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Israeli vs. Palestinian National Resilience

Policy Paper


In one of our recent publications (here), we discussed the dynamics of a zero-sum game in long-term national resilience following the October 7 pogrom. We expressed optimism about our chances of winning this fight. Today we will share what the basis is for this cautious optimism.


National Resilience Defined


When we use the term 'national resilience,' we mean a society's ability to recover from crises, adapt to changing realities, and maintain its commitment to pre-established national goals and vision.


Comparing Social Cohesion and National Resilience


Prior to October 7, Israel prioritized short-term stability, heavily investing in defensive systems like Iron Dome, often sidelining deeper strategic security issues. In contrast, the Palestinian narrative is marked by an ethos of unwavering resistance (Sumud). This tenacious fundamentalism is often perceived as an asset in the resilience conflict with Israel. 


A closer examination, however, reveals potential structural advantages for Israel in terms of resilience:


  • Polarization and Violence: Israeli society, despite its polarization, has not descended into the extreme violence and fratricide observed within Palestinian factions, such as actions Hamas has taken in Gaza: Israelis have not thrown other Israelis off rooftops like Hamas did in Gaza.

  • Political Fragmentation: Palestinian politics suffer from severe fragmentation and overlap of power and authorities, that are fueled by political rivalry. There is no Palestinian voice — neither the PLO, the PA, or Hamas —  that can credibly argue that it represents the entire Palestinian people.

  • National Consciousness: Tribal and familial loyalties often overshadow Palestinian national identity. Israeli national consciousness remains robust, even amid internal polarization. Many agree that Palestinian nationalism was born as a reaction to Zionism.

  • Diaspora Support: The Jewish and Palestinian diasporas are often viewed as strategic assets for both Israel and the Palestinians. However, the Jewish diaspora offers more substantial support to Israel compared to the Palestinian diaspora, much of which lives in challenging conditions in refugee camps.

  • Regional Dynamics: Central Arab and Islamic states have grown weary of Palestinian intransigence.In recent years, the Palestinian notion of steadfastness has become more closely tied to backing from the Iranian axis. This association makes the Palestinian steadfastness more vulnerable and less genuine.


Deconstructing Palestinian Resilience


What is often perceived as Palestinian resilience can be more accurately characterized as a byproduct of coercive dynamics, making it inherently fragile. The suffering of the Palestinians under Hamas in Gaza is a product of dictatorship, and it is often mistaken for resilience.  What is perceived as social resilience is, in many cases, a lack of social courage and an inability to oppose Hamas's regime.


Climbing the westren wall

A few mechanisms perpetuate a reality of highly intense conflict, primarily UNRWA, which maintains the unique status of the Palestinian refugees, which, unlike any other refugees, is inherited.


 What we see as Palestinian resilience is, instead, passive civil conduct under oppressive political mechanisms that perpetuate the state of conflict. Against the backdrop of the war, many Gazans are increasingly expressing their distaste for the Hamas regime. (Follow the Free Press on Twitter/X.) Dismantling these mechanisms will not erase the hatred for Israel, but it can lessen the translation of that hatred into an unyielding position and moderate the impact of that hatred on the dynamics of the conflict.


Policy Recommendations


The overthrow of Hamas rule in Gaza could signify a pivotal moment in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, offering the opportunity to implement  complementary initiatives:


  • The establishment of a revitalized Palestinian Authority. Toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza presents a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally restructured PA. The international community would closely monitor the mechanisms that have sustained the struggle-oriented ethos of the current regime, focusing on areas such as educational content and financial support of families of terrorists (see more in Acthalta’s document). Israel must pursue this objective to prevent the emergence of jihadist chaos in the Gaza Strip.

  • The development of a comprehensive financial strategy to counteract the funding of terrorism and incitement. Among other things, it is recommended to reestablish Tzilzal – a financial unit at the Mossad that did exactly that before it was dissolved.

  • Public trials should be conducted for Hamas leaders and those responsible for the October 7 atrocities.

  • The dissolution of UNRWA. By disbanding UNRWA and reallocating its responsibilities to a revitalized PA, this approach aims to address the ongoing refugee issue. Other host countries would receive incentives to integrate the refugees or facilitate their right of return to areas under the PA's jurisdiction.

  • Empowering moderate Palestinian organizations that reject the ethos of struggle and victimhood narratives.

 While these strategies are not novel, the profound crisis following October 7th may give rise to fresh opportunities and to a previously unimaginable reality.


This document concentrates on an offensive against 'Palestinian resilience' rather than focusing on enhancing social cohesion and Israeli resilience, both of which are undeniably crucial to this strategy. To avoid reverting to the polarization that characterized the Israeli public before October 7th, civil society and political leaders must adopt a proactive approach, striving to fortify Israel's resilience and immunity (additional insights will be provided in subsequent documents)."


Conclusions

This document does not reflect naivety on the part of its authors. We know that some of the recommendations we mentioned are not new, and are complicated to achieve. We are also aware that Hamas remains popular among Palestinians, and that hatred of Israel is deeply rooted in Palestinian society.

 

But hate is not resilience. The purpose of this document is to show that what we call Palestinian resilience is in fact the product of political and international mechanisms, i.e. it is much more a product of structure than of spirit. Therefore, it is possible to set tangible and quantitative goals, the achievement of which will greatly erode the ethos of the Palestinian struggle. The war provides an unprecedented opportunity to move toward these goals. The Israeli resilience potential is stronger structurally and socially. This insight is the basis for optimism.


Climbing the western wall



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