What Israel Must Do To Have Peace and Why It Won't
On July 17, 2016 a 21-year-old university student in industrial engineering in Hevron was apprehended by Israeli security guards on suspicion of planning to blow up a light rail train in Jerusalem. The day before he had entered Israel by climbing a wadi next to Tzur Behar until he reached an olive grove in Jabel Mukabar on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. There he shaved, changed into shorts and a baseball cap, went to a mosque on the morning of his planned attack to pray and then took a bus to downtown Jerusalem where he waited with a knapsack full of homemade pipe bombs. He had originally planned to blow up the bombs in a restaurant near the light rail station, but changed his mind when he saw he could cause more damage if he waited for the train to arrive.
Interrogations revealed the student had been planning the attack for some time. He researched the internet, used his engineering skills learned at the university to buy, prepare and test the explosives, then when all was ready left a suicide note at the university for his friends asking them to tell his parents what he had done. Apparently he had acted on his own without direction from any terrorist group. Fortunately, this young man was intercepted before he could do any damage. But others are not intercepted. The two Palestinian gunmen who killed four Israelis and wounded sixteen others in June 2016 at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv made it there undetected. The young Israeli Arab who shot two people and wounded eight in January 2016 at a café on Dizengoff likewise achieved his goal. And there will be more.
Israelis think this is normal. They consider terror attacks as much part of life as car accidents, the price to pay for living in a Jewish state in a particularly nasty neighborhood. Jews in the Disapora also think this is normal and encourage you not to give up on visiting the country for fear of losing your life in such an attack. But this is not normal. No self-respecting sovereign state would accept to live under constant siege from terror attacks as Israel has done ever since it gained independence in 1948. After all, the first duty of a state, a modern state that is, is to protect its citizens. Peace, order and good government, as the British North America Act puts it.
In Israel it seems to work the other way around. The citizens are there to protect the state, to give their lives for it, if necessary. And so they do, willingly, claiming every year as they celebrate their independence and mourn their fallen dead that Israel will survive, that nothing their enemies can do will destroy them. But every year some of them are destroyed, and destroyed by attackers from the Palestinian Authority, which is not quite the same lethal fate as being victims of a driving accident. The worst feature of this bizarre situation is that it is totally unnecessary, not to mention unacceptable. Café goers and restaurant diners and light rail train commuters are not soldiers risking their lives in a war to defend their country. They are simply citizens going about their business, not going off to war every time they leave their homes. At least, they ought not to be doing that, not thinking somewhere in the recesses of their brains that indeed they are going off to war because that’s what it means to be Jewish in a Jewish state. Certainly that was not what Herzl had in mind when he first dreamed of a Jewish state.
In 1993 Israel signed the Oslo accords which brought the PLO to Judea and Samaria. The gambit was that you make peace with your enemies whom you cannot choose. Better this than having the Israeli Defense Forces control a hostile population. The promise was that this was going to be the start of work toward a final settlement whereby two states could live side by side, one Jewish, one Palestinian. But no sooner was the ink dry than Arafat denied he had ever said he was going to make peace and soon after that the terror attacks started, escalating after the failed peace talks at Camp David in September 2000. Since then there has been nothing but terror and war, first under Arafat, then under Abbas, and now under Abbas and his counterparts in Gaza. Indeed, as soon as Israel had withdrawn from Gaza in a further attempt at allowing a Palestinian state to develop without any Israeli presence, a coup d’état occurred in which Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah group of Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas proceeded to destroy whatever infrastructure the Jews had left and then rained rockets down on Israeli towns, leading to two wars with Israel in less than a decade. In the parts of Judea and Samaria still under Abbas’ control, on the other hand, there have been constant terror attacks against civilians, fomented, organized, celebrated and encouraged by Fatah leaders in Ramallah. The embryonic state of Palestine, for which its leaders have sought world-wide recognition while boycotting any peace negotiations with Israel, has turned out to be a total failure, good for nothing but instilling a culture of vitriolic Jew-hatred among its citizens. The upshot has been the ongoing murder of Israelis by people like the engineering student at that Hevron university, who faithfully absorbed the incitement that pours out of all the communication organs of the government under which he lives and seeps into his soul from the religious and secular establishments he frequents, mosque and university alike. One can only imagine what goes on at the family dinner table or in the bedrooms of the good burghers of Jericho and Jenin. In fact, so thorough has the criminalization of Palestinian society been pursued by its leaders that no direction from any specific organized terrorist group is needed for people like that university student to decide on his own his time had come to murder Israelis.
