Could Israel Offer Palestinians What Their Own Leaders Won’t—Hope?

May 25, 2018

by: Irina Tsukerman

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in a soccer match with Jewish and Arab youths.

Friday, 25 May 2018 | After the deadly Hamas-led riots last week at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Gazans were asking of Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, what it had accomplished by ratcheting up the violence. One young man told The New York Times that nothing was accomplished by the violence, adding, “People are dead. They deceived us that we would breach the fence. But that didn’t happen.”

The Times reported further, “Hamas is no closer to improving the lives of increasingly restless Gazans. The group lacks money to even pay public employees’ salaries or other expenses of governing.”

While the residents of Gaza are no closer to independence than they were at the end of March, when Hamas started the weekly riots, called the Great March of Return, neither are the Palestinians of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], ruled by the Palestinian Authority [PA] and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas who is now in the 14th year of a four-year term as president, has recently been hospitalized. Though he’s in his 80s and in uncertain health, he says that the PA will not negotiate with Israel as long as Donald Trump is president. His possible mortality has not moved him to seek a historic capstone to his career, a Palestinian state, and prefers to brood that the terms of that state would not be to his liking.

Neither Hamas, nor the Palestinian Authority offer any positive vision for the future. They offer more conflict with Israel but no vision of independence. Hamas may be more explicit about it, but in his more than 13 years as PA president, Abbas has turned down one peace offer, and scuttled other chances at negotiation.

Israel is now uniquely positioned to steer much of the Palestinian society in a better direction, through strategic collaboration with Palestinian companies and individuals, who, for at least pragmatic reasons, are willing to engage with the Jewish state.

Additionally, Israel could reach out to Palestinian children who are brainwashed by their corrupt government-run schools and other institutions under PA control. For instance, Israel could present them additional opportunities to move out of that climate and be introduced to a better education.

Joint cultural programs that are not merely private efforts of small groups of peace activists, but which are actively encouraged and promoted by the Israeli government, will help build trust with those portions of the Palestinian society that are looking for a way out of the hopelessness of their undemocratic society. That, of course does not mean compromising on security matters.

That also does not mean that Israel should accept full responsibility for the Palestinian education. That would contribute to the false narrative of occupation, and further entrench the Palestinian society into an unhealthy mindset of dependency. However, Palestinian children and young people should have an opportunity to participate in alternative educational and cultural programs, encouraged to ask questions, and be paired with volunteer mentors and social groups that will help them form life-affirming paradigms and pursue constructive directions in life.

In economic matters too, Israel could play a role in cultivating a more moderate Palestinian society. In April, Karim Fanadka, an Israeli-Arab tech entrepreneur wrote about how the Israeli-Arab tech sector had grown in just a decade’s time. Fanadka noted that “With a collaborative effort between the non-profit sector, the government, and the tech industry, Arab techies went from 350 to 4,000—a 1000% increase—in ten years.”  There is no reason similar effort can’t be attempted with the Palestinian sector.

For Israel adopting such a strategy means adopting a pragmatic approach of outreach and relationship building starting with small mutually beneficial trust-building social steps that will change the image of Israel’s government from a monolithic entity that can only run on one platform to an entity that not only talks, but listens.

The prospects of reforming any one society overnight are of course not realistic. But changing a strategy to take advantage of an adversary’s vulnerability is central to good governance and forward-looking thinking. What Netanyahu has already effectively done in Africa, creating new relationships, where previously there seemed little common ground, he can effectively bring home and replicate in the vicinity, likely with at least some positive outcome.

Bringing in potential supporters is not a weakness. Rather, by extending the theme of Israel’s anthem “HaTikvah” [The Hope] to people who have otherwise lost hope could be a way to take away valuable ground from one’s enemies. Hamas and Abbas thrive on social divisions and fearmongering and have brought few benefits to the Palestinians through their misrule.

Posted on May 25, 2018

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by The Israel Project, in its publication The Tower on 24 May 2018. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Moshe Milner/GPO