Israel presents security as its main concern and a major component of negotiations with Palestinians. It uses security to rationalize both justifiable and unjustifiable positions and acts.
Palestinians, who live under Israel’s military occupation in the least secure conditions imaginable, believe that in most cases, Israel uses the issue of security as a pretext for doing things that the world might not accept otherwise.
As far as Palestinians are concerned, the main issue in this conflict is Israel’s illegal occupation and continued control of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to acquire more land in these areas for the settlement of Jewish colonists, thus entrenching the occupation.
The manner in which these settlements encroach upon Palestinian villages, eating up their agricultural land and forcing hostile settlers upon Palestinian residents in fact further jeopardizes Israeli security, making Israelis more vulnerable. Israel then justifies the actions of its military–arresting Palestinians, erecting checkpoints, and further interfering in daily life–as necessary to protect these Israeli settlers. Yet the government goes on building more settlements. It’s ironic, if not tragic.
The roadmap gave the Palestinian Authority the obligation of ending all types of Palestinian violence against Israelis, at the same time fighting or dismantling the infrastructure of terrorist organizations. By the same token, Israel’s obligations under the roadmap were to stop settlement expansion. But Israel insisted that these two parallel obligations were supposed to happen sequentially — Palestinians must "stop terror" first, in other words.
Over the last three years, particularly given Palestinian security reforms and the stamping out of security lawlessness in the West Bank, Palestinians have completely fulfilled their security obligations under the roadmap and have managed to create the impression among Israeli military and political leaders that they are successfully preventing violent activities against Israel.
Toward the end of last year, several Israeli and non-Israeli security reports testified to that success. These reports indicated that last year was the safest year for Israelis since the establishment of the peace process and that it saw a minimum of incidents against Israelis. Still this Palestinian success was not good enough to convince Israel to fulfill its obligations under the roadmap, namely stopping the expansion of settlements. And thus not only Palestinians but also internationals have been proven correct in the belief that Israel’s security is mainly a pretext for continuing Israeli settlement expansion and deepening the occupation.
The international community was a first-hand witness to this, being deeply involved in the recent security reforms. The United States was involved in training and supporting certain security apparatuses, particularly the national security forces, and the Europe Union was involved in supporting the reforms in the police. Thus, not only did the international community help to bring about this Palestinian success, but it also saw that even these sweeping changes brought no change in Israeli policies or attitudes.
Moreover, the international community and many Israeli commentators and officials have been warning that Palestinians cannot continue this security success without political progress. The Palestinian Authority is only able to maintain public support and understanding for this security policy on the basis that it is necessary for the success of the political process intended to bring Israel’s illegal occupation to an end. For Palestinian officials to go on preventing what many Palestinians consider legitimate resistance to the occupation at the same time that the occupation is being consolidated will undermine the Palestinian government’s public stand and put it in jeopardy.