Politics & Policy

How the Obama Administration Facilitated Palestinian Violence

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces in the West Bank, October 2015 (Reuters photo: Mohamad Torokman)
Israelis needed our help more than ever last week. Yet for the first time in decades, they couldn’t rely on it.

Last week the Obama administration defied both history and international law to grant Palestinian terrorists a grand victory. At a stroke, the administration purported to declare any Israeli claim to any portion of the West Bank — including the Western Wall — illegitimate, and empowered Palestinian terrorists to press for their next round of concessions. It’s a betrayal that will echo far beyond any arms deals with Israel and could conceivably endanger the Jewish state’s very existence.

To put this staggering betrayal into context, one has to understand the long, bloody history of Arab efforts to destroy Israel, efforts that have been aided at every turn by the eternal anti-Semitism of huge swaths of our much-vaunted “international community.”

For the first 25 years of its existence, Israel endured multiple brute-force attempts at its destruction, as Arab powers mobilized large land armies for direct invasions of Israeli territory. That effort failed on a grand scale: Against all odds, Israeli forces prevailed time and again, leaving Israel in control of far more land than it initially possessed on its birth as a state. Undeterred by its conventional military losses, the Arab world turned to different methods, using a combination of lawfare and terrorism to slowly erode Israel’s ability to sustain its nation and culture. It is through the former tactic — the abuse of international law toward ends not achievable on the battlefield — that the international community seeks to deligitimize Israel’s territory and demography.

In other words, anti-Semites define “true” Israel (the only one they’ll recognize) as a much smaller nation that is swollen with literally millions of Palestinian “refugees” who pose an existential threat to the world’s only Jewish state. An Israel jammed into indefensible borders with a majority-Arab population wouldn’t be Israel at all. It would be Palestine, and its Jewish residents would be entirely dependent on the good graces of their enemies to live peacefully in their own ancestral homeland.

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No rational nation would agree to its own extinction, though, so a hammer is necessary — one strong enough to drive a nation to make compromises it would never otherwise make. That hammer is terrorism. Whether it’s rockets from Gaza, incursions from Lebanon, or crazed knife attacks in Jerusalem, terrorism is the force that’s supposed to make Israelis ultimately beg for mercy. Of course it’s all “condemned” by the international community. They tut-tut when Jewish children die, but all that violence has to be “understood.” Oppressed people lash out against their oppressors, you see.

One can’t understand the international community’s anti-Semitism without understanding the three great double standards that together gin up fake outrage against Israel and dupe the gullible into believing the Big Lie that Israel is the oppressor and Palestinians its chief victims.

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The first double standard deals with the status of land acquired as a result of waging defensive warfare. Traditionally, when aggressors launch losing wars, they are not permitted to reclaim all the territory they lost without cost or consequence. This truth is uncontroversial and apparent from the distant and recent past. Germany does not control the same land that it did in August 1939, nor does Japan. Yet time and again, the “international community” has taken the view that nations such as Egypt and Syria could and should claim the lands they lost in their own aggressive wars with Israel, including the very lands used as launching pads for those wars. The international community maintains that view in spite of the fact that applying the same reasoning worldwide would cause instability and chaos. Israel, alone among all countries, is thus bound to bear the burden of unwinding its past wars.

The administration’s actions fit perfectly within the long-term Palestinian-Arab strategy to destroy Israel.

The next double standard deals with the definition of “refugees” — a word that means one thing when applied to Palestinians and another thing when applied to anyone in the rest of the world. Everywhere else, a “refugee” is a person who flees (or can’t return) to his home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution.” Descendants of those people are not reckoned by the international community to be refugees themselves, unless they are Palestinian. If the same standard were applied universally, it would mean constantly growing and inherently unstable “refugee” populations. A family tree would become an instrument of migration and mobility, permitting permanent relocation and resettlement, at will, so long as you had a refugee ancestor. No sovereign nation would permit such a regime. No other sovereign nation does. Again, Israel bears a unique burden.

The third double standard is that the international community rejects Israeli efforts to destroy hostile terrorist organizations. The United States can conduct international military operations against ISIS or al-Qaeda with minimal international outcry. Across the globe, other sovereign nations conduct ruthless and sustained military operations against terrorist organizations in their midst. Yet Israel can’t conduct military operations against Hamas or Hezbollah without generating world revulsion at its “high crimes.”

When the Obama administration last week allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution that declared all Israeli settlements to violate international law, it applied the first double standard, did nothing to address the second, and facilitated Palestinian attempts to maintain pressure on Israel through terrorist violence. The Palestinians gained an immense international victory without the promise of peace. The administration’s actions fit perfectly within the long-term Palestinian-Arab strategy to destroy Israel.

#related#In both 2000 and 2008, Palestinians rejected permanent peace settlements that would have given them control over Gaza and all but the smallest enclaves of the West Bank, with land swaps with Israel making up the difference. Why? Well, both peace agreements would have guaranteed the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, which is unacceptable for Palestinians and their anti-Semitic allies. Better, they decided, to keep their eyes on the Israeli prize and play the long game. After all, there’s no point in negotiating when you can gain concessions through lawfare and terror.

As always, the barrier to lasting peace isn’t Israel but rather a “partner” that longs for its ultimate destruction. Last week, the Israelis needed the backing of the United States more than ever, and yet, for the first time in decades, they couldn’t rely on it. It’s shameful that the Obama administration fell for the Big Lie and rewarded Palestinian hatred. But, sadly, it’s not surprising.

— David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.

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