The rise of the Oslo generation

Three reasons why the Israelis need to stop whining.

Israeli Arabs take part in a pro-Palestinian rally in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin [REUTERS]
Israeli Arabs take part in a pro-Palestinian rally in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin [REUTERS]

In 1988, Israel’s then-Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered his lieutenants at the height of the first Palestinian Intifada to “break the bones” of young Palestinian inciters and stone throwers to “bring them under control”. 

And recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the military to use “all means necessary”, including the use of “live ammunition” against Palestinian stone throwers. 

Almost three decades later, and it’s more of the same.

Now, as then, Israel’s excessive use of force has failed to repress the Palestinian yearning for freedom from occupation. Instead, the tensions in Jerusalem have spread to Palestinians communities in the West Bank, Gaza, and within Israel itself.

However, unlike Rabin, who concluded that force has its limits and that Israel needs to embrace diplomacy, the current prime minister reckons force works and diplomacy is only good to waste time and gain territory. (Rabin was later assassinated by an Israeli extremist against the backdrop of incitement by the Israeli right, led by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu.)

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‘The Zionist enterprise’

But now that his policy backfired, Netanyahu is doing what he does best: project blame elsewhere. Predictably, he expressed shock and dismay and accused the Palestinians of trying to destroy the “Zionist enterprise” – ie, Israel.

Such a “whining while shooting” policy has worked for Israel in the past, but will it work this time around?

The peace process generation

Unlike their predecessors, the overwhelming majority of the young Palestinians who are out demonstrating grew up under the shadows of the Israel-dictated “peace process”.

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Their anger and frustration is the culmination of Israel’s refusal to end its repression and occupation of the Palestinian people more than two decades after the Oslo process began.

It's as if there's never a good time to end the occupation and begin the peace. Not when Israelis feel insecure - for reasons, real or imagined.


It takes political chutzpah and moral bankruptcy to blame them for leadership failure in Israel or Palestine. They shouldn’t be blamed for why Israel, to paraphrase one of its diplomats, didn’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to make peace.

Instead, Israel has rejected an awfully generous Palestinian/Arab offer to live in peace and security within 78 percent of historic Palestine.

It’s as if there’s never a good time to end the occupation and begin the peace. Not when Israelis feel insecure – for reasons, real or imagined. Nor when they feel totally secure.

Five years ago, the influential US weekly TIME magazine raised a controversial question on its cover: “Why Israel doesn’t care about peace.”

And the answer is rather straightforward: Israelis feel prosperous, secure – and disengaged from the peace process with the Palestinians. Basically, “It’s quiet there, over on the moon,” TIME referred to the adjacent Palestinian territories.

But the Palestinian response to Israel’s indifference (and the world’s silence) has been loud and clear: You might turn your back on our suffering, you might ignore our occupation, and you might even let us down again and again, but we aren’t going anywhere.

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And within a couple of weeks, it’s the Israelis who are anxious, helpless and fearful of another Intifada.

And most surprisingly, they’re also shocked.

In your face

How could any sane Israeli be any bit surprised that Palestinians would do something – anything or everything – to free themselves from decades of occupation, repression and disposition?

A Palestinian tries to dodge rubber-coated bullets during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank [AP]
A Palestinian tries to dodge rubber-coated bullets during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank [AP]

Do they really expect the Palestinians to accept Israel’s discrimination and dehumanisation? Or, perhaps, rejoice at being occupied by “the one and only democracy in the Middle East”, that affords them refugee camps in their own homeland.

Well, they don’t and won’t. Time to get real and perhaps learn one or two lessons from history.

First, occupied people ultimately liberate themselves from their colonisers, as we’ve seen over the last century; Palestine is no exception.

Second, occupying another people isn’t (and shouldn’t be) easy or cost-free enterprise. But Israel has had it relatively easy during the longest occupation of the 20th century, perhaps too easy – at least in comparison with other foreign occupations in the region and beyond.

And third, it’s Israel’s own settlement expansion throughout historical Palestine that has shortened the distance between Palestinians and Israelis with each passing day – and in the process, making it tougher to separate the two peoples, and certainly far harder to police their faultlines.

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Make no mistake: From now on, besieging Palestinians will translate into encircling Israelis. And as US Secretary of State John Kerry (and many others) warned last year, the failure to reach a two-state solution leads to “apartheid”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry [Reuters]
US Secretary of State John Kerry [Reuters]

But of course, Kerry later backed down on the wording as his boss did when it comes to Israel’s policies in Palestine. All of which takes us to the third reason why Israelis need to stop whining.

US protection

Despite Netanyahu’s hostility towards US President Barack Obama, his meddling in US politics, and his failure to subvert the nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration, and the US political establishment as a whole, continue in their appeasement of Israel.

And despite Israel’s violation of international law, successive US administrations have protected Israel through its veto at the UN Security Council and provided it with more military and financial support than any other nation on earth.


Already, Kerry’s first reaction was the condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.

Indeed, despite Israel’s continued occupation, expansion of illegal settlements (which Obama opposed), and rejection of US overtures to re-launch the so-called peace process, Obama will receive the extremist Israeli leader next month at the White House and most probably afford him a new elaborate support package.

But Israel has become a serious burden on the US and not the asset it imagines itself – or perhaps, it once was. In fact, judging from its repeated violent outbreaks and use of excessive force, Israel has become a real embarrassment. 

And yet, the Israeli prime minister continues to badger the US president when it’s America that’s providing protection to its military and diplomatic racket. If that’s not chutzpah, I don’t know what is.

But that’s also precisely why it’s high time for change. Netanyahu’s Israel cannot continue to have its cake and eat it too.

In their White House meeting next month, Obama has a moral and political obligation to hold the Israeli prime minister accountable for his failed and dangerous policies in Palestine.

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.