Six years ago, Bezalel Smotrich, then a young member of the Knesset in his first term, published his “Decisive Plan”, a sort of “endgame” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the far-right parliamentarian, who is now Israel’s finance minister and responsible for control of the West Bank, the inherent contradiction between Jewish and Palestinian national aspirations does not allow for any form of compromise, reconciliation or partition. Instead of maintaining the illusion that a political agreement is possible, the issue must be resolved unilaterally once and for all.
The plan makes only a brief reference to Gaza, with Smotrich appearing content with Israel’s encirclement of the enclave as the ideal solution to what he calls the “demographic challenge” posed by the very existence of the Palestinians. When it comes to the West Bank, on the other hand, he calls for annexing it in its entirety.
In the latter territory, demographic concerns will be alleviated by offering the 3 million Palestinian residents a choice: renounce their national aspirations and continue to live on their land in a lower status, or emigrate abroad. If, on the contrary, they choose to take up arms against Israel, they will be identified as terrorists and the Israeli army will be responsible for “killing those who must be killed”. Asked during a meeting where he presented his plan to religious Zionist figures whether he also intended to kill families, women and children, Mr. Smotrich replied: “In war like at war “.
To the extent that it attracted public attention, the Decisive Plan has since its publication been seen as delusional and dangerous, even among leading political commentators in Israel. Yet an examination of current Israeli media and political discourse shows that when it comes to the ongoing army assault on Gaza, much of the public has completely internalized the logic of Smotrich’s plan.
In fact, Israeli public opinion regarding Gaza, where Smotrich’s vision is being implemented with a ruthlessness that even he may not have anticipated, is today even more extreme than the text of the plan itself . This is because, in practice, Israel removes from the list of options the first possibility offered – an inferior, de-Palestinized existence – which, until October 7, was the option chosen by most Israelis.
Emigration or annihilation
The utter amazement at the brutal Hamas attack and the refusal to place it in the context of decades of oppression reflects an Israeli position that really questions why Palestinians have not clung to their prisoner status in Gaza, n have not thanked Israel for its generosity in allowing a few thousand people to work for a pittance on the land from which their families were expelled, nor have they brought flowers to their occupants.
Indeed, how many Israelis care about the situation in Gaza as long as Palestinians do not fire rockets or cross the fence into our communities? Who bothered to ask what “calm” looks like in the besieged enclave? For most Israeli Jews, the more than two million Palestinians in Gaza should have kept quiet and accepted starvation. But today, even this option is no longer satisfactory, which pushes Israelis to rally around a new ultimatum for Gaza: emigration or annihilation.
In current discourse, emigration is often presented as a humanitarian consideration, generously allowing Palestinian civilians to leave the zone of hostilities. In reality, almost three-quarters of Gaza’s population have been forcibly displaced since October 7, mainly from the north, and the Israeli army continues to bombard them in all parts of the enclave.
Furthermore, emigration is proposed in the form of plans for the mass transfer of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip, which are being seriously considered by senior Israeli officials and policymakers. For much of the Israeli public, Palestinians are easier to move than living room furniture.
Since the expulsion of the population of Gaza makes perfect sense to most Israelis, the refusal of Palestinians to submit to the might of the Israeli regime is seen as an existential threat and reason enough to wipe them out. It is true that the horrific massacres perpetrated by Hamas on October 7 in civilian communities violated what should be the scope of legitimate resistance to oppression, but the vast majority of Israelis saw absolutely no problem with this. that snipers killed and mutilated Palestinians who were demonstrating en masse in front of the Gaza fence during the Great March of Return. In their eyes, no form of protest against the occupation is legitimate.
It is not only Smotrich’s logic that has taken root in the hearts of the public since October 7, but also his rhetoric. In his introduction to The Decisive Plan, Smotrich writes: “The claim that ‘terrorism is born of despair’ is a lie. Terrorism is born from hope – a hope to weaken us.” The Israeli public also embraced the severing of the link between terrorism, on the one hand, and despair and struggle, on the other; in the current climate, any attempt to evoke this link is immediately denounced as justifying Hamas’ crimes.
The terrifying smotrichization of the Israeli public is embodied in the willingness to sacrifice the lives of every Palestinian in Gaza for the final victory that the far-right minister promised in his plan. It is the terrifying indifference in the face of the astronomical number of dead children, and the perfect internalization of the idea that any idea of struggle and freedom on the other side of the barrier must be destroyed, whatever it may be. the human cost.
This process will not and cannot stop at the Gaza fence. Smotrich’s logic is already seeping into how the state treats its own Palestinian citizens, who face levels of persecution and repression reminiscent of the military rule of 1949-1966. It is no coincidence that the voices of this community are almost entirely absent from the public sphere these days; they are subject to arrest and indictment for simply asserting their national identity.
In a country where posting a shakshuka video next to a Palestinian flag leads to incarceration, the process of smotrichization and internalization of its “decisive” logic has already been completed. It is difficult to imagine the implications of this phenomenon for the possibility of rehabilitating the ailing Israeli society after the war and once again laying the foundations for the struggle for a shared society.
A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Click here to read the article.
About the author
Orly Noy is an editor at Local Call, a political activist, and a translator of poetry and prose into Farsi. She is president of the board of directors of B’Tselem and an activist within the Balad political party. Her writing is about the intersecting connections that define her identity as a Mizrahi, a leftist, a woman, a temporary migrant living within a perpetual immigrant, and the constant dialogue that exists between them.
Translated by: AFPS