Nothing proves that, in the tribal mind, symbols are more important than reality itself more than the argument over whether to allow Egypt to provide the Palestinian Authority with ammunition after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
A hundred years' conflict affecting the holy sites of three religions and the interests of the entire world has been reduced to an insignificant symbol: a 5.56 mm shell.
The Palestinians have been warning for years that the Palestinian security forces, or whatever is left of them, after almost five years of Israeli and Palestinian actions, have a shortage of weapons and ammunition.
Senior Palestinians told U.S. security coordinator in the Middle East, General William E. Ward, as uch two mongs ago, while others have conveyed the same feelings to their Israeli counterparts: We are forced to buy guns on the black market because Israel does not allow us to walk around armed in the light of day.
They say their lack of guns is the reason the Palestinian Authority has not been successful in its fight against Hamas.
To Israelis, statements like only prove the deceptiveness of the Palestinians and the naivete of the Americans.
“You need some guns?” says Israel to its perennial negotiating partner. “Go get them from Hamas. There are so many illegal guns running around the Palestinian street that any gang calling it the Whosiwhatsit Brigade has more weapons than it knows what to do with. And you are complaining you’ve got no guns?”
The opposition to "giving them weapons," which is not just a right-wing notion, has its origins in the bloodshed of the last five years and is part and parcel of the belief that "there is not partner."
Symbolic wars lack intermediaries
The objective truth is not so clear. What is sure is that whoever wants to carry out a terror attack suffers from no shortage of weapons and ammunition. There is plenty available to anyone looking to cause havoc on the roads, as well as explosive material to anyone looking to blow himself up.
What stands behind this argument is symbolism, a pure and simple lack of faith. The Palestinians want guns in order to appear powerful in their own society; Israel is convinced that guns in Arab hands will necessarily be used against Jews.
The Palestinians need symbols of legitimacy; Israelis won’t feel secure until the last bullet has disappeared from the last enemy handgun.
Since there is no solution to symbolic problems, the game of cat and mouse will continue into the future. No withdrawal, no show of IDF power can avoid this. The IDF is well trained and equipped to fight enemy tanks and fighter jets, but is very much in a mindset to count bullets, Israel’s true problem.
No symbolic gesture will solve the Palestinian desire for power and legitimacy. No third party can do away with these fears.
This conflict, after so many years, and so much blood, remains where it was 120 years ago (even if the guns and the bullets have really changed): 5.56 millimeters.