||Challenging myths and presenting facts about
ONLY ISRAEL WOULD END THE OCCUPATION...."
|London - published on 14 March 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 17
“If only Israel would end the occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza, the conflict with the Palestinians would end.”
This Briefing outlines why this argument is misconceived.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not the
cause of the conflict with the Arab world, but a result of that
The hostility of the Arab world and the
Palestinian movement to Israel has continued for over 100
years (during most of which time Israel had no presence in
any of the “occupied territories”)
- Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
came about as the result of the Six Day war in 1967, which was
forced upon Israel, and which it did not want. Israel’s
offers to negotiate a withdrawal shortly afterwards were rebuffed
by the Arab states.
- The winding down of Israel’s control of the territories
within the framework of the Oslo peace process, was wrecked by
the Palestinian violence of 2000-1 which froze the withdrawal
process, transformed the political climate in Israel, and resulted
in Israel’s eventual reoccupation of the West Bank in June
2002 (see Beyond Images Briefing 13).
- The permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza needs to be resolved
as part of a permanent peace agreement with Israel. An “end
to the occupation”, achieved in isolation from security
issues, and the historic roots of the conflict, cannot bring peace.
The Palestinians demand a “right of return”
into Israel, an ambition which is more far-reaching than the
“ending” of Israel’s occupation
Palestinian spokespeople call for an unconditional
right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees, not only
to settle in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in “Israel
proper”, a country which they still claim to be their
- The ‘right of return’ was not surrendered by the
Palestinians during the latter stages of the Oslo process. Quite
the opposite, it became a central negotiating issue, was upheld
without compromise, and was a key reason why the negotiations
- The right of return, as the Palestinians themselves express
it, would remain a goal of the Palestinian people even after a
complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. And it
would remain a cause for further violence against Israel.
- “Ending the occupation” is not the limit of Palestinian
ambitions. It is not Israel’s ‘hawks’ which
makes this point - but the Palestinian leadership.
Many Palestinian groups reject Israel’s existence
within any borders. Their stated aim is not to “end Israel’s
occupation” but to end Israel’s existence.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’
Brigade do not recognise the right of Israel to exist. For
them, Tel-Aviv and Haifa are as much “occupied territory”
as Nablus or Gaza City. These groups want to see “the
Zionist entity” dismantled and replaced by an Islamic
- These groups (and others like the Fatah Tanzim and the PFLP)
have launched thousands of violent attacks against Israel in the
last 10 years (intensifying in the last 2 years).
- These groups have exploited Israeli territorial withdrawals
and ceasefires to launch fresh attacks in pursuit of their extreme
goals. Cities from which Israel originally withdrew in the mid-1990s
- such as Jenin, Ramallah, Gaza City and Nablus - became hotbeds
of violent rejectionism, training grounds for Palestinian suicide
bombers, and launchpads for violence.
- These cities were under Palestinian Authority control when they
evolved in this manner.
- The process of “ending the occupation” - which
Israel went a long way to fulfilling between 1994 and 2000 - did
not end this violence. The opposite: the interpretation of most
Israelis, borne out by the experience of the last two years, is
that it gave the Palestinians freedom to pursue violence at a
higher level of intensity.
Beyond Images Conclusion
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was caused by Arab
and Palestinian hostility to Israel, and has been perpetuated
by that hostility.
It is not the Israeli occupation which has caused
the Palestinian violence – but the Palestinian violence
which has prolonged Israel’s occupation.
The current Israeli Government has repeatedly stated that it
does not wish to occupy Palestinian cities permanently, or dominate
But the only way the occupation can be wound down, especially
in view of the violence of the last 2 years, is in the context
of a durable and secure peace agreement.
This in turn can only result from a change in the attitude
of the Arab world and Palestinian society to Israel’s
legitimate rights, and from a determination to halt the violence,
and the incitement to violence, against the Israeli people.