Israel’s Endless Cycles of Violence

Israel’s near-half-century-old occupation of Palestinian territory has fueled such animosity that Israelis fear that ending it could unleash even worse violence, a self-perpetuating conundrum that if left unresolved will doom Israelis and Palestinians to chronic bouts of death and destruction, as Alon Ben-Meir describes.

By Alon Ben-Meir

The Netanyahu government has conveniently and consistently separated the occupation of the West Bank from the repeated eruption of violence, insisting that the Palestinians’ unrest is a result of incitement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, when in fact he has been attempting to reduce the tension.

Not once has any Israeli official suggested that nearly 50 years of occupation might have brought the Palestinians to a boiling point. Any incident could have ignited a new violent flare-up, and the conflict over the Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif provided the spark that led to the current fire, regardless of whose side was at fault.

An Israeli soldier prepares for a night attack inside Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,000 Gazans in 2014. (Israel Defense Forces photo)

An Israeli soldier prepares for a night attack inside Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,000 Gazans in 2014. (Israel Defense Forces photo)

The most troubling issue is that successive Israeli governments remained blind and refused to connect much of the Palestinian violence to the occupation; what is worst is that the Israeli public has largely bought into the fallacy of this argument.

They are persuaded by the pervasive and misleading official narrative that even if Israel were to evacuate the West Bank, the Palestinians will not end their violent resistance to Israel’s very existence. They insist that the Palestinians are determined to take over all of Mandatory Palestine rather than establishing a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and Gaza, to live side-by-side with Israel in peace.

Ironically, whereas this charge against the Palestinians is deeply ingrained among right-wing Israelis, they cheer the fact that many members of the Israeli government categorically reject the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of the Jews’ “biblical homeland.”

To make the case against the withdrawal from the West Bank, Israeli officials point to Israel’s evacuation of Gaza in 2005, its subsequent takeover by Hamas, and the violence emanating from it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-conservative cohorts argue that Israel must learn from this experience and thus should not withdraw from the West Bank, which is far closer than Gaza to Israel’s urban centers.

They further argue that should Israel evacuate the West Bank, Hamas will certainly take over and turn it into another staging ground from which to launch rocket attacks, cut Israel in half, and inflict incalculable losses in lives and property. Ironically, this suggests that Palestinian radicalism can be contained under occupation when in fact the occupation itself is the prime cause behind the intensified Palestinian extremism.

Brigadier General Guy Goldstein, Deputy Director of Government Activities in the Territories no less, stated this week: “It’s a rebellion of … terror that comes from pain and frustration.”

But then leave it to the hypocrites in Netanyahu’s government to justify continuing the occupation, presumably to stem the rise of violent extremism. Indeed, if Israel were to precipitately and unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, as it did from Gaza, a similar result could theoretically reoccur.

As such, the withdrawal from Gaza offers a different kind of lesson from which Israel must learn. Unlike the conditions that existed in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority has begun in earnest to build the foundations of a state with schools, clinics, a network of roads, and private and government institutions.

They were even praised by Israel’s top security officials for their full cooperation with Israel on all security matters, even in times of increased tension between the two sides, as is currently the case. What is most worrisome, however, is that neither Netanyahu nor any of his coalition partners know where Israel will be if the occupation continues for another five to ten years, how many more Palestinian uprisings will occur, and what will be the death toll and destruction both sides sustain?

I believe that the Israelis who have been traumatized by the violent events of the past few weeks should ask themselves a simple question: If a handful of Palestinians have managed to cause such havoc with the entire Israeli security apparatus in place and thousands of Israeli troops stationed throughout the West Bank, by what logic can any honest person say that the occupation bolsters Israel’s national security?

If anything, the occupation has been and will continue to be the very evil that Israel needs to rid itself from, and they must do so for their own sake rather than the Palestinians’, as the occupation poses the greatest threat to Israel’s future well-being.

