Schrödinger's War: The Palestinian Redux

Unfortunately, for us, the Palestinian Arab leadership still very much believes they are in a war that will end in Israel’s destruction. Op-ed.

Gregg Roman ,

בית הדין בהאג
בית הדין בהאג
צילום: רויטרס

When discussing the Israel-Palestinian conflict, President of the Middle East Forum Daniel Pipes is fond of using the remarkable story of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army as an analogy. Lt. Onada had been living on an island in the Philippines engaging in acts of a war that had, to the rest of the world, ended decades previously.

At the state level, Jonathan Schwarz in a 2006 Mother Jones piece aptly titled Schrödinger's War compared the schizophrenic nature of the Bush administration’s approach to the Iraq war to a well known physics conundrum:

“The famous “Schrödinger’s Cat” thought experiment posits a situation in which, according to quantum theory, a cat could be both alive and dead. Today, America is in much the same situation. We’re not at war, since the attorney general insists Congress has not declared it. Yet at the same time, we are at war, because the entire Bush administration says so as often as possible.”

Most people in the State of Israel and around the world believe the Israel-Palestinian conflict has ended and has been since 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords, but the conflict is very much alive at the same time. While there is no negotiated solution, and acts of murder and bloodshed occur sparingly, these are frequently seen as disconnected from the reality of war as Onada was from the end of the Second World War.

Unfortunately, for us, the Palestinian leadership still very much believes they are in a war that will end in Israel’s destruction.

This might be obvious for Hamas, but it also remains true for Fatah and other groups which rule or are active in Judea and Samaria.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub has announced that Fatah urges “all the national activity factions” to run together on a joint list in the upcoming elections.

“[PFLP] emphasized its firm opposition to recognizing the racist Zionist entity, and its determination to continue with all forms of the struggle, and foremost among them armed resistance, in order to liberate every grain of the soil of Palestine,” PMW quoted Ma’an, a Palestinian Arab news agency, a day earlier.

In other words, Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is happily embracing and officially calling to partner an organization dedicated to the end of the Jewish State through violence and terror.

It might be useful to try and bring a comparison to Israeli or U.S. politics, but no party exists which calls for the violent destruction of a whole nation.

This joint list will thus share a manifesto of violent rejectionism, merely continuing in the dishonorable path of Palestinian leaders who sought war over peace and violence over negotiation.

No one can not say the writing was not on the wall. Palestinian Arab leaders like Rajoub have long shed their camouflage of diplomacy and moderation, once aspiring to use a nuclear weapon against Israel.

Nonetheless, unlike Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, Palestinian bellicose behavior is not merely an interesting historical or esoteric anomaly.

Palestinian violent rejectionism never ended.

The conflicts, intifadas and terrorist attacks were not a deviation from the peace process, as some wishfully thought, they were part of an ongoing war that simply has not ended even though it has been raging for well over a century.

This simple fact is perhaps the most important to grasp at this point in history, as the central Palestinian Arab leadership embraces, quite openly and proudly, the call to arms to destroy Israel.

The remaining question is what Israel and the international community should do about it.

Now that the mask has been firmly removed, it is time to take the gloves off.

Israel should no longer look at such Palestinian declarations and acts of war as amusingly as those made by Lieutenant Onada.

The decision by the Palestinian Authority to seek the International Criminal Court’s approval to put Israeli leaders and members of the IDF on trial for “war crimes” has already served as a shot across the bow, and nothing short of a declaration of war.

Israel has a lot of weapons in its arsenal to push back against the Palestinians to the point that they surrender, just as Lieutenant Onada eventually did, when he fully grasped that the war is over, and he was on the losing side.

Israel can use diplomatic, political, legal, economic and military power to end this conflict, and convince its opponents and enemies that this war is finally over.

On the diplomatic front, Israel can call on its allies not to engage with the Palestinians until they end their persecution of Israel at the ICC. It can also respond by filing “war crimes” charges of its own against all Palestinian Arab leaders who are involved in violent incitement of the incentivization of terror through their official “Pay for Slay” program.

Israel also has significant economic and bargaining power. Especially at this time, Israel should not be transferring Covid vaccines to the Palestinian leadership. It should withhold funds, especially in line with its own law about not handing over money that can be used for terror, incitement and for terrorist’s families.

Finally, it has military might that it can use to end this war.

It is not a war that Israel wanted and for most, thought was over, but one that must be fought until the Palestinian leaders surrender.

This surrender will save countless lives and end the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis will finally be free of the conflict and the Palestinian Arabs freed from an entire system still built around the war of rejectionism and annihilation, which permeates their social, education and financial system.

War and conflict are unpleasant things, and that is why they must be ended. They can not go on forever, especially when only one side still believes it is in a war.

Israelis believe the war is over. Palestinians believe it has just begun. Both mindsets exist within the same universe.

Those who brought in a deflated and defeated Lieutenant Onada had to understand his mentality and engage him on his own terms to end his one-sided war. Israel, unfortunately, has to do the same with the Palestinian leadership.

Gregg Roman directs the Middle East Forum and is a former advisor to the Israeli government.