1967 was a turning point in Israel’s history. It changed Israel’s character, strategic environment, ambitions and perception–within and without.
The predominantly Ashkenazi and leftist Israel of 40 years ago was seen as David fighting Goliath. Today, Israel is increasingly regarded as Goliath fighting David. Nevertheless, the new asymmetric threats are evoking a predominantly military response. Domestically, Israel has seen an influx of overwhelmingly Sephardic Jews from non-European countries; its politics has taken a sharp turn to the right. Proportionate representation perpetuates government by coalition, giving fringe parties undue influence.
1967, and 2001 more so, have glued Israel and the United States together. There is more to this symbiotic relationship than anti-terrorism and the “Jewish lobby.” Both societies have groups that tend to regard themselves as chosen people, taking the Scriptures as conveying claim and title to a God-given land, describing an eschatological course of history. Both are melting pots: immigrant societies in search of a new identity: e pluribus unum! For many Israelis, the Jordan is what the Pacific is to the United States: A natural, secure border of a promised land: manifest destiny! All this gives Washington a singular leverage on politics in Israel—and all this makes it extremely difficult to exercise it.
1967 was a Pyrrhic victory: with a population stagnating today at around 6.5 million, Israel cannot control an Arab Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories currently numbering 4.8 million and continuing to double every 25 years.
Terrorism, lack of responsibility and corruption continue to stigmatize Palestinian politics. Israel has legitimate claims in defending itself. The security barrier in its current form, however, stifles any further growth of Palestinian villages and cities. Within the next 10 years, well over 1 million Palestinians between the ages of 10 and 20 today will seek their livelihood; they will find all prospects firmly barred. Having only the choice between silent resignation, emigration or drifting into radicalism and terrorism, many will choose the last option. The security barrier will foment exactly the kind of terror it is built to extinguish!
Time is working for radicalization on both sides. Yet the solution seems so easy: Israel will have to exist within 1967 borders; Israeli settlements will have to be dismantled; the Palestinians will have authority in East Jerusalem; Jerusalem will have to be reconnected to its hinterland. There is no real prospect for a return of refugees; most of them are not refugees in the strict sense of the word. Almost all of them have no knowledge of the places their parents or grandparents left 60 or 40 years ago.
The problem resides less in the redrawing of borders than in the nature of these borders. If we are to have two states, how are their relations going to be? What about customs, trade, investments, freedom of movement? Jerusalem will have to keep a united municipal administration. It makes no sense to disconnect working power and water supplies. Rather than thinking about territory and sovereignty, the peace process should focus on the nature of relations between the two communities. Peace and trust begin in the mind. The best security lies in friendship and a dense network of economic interests. Most Palestinians have no other idea of Israel than military controls, bureaucratic harassment and unlawful occupation. Many Israelis tend to ignore their Palestinian neighbours. Education in each other’s history, civilization and religion, mutual respect, understanding and attention may have more lasting significance than political negotiations.
1967 marked a victory whose consequences initiated dynamic changes that could endanger the very essence of what Zionists originally fought for. Strong international involvement has afforded both sides a pretext to wait for new initiatives from outside. Peace, however, rests firmly on initiatives from within the region.
Rudolf Adam has been President of the Federal College for Security Studies in Berlin since 2004. Prior to this, he was Vice-President of the Federal Intelligence Service from 2001 to 2004. He has been stationed in Singapore, Beijing and Moscow, served on the Planning Staff of the Federal Foreign Office and been Director for Global Disarmament And Nuclear Arms Control and later European Correspondent.
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