The writing is clearly on the wall. The Israelis can expect no serious negotiations from anybody in the Palestinian Authority, which nominally still includes Hamas. An aide to Abbas recently called on his compatriots to slit the throats of Israelis wherever and whenever they can. Abroad Abbas spreads blood libels about the Jewish state he claims he will never recognize. At home he falsely accuses Israel of wanting to defile the Al-Aksa mosque with the Jews’ dirty feet and calls on his compatriots to riot and demonstrate in its defense. The usual Muslim themes of defilement and sexual depravity are brought out whenever convenient and woven into the blood lust that is common coin throughout the Arab world. So vile has life in the Palestinian Authority become, Gaza included, that absolutely nothing remains but the sexual desire for murder fused with religious duty. Presiding over all this is a dual state – Ramallah and Gaza, a parliament and a facsimile of a state on the one hand, the PLO, Fatah, Hamas and a plethora of other political and armed groups on the other – which would put even the Nazis to shame, though hardly being on the same level of competence and thoroughness. Indeed, so dysfunctional is this proto-state it is best represented, as Daniel Greenfield has pointed out, by the newly opened Palestinian Museum that has nothing inside it (See “A Fake Museum For A Fake Palestine,” Front Page Magazine, May 20 2016). For Israel to continue on its present course of attempting to manage the situation while relying on its various security forces to prevent as much damage as possible is nothing but whistling in the wind. The only guarantee such a policy can offer is more murder of innocent civilians in Israel, more slanders on the international scene, more protest, more wailing, more arguments about Jewish morality and Jewish powerlessness, with the Holocaust thrown in for good measure. In short, it is the sickness unto dread, and it is time to put an end to it.
So what do you recommend, people ask? Here is the answer. Israel has to send its military forces into the areas of Judea and Samaria currently under Palestinian control and conquer them. Martial law should be immediately declared in these areas. Then Israel should annex Judea and Samaria and extend Jewish sovereignty over the entire territory. Israeli military forces should hunt down and kill the entire criminal Palestinian leadership and any cadres known to be involved in terror attacks. Once this has been accomplished the military administration should adopt policies designed to encourage the remaining Arab Muslim population to leave. Driver licenses could be revoked, business and professional permits rescinded, mosques closed. In short, anything that could be done to make the population’s lives miserable and unbearable should be done until they give up and leave. As a gesture of generosity, Israel could set up an agency to purchase homes and businesses at fair market value. Once Israel has pacified Judea and Samaria and returned life there to normal, normal being what exists elsewhere in Israel, the full rule of law will apply there as well. And once this has been done for Judea and Samaria, Israel can then repeat the whole operation in Gaza. Then and only then will there be peace in the land.
Israelis will no longer have to debate whether to give Palestinians greater or lesser control as a possible investment in their own future. They won’t have to release jailed terrorists as confidence-building measures for a Palestinian leader who has no intention of ever recognizing a Jewish state. They won’t have to try and figure out who they can call a moderate and who an extremist, who can be bought with the lure of economic gain and who with cancer treatments in Israeli hospitals for their families. In short, Palestinians will be off their radar screens. Indeed, the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be off the world’s television screens for good. For those who think there will still be terrorists invading Israel I ask them from where they will come?
Egypt and Jordan, two countries that have peace treaties with Israel, will not allow Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate Israel from their territory. To do so would open them to military reprisal, especially after they have seen what Israeli determination did to the Palestinians. Hizbollah, gravely weakened, would start firing rockets into Israel at the risk of Lebanon’s total destruction. The thought would make them think twice and the Lebanese more times than that. Syria has disintegrated into its tribal components and poses no threat. Even Iran or Turkey might decide it is best to lay low for the foreseeable future.
