. Assembling Palestinians (gradually) in areas north of WB, then separating Israel from these areas, making them political regions that can be annexed to another Arab entity such as Jordan, as presented by Raphael Israeli and other Israeli researchers and politicians in several intellectual contributions.

Feasibility of Implementation

This means that the Israeli mind is currently preoccupied with how to get rid of the largest portion of the Palestinian population after establishing control over the largest possible area of Palestinian land. Some Arabs might think that the achievement of this plot is not possible. However, I say that the weakness of the Arab environment and its preoccupation with internal concerns, the fragility of the internal Palestinian situation, the security coordination blocking any resistance movement, the existence of a reckless US administration like the Trump administration, the indifference of European policymakers, etc., all of which allow the Israerli mind to go far … even further than that.

Conclusion

This means that the next stage will aim to strengthen all aspects of these two strategies (disarmament, getting rid of the population), while pursuing a strategy of bombing, assassination, and sporadic attacks. Therefore, targeting the “resistance weapons” will be the slogan of the next stage, and the focus of the next Israeli plan. Israel will try to include the PA, Arab states, and others in these plans… while the longer-term strategic plan will be focused on getting rid of the largest portion of the population with the least extent of withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Therefore, resistance movements must re-align themselves with their popular bases and with their allies to prioritize the Palestinian issue over any other matter. In addition, the Palestinian countryside must be given the priority in two regards: Ensure its development to strengthen the steadfastness of the people there, and re-discussing laws of land sale, especially in the countryside, which appear to have loopholes that allow Israeli agents to take advantage of them under different covers, and without a reaction from the PA in Ramallah.


[1] Trump’s cabinet: The people around the president, site of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 22/3/2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37999969
[2] Cabinet votes to nix PA negotiations until Hamas disarms, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, 17/10/2017, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5029949,00.html
[3] U.N. urges end to Gaza crisis in punishing summer heat, site of Reuters News Agency, 11/8/2017.
[4] Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh over combat of terrorism, site of Egypt Independent, 22/3/2016, http://www.egyptindependent.com/conference-sharm-el-sheikh-over-combat-terrorism
[5] Michael J. Totten, The New Arab–Israeli Alliance, site of World Affairs, http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/new-arab%E2%80%93israeli-alliance
[6] Orit Perlov, The End of the Muqawama?, INSS, Insight, no.473, site of The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), October 2013.
[7] Palestinian Reconciliation Is Good for Israel, Too, Haaretz newspaper, 13/10/2017.
[8] Netanyahu: Israel’s Arabs Are the Real Demographic Threat, Haaretz, 18/12/2003, https://www.haaretz.com/1.4802179
[9] See details in Haaretz, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/forget-iran-is-the-fertility-rate-the-real-threat-to-israel-s-existence-1.5461149; and Herzog: Demographic Threat is ‘Imminent’, site of Arutz Sheva 7 (Israel National News), 7/6/2015, https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196395
[10] Alon Tal, Israel’s Looming Demographic Crisis, 25/7/2016, The New York Times newspaper, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/23/opinion/israels-looming-demographic-crisis.html

 


Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 6/6/2018


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Overview:

Al-Zaytouna Centre conducts strategic and futuristic academic studies on the Arab and Muslim worlds. It focuses on the Palestinian issue and the conflict with Israel as well as related Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and international developments.

General Manager

Mohsen Moh’d Saleh, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Modern and Contemporary Arab History, the general manager of al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, editor-in-chief of the annual Palestinian Strategic Report, former head of Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), and former executive manager of Middle East Studies Centre in Amman.
He was granted the Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) award for Young Muslims Scholars in 1997 and the Excellent Teaching Award (College level), given by IIUM in 2002. Dr. Mohsen is the author of 13 books and some of his books were translated into several languages. He contributed chapters to seven books. He is the editor/ co-editor of more than 30 books. Dr. Mohsen is the editor of electronic daily “Palestine Today,” which has so far published more than 3,777 issues. He has published many articles in refereed scholarly journals and magazines. He presented papers at innumerable academic local and international conferences and seminars. He is a frequent commentator on current issues on broadcasting media.