It reportedly took Ibrahim Pasha 90,000 casualties to subdue the Palestinian Arabs; at any rate, the number was large. The Egyptian commander dealt with major insurrections and committed considerable atrocities. When the Ottomans finally evicted his troops, he boasted that the Turks would call him back to deal with the unruly population. Ibrahim was proved wrong. The Ottomans acted slowly, over decades, but eventually prevailed without substantial bloodshed. They subverted the rule of village sheikhs with government-appointed mukhtars, bypassing the traditional power structures of Palestinian villages. The Ottomans bribed the notables with land grants, allowing them to title the unused lands, and lured the notables out of villages into the more controllable towns. Economic changes, breaking down the patriarchal Palestinian society for a citrus-oriented industrial-age economy, also contributed to the Ottoman victory. The Turks had a long time-horizon, and succeeded on the cheap.

Israel goes the way of Ibrahim Pasha in demanding immediate victory. She applies unnecessary pressure to Palestinian Arabs and receives great resistance in return. Israel attempted to install collaborationist administrations in Arab villages, but that was wrong and predictably failed. The mukhtars were not administrators or enforcers, but rather liaisons between the Ottomans and the Arabs. Cooperation with them lacked the stigma of submission. The Ottoman genius was in bypassing the Arab communal institutions rather than fighting them head-on. That approach suits both relations with Israeli and West Bank Arabs: give them nothing until they implore; give them nothing directly, but only through collaborators; and treat their communities as black boxes—taxable, but not governable.

Israelis who don’t study history are surprised at Arabs like Arafat or Abbas who depend on Israel for everything yet deride Israel on every public occasion. The British encountered a similar situation when they recruited young Arab notables for district officials: the Arabs both craved British jobs and opposed the British. Such a position is an act of balancing rather than self-destruction. The Arabs, not burdened by idealistic honesty, behaved differently with their compatriots than with the British. So with Israel, Arab collaborators reason that Israel has no interest in verifying their loyalty, as she lacks alternative collaborators. Israel erroneously relies on stand-alone collaborators. Rather, she should co-opt large extended families, essentially clans of thousands of members. Such clans can protect their members and influence outsiders. Ever in conflict, such families always crave Israeli help—in return for their help.