The only real question is whether Israelis have the clarity and guts to settle this problem once and for all. And there, of course, lies the rub. For the first Jewish response is always: but the world will not let us do that. To which I reply: the world has let much worse go on without lifting a finger. What makes you think they will stir themselves over Israel’s cleaning up its own backyard once and for all? On the contrary, in spite of the usual screaming and protesting at the United Nations and in the EU and at U.S. State Department briefings, the world will soon enough calm down and be grateful it has one less conflict to deal with. Certainly the U.S. Congress and the American people will be on Israel’s side, and all the more so if Israel has the courage to explain to the world what and why it is doing what has to be done. Even Europe might pick up its ears and open its eyes. No, the real question is why the Jews’ first reaction is as it always is, as it has always been even since they left Egypt and refused to go up and conquer the land they had scouted out. Yes, it was a land of goodness and bounty, the spies brought back their report, but it also a land of giants, which made us feel like grasshoppers, in our eyes as well as theirs. But that response too was a cover-up for an even older ambiguity Jews have always felt about the covenant they made with the Lord, or rather that the Lord made with them.
One has only to read the Book of Exodus carefully. When Moses first returned to Egypt and announced to the children of Israel that God had sent him to liberate them from their bondage, reminding them of the promise God had made to their forefathers, the people greeted him happily. They even bowed down and worshipped, the Torah tells us. But when Pharaoh refused Moses’ request and upped the Israelites’ work quotas, the children of Israel quickly turned on Moses, who had only God for consolation and guidance. This scenario would be repeated over and over. The ten plagues having done their work, Pharaoh finally relented and sent the Israelites packing. But no sooner had they left Egypt than the Israelites turned again on Moses and accused him of taking them out only to have them die in the desert. They complained about the lack of water, the lack of food, and then of the Egyptians who regretted their actions and pursued the fleeing Israelites. God saved them on all accounts, the Israelites walked through the parted waters of the Red Sea and made their way to Sinai, but not before turning on Moses again for lack of water and once again longing to return. They did make their way to Sinai where, at the foot of the mountain, Moses explained to them the purpose of the Exodus: the creation of a new difference in human history, a nation of laws ensconced within delineated boundaries, distinct from the death cultures of the surrounding empires. The people responded as they had responded when Moses first appeared on the scene in Egypt. We will do and we will listen, they said, so eager were they to take on the task that they had no need to first listen and then decide if they will comply. So Moses explained to them the ten commandments and announced he was going up the mountain to get them in stone, just to make sure there was no confusion about the deal. But no sooner did Moses go up the mountain than the children of Israel regretted their assent and broke the very first of the commandments to which they had signed on, the one that announced all the others. They made themselves a golden calf and hailed it as the god that had brought them out of Egypt. Warned of trouble back at the ranch, Moses descended the mountain and unleashed his fury on the Israelites, who at once regretted their transgression. But though they regretted they did not relent, and the subsequent two and a half books of the Torah are rife with repeated actions on the part of the Israelites announcing their regret at ever having left Egypt. Even the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses’ farewell song to the people he led for forty years in the desert, warns the Israelites of the dangers of welshing on the contract they had signed with the Lord once they came into the Promised Land. The rest of the Bible, indeed the rest of Jewish history, indicates Moses had good cause for concern.
So it is today. The Jews, in and out of Israel, always find reasons not to assume the mantle of national sovereignty and do what every nation has always done to assure it. Not a country in the world has not founded its national existence on some crime or other, if by a crime one considers the conquest of land where others lived, even if not in the form of a modern nation-state. Israel is a modern nation-state, which means its nationalism is bounded by the rule of law. The Palestinians, like the rest of the Arab Muslim world, have no concept of what that means and do not abide by it. Yet the Jews still feel they have to do something, and can do something, to bring the Palestinians around to peace. It is as if the Jews still feel illegitimate about being a sovereign people in their own land. Which ties in to that millennial ambiguity about being a nation going back to the Exodus. The perennial longing for Egypt, the worry about what the goyim will think, is testimony to their half-hearted acceptance of the deal God had offered them, namely to be a sovereign nation in their own land, not an imperial power, and in that sovereign nation to institute a legal system which recognized the equality of all before the law. The Jews were modern long before modernity had burst on the scene of history, but along with the pride and the acceptance came the doubt and the hesitancy. To this very day the Jews are happier being a family, members of a tribe as the saying goes, rather than being a nation. It’s as if the Jews had never quite made it out of the Book of Genesis. And all the arguments about Israel and the conduct of successive Israeli governments only accentuate this situation.
