Benjamin Netanyahu’s solution to the Palestinian problem is reminiscent of Vichy France.
Many years ago a senior Israeli government advisor told me, in all earnestness, that many Israelis shared the same view of the Palestinians as the American settlers had of the Native Americans. They were primitive peoples, prone to violence and should be driven from the land.
Extending this idea, the advisor thought the Palestinians should be treated the same way as the Native Americans and exiled to reservations where they could exercise some autonomy—on Israeli terms. The Israelis had, after all, the strongest claim because God himself had given the land to the Jews. He asserted a direct parallel between America’s Manifest Destiny and Israel’s aspirations.
Fast forward to the present and this vision for the Palestinians is now policy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed from the White House on February 15 that Israel must control of all the territory between the Jordan River and the sea. To establish a permanent peace, Israel would set aside an autonomous area for the Palestinians on the parts of the West Bank not appropriated for Israeli settlement.
This would be a Vichy Palestine with similar powers and status as Vichy France.
After the crushing defeat of the French in 1940, Vichy France was a brilliant ploy to focus the last remaining aspirations for self-determination and national identity on a part of France totally under control of the conqueror. It shut off the possibility of a rival government in exile that might keep the flame of liberty alive or feed a resistance movement.
It also encouraged and nourished the French collaborators who sought personal enrichment and suppressed any dissent. And, crucially, the Vichy government gave legal recognition to a superior authority. If the allies had not attacked in 1944, this might have been a permanent redrawing of the map.
From the Israeli perspective, a similar arrangement on the West Bank should give the Palestinians what they want: a controlled enclave where they could exercise their national identity, preserve their culture and way of life. They might even be allowed to call a part of Jerusalem their capital—just as the Vichy government regarded Paris, although all administrative offices would be in Ramallah.
Continuing the line of thinking, a Palestine enclave would also close off the possibility of a rival government in exile and an end to the resistance movement, just as the French government in Vichy did. And this solution to the Palestinian problem would remove the last remaining obstacle to a warm peace between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Israel would offer an alliance to those same Arab nations to combat the Islamic State, the Muslim Brotherhood and the menace of Iran and Shia Islam. In return, the Arabs would coerce the Palestinians to give legal recognition to the Israeli superior authority and pay for some economic assistance.
The only element missing from this Vichy Palestine is a Marshal Petain to sign the armistice with Israel. And to quote from the original Philippe Petain, he might then offer the following advice to his Palestinian subjects: “We shall tell our young that real liberty exists only under Israel’s authority; we must accept our junior status; brotherhood is the family, the town and our homeland. So forget Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and adopt Work, Family and the Homeland as our principles.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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