Why Resistance Matters: Palestinians Challenge Israel’s Unilateralism, Dominance

Why Resistance Matters: Palestinians Challenge Israel’s Unilateralism, Dominance

Until recently, Israeli politics was not important to the Palestinians. Although the Palestinian people maintained their political power under the most demoralizing circumstances, their collective action rarely affected the results in Israel, in part because of the huge power differences between the two sides.

As Israelis begin their fifth election in less than four years, it is important to ask the question, “How do Palestine and the Palestinians play a role in Israeli politics?”

Israeli politicians and media, even those who decry the failure of the ‘peace process’, agree that peace with the Palestinians is no longer a factor, and that Israeli politics revolves almost entirely around Israel’s own socio-economic, political and strategic priorities.

However, this is not entirely true.

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While it is appropriate to claim that none of Israel’s mainstream politicians engage in dialogue about Palestinian rights, a just peace or coexistence, Palestine remains a major factor in the election campaigns of most Israeli political parties. Rather than advocating for peace, these camps advocate sinister ideas ranging from the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements to the rebuilding of the “Third Temple”—that is, the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The former is represented by ex-Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, and the latter in more extremist figures like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

That is why Palestine has always considered Israeli politics in such a vulgar way. Even before the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine in 1948, the Zionist movement understood that a “Jewish State” can only exist and maintain its Jewish majority by force, and only if Palestine and the Palestinian people cease to exist .

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“Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore the question of the armed forces stands or falls,” wrote Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky nearly 100 years ago. This philosophy of violence continues to permeate Zionist thought to this day. “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. You have to get your hands dirty,” Israeli historian Benny Morris said in a 2004 interview, referring to the Nakba and the subsequent dispossession of the Palestinian people.

1967 Occupation, Naksa – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

Until the 1967 war, Palestinian and Arab states were important to Israel to some extent. Palestinian and Arab resistance strengthened Palestinian political power for decades. The devastating outcome of the war, which once again demonstrated the central role of violence in Israel’s existence, degraded the Palestinians and almost completely sidelined the Arabs.

Since then, Palestinians have been important to Israel, based almost exclusively on Israeli priorities. Israeli leaders, for example, flexed their triumphant constituencies by attacking Palestinian training camps in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere. Palestinians also played along as Israel’s new cheap labor force. In some ironic yet tragic way, it was the Palestinians who built Israel after the humiliating defeat of the Naksa or Setback.

The early stages of the ‘peace process’, especially during the Madrid talks in 1991, gave the wrong impression that the Palestinian agency is finally translating tangible results; these hopes quickly evaporated as illegal Jewish settlements continued to expand and Palestinians continued to lose their land and lives at an unprecedented rate.

The late opposition leader Ariel Sharon of the right-wing Likud on July 24, 2000 on the Mount of Olives [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

The late opposition leader Ariel Sharon of the right-wing Likud on July 24, 2000 on the Mount of Olives [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

The ultimate example of Israel’s utter disregard for the Palestinians was the so-called “withdrawal plan” implemented in Gaza in 2005 by the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. every stage of the Israeli plan. Gaza’s approximately 8,500 illegal Jewish settlers were simply resettled in other illegally occupied Palestinian land, and the Israeli military was simply redeployed from Gaza’s densely populated areas to impose a hermetic blockade on the impoverished Strip.

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Gaza’s siege apparatus remains in force to this day. The same goes for any Israeli action in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

Through their understanding of Zionism and their experience of Israeli behavior, Palestinians rightly believed, generation after generation, that the outcome of Israeli politics can never be beneficial to Palestinian rights and political aspirations. In the last few years, however, this belief has begun to change. While Israeli politics has not changed — in fact it has turned further to the right — Palestinians, consciously or otherwise, became direct players in Israeli politics.

Israeli policy has traditionally been based on the need for further colonialism, strengthening the Jewish identity of the state at the expense of Palestinians, and a constant pursuit of war. Recent events suggest that these factors are no longer controlled by Israel alone.

Popular resistance in occupied East Jerusalem and the growing rapport between it and various other forms of resistance across Palestine are negating Israel’s past success in segmenting Palestinian communities, dividing the Palestinian struggle across different factions, regions and priorities. The fact that Israel is being forced to think seriously about Gaza’s response to its annual provocation in Jerusalem, known as the “Flag March,” illustrates this perfectly.

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As has been demonstrated time and again, the growing resistance across Palestine is also depriving Israeli politicians of the opportunity to wage war for votes and political status within Israel. For example, Netanyahu’s desperate war in May 2021 did not save his government, which collapsed shortly after. A year later, Bennett hoped his “Flag March” would provoke a Palestinian response in Gaza, giving his crumbling coalition more time. The strategic decision by Palestinian groups not to respond to Israel’s provocations thwarted Bennett’s plans. His government also collapsed shortly afterwards.

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Yet, a week after the dismantling of Israel’s last coalition, groups in Gaza released a video of a captured Israeli presumed dead and sent a message to Israel that the resistance in the Strip has more maps at their disposal. The video attracted a lot of attention in Israel, forcing new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid to claim that Israel has “a sacred duty to bring its prisoners home”.

All of these new elements have a direct impact on Israeli politics, policies and calculations, even as Israelis continue to deny the apparent impact of the Palestinians, their resistance and political strategies.

The reason Israel refuses to recognize Palestinian political power is that Tel Aviv would have no alternative but to involve the Palestinians as partners in a political process that could guarantee justice, equality and peaceful coexistence. Until this just peace is realized, the Palestinians will continue to resist. The sooner Israel recognizes this inescapable reality, the better.

The views expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect Middle East Monitor’s editorial policy.


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