One of the reasons that the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs has dragged on for years, is that Israel has failed to conceptualize the conflict correctly. Failed comprehension has brought failed policy.
Paradoxically, an incident, that perhaps most vividly illustrates the indelible Arab enmity for the Jews is an event which begins with a display of Arab goodwill — indeed, gallantry — towards a Jew.
In mid-June 2020, an Arab construction worker, on hearing a woman's cries for help, rushed to her aid, finding her under brutal knife attack by her boyfriend. At considerable risk to himself, he managed to overcome the (Jewish) attacker and extricate the wounded (Jewish) woman, who was rushed to hospital, where doctors managed to save her life.
Following her recuperation, Abu-Arabian stated that he would have liked very much to visit her, but refrained from doing so because of the disapproval of his social circles, who frowned upon his actions of rescuing a Jewish woman.
To a large degree, this episode affirms the dour findings of a recent poll, which indicated that a massive majority (75%) of Israeli-Arabs reject the Jewish people's right to sovereignty, and Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, while only a quarter acknowledged this.
Moreover, when asked as to their response in case of an Arab attack on Israel, almost a quarter answered that they would support the Arab aggressors, while over half would remain neutral. Only fractionally more than a quarter (26%) would support Israel.
Inert lack of loyalty or latent disloyalty?
These findings should not be unexpected. After all, Israeli-Arabs voted almost monolithically (80%) for parties promoting an anti-Zionist agenda such as the Joint List or the Islamist United Arab List,
Significantly, for well over a half-century, Arab-Israelis have, overall, enjoyed living standards markedly higher than those in Arab countries, except, perhaps, for those blessed with petro-riches. Accordingly, their reticence in supporting Israel against potential Arab aggression is decidedly puzzling and perverse.
There is, thus, little alternative but to reconcile oneself to the grim fact that for the indisputable majority of Israeli-Arabs, the attitude toward Israel ranges from an inert lack of loyalty to a latent disloyalty, waiting for an opportune moment to manifest itself.
An archetypical zero-sum game.
This failure of the Israeli establishment to grasp the scale, scope and strength of the repudiation of Jewish sovereign statehood by Israeli-Arabs is reflected not only in its domestic policy, but in its foreign policy vis-à-vis external Arab adversaries — particularly the Palestinian-Arabs, allegedly the root of the Arab-Israeli dispute.
In this regard, it is perhaps worthwhile to recall the wise dictum of eminent social psychologist, Kurt Lewin, who observed: “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” After all, action, without comprehension, is a little like swinging a hammer without knowing where the nails are — and just as hazardous and harmful.
In this regard, good theory creates an understanding of cause and effect and hence facilitates effective policy.
Accordingly, to devise effective policy to contend with abiding Arab enmity, Israel must correctly conceptualize the conflict over the issue of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land.
The unvarnished truth is that — correctly conceptualized — the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs over the control of the Holy Land is a clash between two rival collectives, with irreconcilable foundational narratives.
They are irreconcilable because the raison d’etre of the one is the preservation of Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land, while the raison d’etre of the other is the annulment of Jewish political sovereignty in the Holy Land — thus generating irreconcilable visions of homeland.
As such, the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian-Arabs is an archetypical zero-sum game, in which the gains of one side imply an inevitable loss for the other.
It is, therefore, a clash involving protagonists with antithetical and mutually exclusive core objectives. Only one can emerge victorious, with the other vanquished. There are no consolation prizes!
Grudgingly accepted or greatly feared?
Consequently, as a clash of collectives, whose outcome will be determined by collective victory or defeat, it cannot be personalized. The fate of individual members of one collective cannot be a deciding determinant of the policy of the rival collective — and certainly not a consideration that impacts the probability of collective victory or defeat.
Thus, Israel’s survival imperative must dictate that it forgo the pursuit of warm and welcoming approval from the Arabs. For the foreseeable future, this seductive illusion will remain an unattainable pipe-dream. Rather, Israel must reconcile itself to the stern, but sober, conclusion: The most it can realistically hope for is to be grudgingly accepted; the least it must attain is to be greatly feared.
Any more benign policy goals are a recipe for disaster.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies and served for seven years in operational capacities in Israel's intelligence community. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees — B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), MBA (Finance) and Ph.D. in Political Science/International Relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and has authored two books as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. Read Martin Sherman's Reports — More Here.
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