What will the world say? What will the White House say? These are but slogans to camouflage our own reluctance to do what has to be done to assert Jewish sovereignty and protect the people who live in our land. So is the claim that Jews have a special mission for tikkun olam, to improve the world. How, it is said, can Jews who suffered the greatest calamity in human history, the Holocaust, not understand Palestinian suffering and accommodate it? How can they go in and annex Judea and Samaria and kick out the Palestinians? Where will they go, Jews ask before anyone else? But Jews forget that all the Arab states kicked out 850,000 Jews from their countries and expropriated their property simply because the Jews decided, in conformity with UN resolutions and international law, to declare the independence of the State of Israel. They also ignore that the Palestinians were leaders in the invasion of that nascent state by an Arab League whose secretary prophesied that the carnage the Arabs will inflict on the Jews will make the Crusades seem like a Sunday school picnic. They also ignore that the Palestinians are responsible for whatever catastrophe they shall suffer, for they have brought it on themselves in their murderous refusal to recognize the Jewish state and live side by side with it in peace. But then, if the Jews were to recognize that Palestinian actions are the result of Palestinian choices, they would also have to recognize that Israel’s actions are also a result of Israel’s choices, and are not be laid at the doorstep of outside peoples and nations, whatever inflated power Jews wish to ascribe to them. And whatever the powerlessness Jews take on for themselves.
Of course, to stop thinking of yourself as powerless means you have to assume the tasks that power imposes, one of which, and chief of which, is to protect the people over which you exercise sovereignty. It does not matter how many Nobel Prizes Jews have won. Moral superiority and scientific accomplishment are not the stuff of political decision-making, however good they may make you feel as a family. Nor should Israel be run as a synagogue, which is also more akin to a family than a state. And yet it is. Not for nothing does Israel have the most extreme form of proportional representation of any modern democracy. This allows for no government ever to be held accountable, since all decisions can ultimately be attributed to the need for political accommodation to coalition partners. This also ensures that Israelis can keep on grumbling about their leaders and their media can keep on sabotaging the government; in the end politics is just one more arena for family squabbles. The whole perennial debate about the release of terrorists in exchange for Israeli prisoners or corpses is one more example of the way family considerations get confused with national ones and invade political debate and decisions. The refusal to establish clear lines of political authority, evinced by an electoral system designed to prevent it, reflects once again the Jewish ambiguity about being a sovereign nation. As does the recent trial of an Israeli soldier for killing a Palestinian terrorist when he was lying on the ground. Caught on camera by a member of an NGO, the incident provoked an outburst across the political elite condemning the soldier even before he was brought to trial, the outcome of which is still not decided. But as Moshe Feiglin observed, as soon as you equate the actions of a soldier with that of a terrorist and the rights of a soldier with the rights of a terrorist you have lost (See “The subtle war against Israel,” 3/4/2016,
http//www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/18659l). A terrorist by definition has no rights; indeed, has forfeited whatever rights he or she has. Unless, of course, you are ambiguous about your own legitimacy and your right to defend it.
Perhaps the Jewish ambiguity about the legitimacy of their national sovereignty also goes back to the Bible, especially to the Book of Genesis where the Jews have not gone beyond the confines and comfort of family, however havoc making they were and are. For the promise of Abraham was always handed down to the second son. Isaac, not Ishamel; Jacob, not Esau. Ephraim, not Menashe. Perhaps Jews feel that somehow the blessing went to the wrong person and ultimately to the wrong nation forged from the family and tribes that preceded it. And so to them the mantle of national sovereignty is uneasily worn and the duty of national sovereignty reluctantly exercised. Deep in the Jewish unconscious may lurk the suspicion and the guilt that the blessing of which the Promised Land is emblematic does not really belong to them. To atone for it nonetheless the Jews therefore make excuses, shrink from the nasty business that the Promised Land entails, shrink from it today as they shrunk from it when they entered it long ago.