To remove this perpetual threat, Israelis must examine this disastrous state of affairs and demand the withdrawal from the West Bank under terms and conditions consistent with Israel’s requirements to ensure the safety of its citizens. The Gaza experience in a way was positive and instructive in that it has shown the mistakes that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made and how to avoid similar mistakes in any future disengagement from territories in the West Bank.

The Palestinians, with the support of the Arab states and the international community, will never give up their aspiration to establish a state of their own. Israel should sooner than later accept this fact, particularly because of its unchallenged military prowess and that it is in a perfect position to withdraw from the West Bank, with some land swaps, without risking any aspect of its legitimate national security concerns.

The Israeli withdrawal should be based on a number of agreed-upon phases to be implemented over a period of ten years or more, and entail well-defined reciprocal measures by both sides to be executed on a schedule with monitoring mechanisms to ensure full compliance. In fact, a withdrawal based on preconceived security plans and collaborative economic developments will prompt the Palestinians to develop vested interests and give them the incentive to preserve it and in return, it would dramatically enhance rather than undermine Israel’s security.

More importantly, the Palestinians know only too well that should they threaten Israel by violating such an agreement, Israel is and will remain in a position to reoccupy the land almost at will, except this time Israel will have a solid moral and tangible ground to stand on that potentially engenders the support of the international community.

Is this a risk worth taking by any Israeli government? I believe the answer is clear. The occupation is not sustainable; it is costly both in blood and treasure, Israel’s national security will remain at risk, and the country will become ever more internationally isolated while risking its very identity as a Jewish state.

I am not naive enough to suggest that the current Netanyahu government will ever be willing to end the occupation. It is now up to the Israelis to seek new leaders who will, because it is they who will pay the ultimate price that the evil of occupation will exact.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. [email protected]. Web:

16 comments for “Israel’s Endless Cycles of Violence

  1. Hank
    November 8, 2015 at 12:12

    When it comes to holding Israel accountable for its inhumane treatment of people, the USA, by its own words the “leader of the free world” has no balls to speak of!

  2. William Beeby
    November 1, 2015 at 15:04

    Israel will never leave they will keep taking more of Palestine that means a two state solution which has been bandied about for years is not feasible and all sides know that.

  3. Zachary Smith
    October 31, 2015 at 12:36

    Here is a link to a new story where our current author is obsessing about Iran’s “quest to become a nuclear power”.

  4. ralph
    October 31, 2015 at 08:08

    Since its independence 1948 Israel was attacked several times ,by Arab countries and its citizens victims of endless terrorist attack not forgetting the threats to wipe it from the map and the OLP and Hamas Charter whose content shows their goal which is the “liberation” of “all Palestine”
    Those are the facts but the ennemies of Israel are the “specialists” of deforming it and of
    falsifying history .Of course it is easier to accuse the others than to look at themselves behaving like children. It is time to become and behave as adults.

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 31, 2015 at 12:33

      Ralph, I want you too know, how I respect all life. My respect, goes out to both Jewish and Palestinian people. Your, referencing Palestian attacks, is for me another one of those kind of continual arguments, which offers no solution. As, a White American, I don’t think it appropriate to argue that the Wounded Knee massacre was right and just, for any white man getting even with the Native Americans, for their role in Little Big Horn. One only need ask one self, who was the real invader, it was Custer. I will extend this feeling of mine to all African Americans who may have waged an uprising or two along the way, for their fight to gain their God given freedoms. In the nineteenth century Palestine was occupied by 85% Arab, somewhere around 10% Christian, and lastly 4% Jewish. So, who’s land is it, anyway? Lastly, I’m not one of those that believe God chose any particular people to be his favorite, or that God picked out some land for some to live on, and not for others. I cannot for the life of me, understand how anyone would attempt to pitch this line to us unholy ones anyway, you know it will piss us off, so why advocate for it in the first place. We can hear you, and we are not that stupid. Maybe take an Arab out to diner, and see how that works in the scheme of things. I for one am tired of this all the time violent Israeli thing, so quit with the dominant boot stuff on the Palestinians neck, and create a true democratic government for all to enjoy.

