The newly elected prime minister of Israel worked hard to reduce the importance of the Palestinians in the eyes of both Israelis and Arabs, but confrontation is crucial for his coalition partners.
In an article that appeared in Haaretz about two weeks before the most recent Israeli election, Benjamin Netanyahu described his vision for the country’s future. We’ve been told time and time again over the past 25 years that peace with other Arab nations will only materialize once the conflict with the Palestinians is settled, he wrote. Nevertheless, he was of the opinion that “the road to peace does not run through Ramallah, but rather around it.”
He asserted in Haaretz that his approach had been validated as being sound. With four Arab nations, he has signed normalization agreements, and he is close to concluding agreements with more. In other words, he tells us that the best way for Israel to prosper is not only to ignore the Palestinians but also to find a peaceful solution to its conflict with them. They have no significance.
Three more weeks have passed since the election on November 1st, in which the right-wing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu won a lopsided majority of 64 seats in Israel’s Knesset. It is still unclear who will hold important portfolios like defense, finance, and foreign affairs as well as the exact makeup of his next government.
But one thing is already evident: for Netanyahu’s anticipated allies, most notably Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, the two leaders of the xenophobic and nationalist Religious Zionist list that garnered 14 seats in the election, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not just a significant factor; it is the only significant factor.
The Talk of Occupation
Since coming back to power in 2009, Netanyahu has made it clear that one of his top priorities has been to eliminate the Palestinian issue from the public discourse in Israel and throughout the world.
He has pursued this goal using three main strategies: first, erasing the 1948 border (also referred to as the Green Line) from the consciousness of the majority of Jews in Israel by growing the settlements and essentially annexing large portions of Area C in the West Bank.
Second, promoting the idea that “there is no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side by largely ignoring the Palestinian leadership and its demands that the occupation end; and third, somewhat reducing the use of Israeli military force on the grounds that the less violent the conflict, the less attention it would attract – in Israel, the Middle East, and around the world.
Largely successful, this strategy. The Green Line is a mystery to the majority of Israeli Jews today. In the majority of Israeli media, the word “occupation” has come to be considered derogatory and is hardly ever used. There is now widespread agreement among Jews on the moderate left as well as the right and center that “there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side.
Apart from the deadly war in Gaza in 2014, there haven’t been many major military operations, and as a result, the number of Israelis killed in battle has dropped to just over 10 per year, making it almost impossible to talk about the so-called “price of the occupation.”