Forgetfulness is such a human trait. In Israel, it is also an essential coping mechanism.
Only a week ago, hundreds of projectiles were being fired daily at Israel, but judging from the headlines in the media and the following public discourse, the war against Hamas in Gaza never happened. As our children return to school after a long summer holiday, we are only too happy to push back painful memories to southern hemisphere of the brain to make room for more pleasant images of our next generation taking their next step in life.
This is part of Israeli normality. We fight, and then we live. We fight again, and then we live again. The Palestinian issue resurfaces from time to time, fights for air as it struggles to prove its relevance and importance, and is then suppressed again, a victim of Israel’s constant effort to lead a normal life.
You know Israel is back to normal when the corruption cases of Israeli politicians return to the headlines. You also know Israel is back to normal when hearing of yet another pointless land grab in the West Bank. As if to make sure we know exactly what to expect in the aftermath of the war, and to clarify the direction in which the Israeli government is headed, 1,000 acres of West Bank land were appropriated by Israel on Sunday.
If it wasn’t so sad, I’d laugh.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the Palestinian project “Rawabi” – meaning Hills in Arabic – and Israel’s refusal to connect the city to water, and on Sunday Israel announced the biggest land appropriation in 30 years, clearing the way for construction of a new settlement named Gvaot – meaning Hills in Hebrew. God knows I love a conspiracy theory now and then, but I doubt the Israeli decision makers purposely made the connection between the two swaths of land. They’re simply not clever enough. No, this remarkable concurrence of events symbolizes yet another ironic coincidence in a region full of mistakes and unintended results.
Still, these circumstances are directly connected.
In both cases, the Israeli government is trying to “punish” the Palestinians. Israel is not approving the water connection to Rawabi as a punishment for the Palestinian Authority for refusing to connect Israeli settlements to a water pipe passing through its territory, and as a punishment for the unity government between Fatah and Hamas. In the case of Gvaot, the announcement on Sunday followed the cabinet’s decision last week to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area.
In both cases, Israel is defying the international community, risking another round of condemnations and damaging Israel’s already precarious position and its relations with its American and European allies.
In both cases, instead of punishing the Palestinians, Israel is actually punishing itself by weakening the moderate Palestinian forces led by Abu Mazen and strengthening extremism. Instead of focusing on securing a durable cease-fire in Gaza, Israel continues to prove Hamas and Islamic Jihad right when they say Israel cannot be trusted.
In both cases, the decision was made by an Israeli government that knows how to talk of a new diplomatic opportunities while at the very same time making every effort to show otherwise by continuing to change the reality on the ground. In both cases, the contradictory visions in this government that hamper the prospects of any broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process are exposed.
Netanyahu spoke of a new “diplomatic horizon” in one of his press conferences at the end of the war and yet the only outcome of these pointless punitive policies against the Palestinians is a bleak horizon consisting of instability in the West Bank and international isolation. Under these circumstances, is there any doubt of a recurrence of yet another round of violence against Hamas in a few years?
I’ll end with Oscar Wilde.
The past could always be annihilated. Regret, denial, or forgetfulness could do that. But the future was inevitable.
Back to normal indeed.