    • Zachary Smith
      October 31, 2015 at 12:34

      Since its independence 1948 Israel was attacked several times….

      I know of one time the murderous & thieving little apartheid state was attacked – 1973.

      Why don’t you list the other “several times” for us?

      • JLewisDickerson
        October 31, 2015 at 20:37

        In 1973 Egyptian forces attacked Israeli forces in the OCCUPIED SINAI PENINSULA (i.e., occupied Egyptian territory).
        Israel itself was not attacked!

    • Hank
      November 8, 2015 at 12:20

      Early Israeli settlers terrorized and murdered many Palestinians as they destroyed their villages and took their land. Many if not ALL of the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank are refugees from this violence. Israel needs “enemies” to “justify” its aggression against its neighbors. Look at the history books and you will see that every war that Israel has been in since its inception was actually started by Israel itself! The Zionist-controlled media makes sure that the public sees the opposite. Palestinians have been under military occupation for many years and Israel has NEVER bargained with them in good faith, thanks to the blind backing of a compromised US government every step of the bloody way! Shame on anyone who claims that Israel is a “victim”, because even a blind mice can tell the aggressor from the victim!

  5. Figaro
    October 30, 2015 at 21:37

    What does Israel want? Nothing less than the re-creation of the Solomonic empire of biblical days, an empire that made Israel the dominant force in the region from the Nile to the Euphrates. To this end Israel will do everything and anything to keep its Muslim neighbors weakened, unstable, and in disarray.

  6. Abe
    October 30, 2015 at 14:14

    Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to rewrite history, fueling tensions by his ludicrous claims that the Palestinian were responsible for the Nazi Holocaust

  7. Joe Tedesky
    October 30, 2015 at 12:07

    I agree, Doctor Ben-Meir this Israeli cycle of violence has been going on for far too long. Read this 12/4/48 letter sponsored by Albert Einstein to the New York Times. It is to long to post here, so please go to provided link.

      October 30, 2015 at 15:35

      Thank you for the link to that prescient letter signed by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, Seymour Melman, and other notable people concerned with justice and peace.

  8. Zachary Smith
    October 30, 2015 at 11:32

    To remove this perpetual threat, Israelis must examine this disastrous state of affairs and demand the withdrawal from the West Bank under terms and conditions consistent with Israel’s requirements to ensure the safety of its citizens.

    I fail to see why Israel *must* do anything – the thefts and murders on the occupied West Bank are totally successful and are snowballing in scope and ferocity.

    Also, Alon Ben-Meir manages not to mention either BDS or the enormous subsidies from the US which enable Israel’s awful behavior.

    Hand-wringing from afar isn’t working. I’d like to see the author advocate doing something practical, but I’m not holding my breath about that one.

  9. jason
    October 30, 2015 at 10:43

    My God! Finally…somebody steps up and tells the truth… …adding to this truth…israel treats everyone like they do the palistinians…like less then human…there are countries in s america that have more respect for their wild local monkeys that reak havoc in their communities…yet they dont gun them down… …the real truth is…God has allowed satan to govern over israel…and will continue to punish till every jew cries his name and begs forgiveness…so believe when i say this…there is a higher purpose for all this…and it all started about 2000 yrs ago…wont be long now…gog and magog knocking at the closed door…days to week or so away…its all gods plan…cant show contrask without satan…believe or not even satan plays important roll in all this(being used though)

  10. dahoit
    October 30, 2015 at 09:59

    It seems to me that Israelis are fantasists,believing totally in their superiority and supremacy,belied by the obvious human frailty of which they have an abundance of.
    Myth lovers,who need a comeuppance.

    • Fernando de Sousa Falcão
      November 2, 2015 at 17:55

      And all of this based on historical myth!

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