There are, of course, political and sociological arguments for an alternative course of action with respect to the Palestinian Authority and the so-called Palestinians. I say so-called because Palestinian nationalism is itself a misnomer, empty of any meaning other than the lethal project of exterminating the Jewish state and the Jews who reside there. For those who think this an exaggeration they have only to look at the carnage that has engulfed Syria in the past five years. But to return to alternative suggestions as to what Israel can do, even on the part of those in agreement with the one-state solution, the most appealing one I have read is that proposed by Mordechai Kedar. Dr. Kedar argues that Israel should annex Judea and Samaria, but then grant Palestinians municipal autonomy, in the form of eight city states, including Gaza, where most of them live. (See PalestinianEmirates.com). They will have no say in Israeli elections, foreign policy and national defense, but they will be able to run their lives and make the day-to-day decisions that affect them. He bases his prescription on the sociological fact that Palestinian society is a tribal society, where the principal line of difference and solidarity is kinship. Each of these cities, or emirates, is dominated by a different family clan, whose members do not intermarry with people from other cities because they are members of a different kinship network. If Israel therefore removed the corrupt and cruel leadership of the PLO that currently tyrannizes Palestinian society, the people who live there would respond with a certain degree of contentment simply to be able to experience municipal autonomy without political interference. They would also be able to get on with their lives, develop socially and economically, leaving the future to take care of itself. His idea is certainly appealing, for it is based on a sociological reality of the Arab Muslim world. Unfortunately, Palestinian society has been so criminalized, so thoroughly imbued with Jew hatred and ideological frenzy, where sexual desire and destructive impulses are linked to dreams of conquering Israel and returning to homes most of them never knew that little is left of the traditional kinship structure other than its use to manipulate and blackmail the entire population to these twisted dreams. No one is left to respect traditional authority, which is only invoked to tyrannize the young even further should they wish for something else. Eight autonomous city-states would only be breeding grounds for further murder and anarchy that would drag Israel back into trying to impose law and order on a population hell-bent on her destruction. And so we would be back to square one, with the annexation of Judea and Samaria having been squandered in the process.
The same reality is what dooms Caroline Glick’s proposal to annex Judea and Samaria and extend the vote to the Arab population (See her “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, Crown Forum 2014). The Jews would, in all probability, maintain a majority of the Knesset, but the inevitable splintering of Jewish parties coupled with the daunting task of integrating a population whose raison d’être is to liquidate Israel and kill as many Jews as possible would make Israel ungovernable. No state can digest a large minority population, in this case of the order of more than 20%, that is thoroughly hostile to that state’s very existence. Embarking down that path would be sheer suicide. Far more hopeful is the first scenario of annexation and de facto expulsion. Anything short of that is a recipe for disaster. Of course the Jews could continue to try and muddle through. The British tried that for thirty years and it blew up in their faces. The Jews might think they are smarter than the British. They did, after all, think they could outsmart God. But prudence and modesty dictate that they should be a little less smart and a little more ruthless.
On February 9, 2016 a 12-year-old girl from the Palestinian Authority, resident in Judea and Samaria, attempted to stab some Jews to death in the Gush Etzion area. She was arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned, only to be released from jail after two and a half months. Upon her return she was greeted by her mother, both of them wearing PLO scarves, and by the Palestinian Authority governor of Tulkarem, who could only say in his address that Israel’s detention of children is a crime against humanity. That little incident captures in a nutshell what Israel is up against: a society turned into organized child abuse. It also confirms why the policy outlined above about what Israel should do is the only sane, and even humane, policy that can work. The Palestinians love to claim that the very creation of Israel is their naqba, their catastrophe. What they are really saying is that the Palestinians themselves are a naqba, a catastrophe first for themselves, then for the Jews and ultimately for the entire world. It is time to put an end to this outrageous and disastrous situation. It is time for the Jews to assume the full measure of being a people in their own land with their own state. To do otherwise is also a form of naqba, and we do not need any more of those. But I would not bet my money on the Jews’ doing anything like what I recommend anytime soon. Neither would Moses if he were in my shoes. Lucky he whose spirit lies where no one can visit his grave.