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Back to Basics
By David Erblich
The Oslo agreements (remember them?) provided for a complete cessation of terror, incitement and propaganda against the existence of the State of Israel They also provided for a change in the curriculum taught in Arab schools, which would acknowledge the right of the State of Israel to exist.
As most if not all of the Arab commitments in those agreements were never even begun to be implemented, this understanding regarding teaching the right of Israel to exist was completely ignored. In my view, this was the most important clause in the entire agreement structure. Arrangements regarding land, arms, economies, etc. all pale into insignificance if the basic right to exist is not recognized and accepted.
Successive Israeli governments over the past bloody eleven years have never seriously insisted that this clause and agreement be actually implemented. Thus another generation of Arab children has been raised on the belief and certainty that the State of Israel has no legitimate legal right to exist and that eradicating it from the map of the Middle East is a just, noble and necessary course of action. This perverse belief gains enormous strength and encouragement from the statements of the likes of the President of Iran and from many other anti-Semitic declarations from both the Left and Right in Europe. They all repeat the same mantra – that Israel is somehow an illegitimate country that should be erased from the map of the world. And as this mantra is repeated often enough, self-hating Jews, especially in the arts and academia, take up the cry as well. They claim with a straight face that the ills of the world are caused by the Jews, especially by the existence of the State of Israel. How Hitler and Goebbels must be laughing in Hell. Their big lie technique – brazen and insistently repetitive – still works, especially as it concerns the Jews.
The response of the State of Israel and of world Jewry generally to this existential threat has been very poor and weak. The defeatist and pessimistic attitudes emanating from Israeli leaders – there is no military solution, terror cannot be stopped, we are tired of the conflict, give Hamas and Abbas a chance, etc. – only encourage the conviction of the Arabs that eventually Israel is going to disappear. The Arab in the street looks at the State of Israel as a Crusader kingdom that will leave the area after a period of time just as the Crusader Christians did in the thirteenth century. Thus the Arabs always say that time is on their side.
The Jews are always hasty – we must do something, some new initiative, Oslo,Wye, Camp David, Geneva, disengagement from Gaza – always having to do something in order to maintain our false illusions regarding our neighbors. By our continued unilateral concessions, by not insisting on reciprocity in agreements with the other side, by continuing public negotiations with ourselves as to what the next series of concessions should and will be while Kassam rockets now rain on Ashkelon, we send the Arabs a confirmation of their deep-seated belief that Israel is only temporary.
Settlements can be discarded, Jews can be moved out of homes that they have lived in for decades, everything is apparently negotiable, there are no red lines. No agreements are really binding and the slogan of Hamas – “Four years of terror have achieved more for the Palestinians than did decades of negotiations” is confirmed. So eventually the ‘right of return” – the death knell of a Jewish state of Israel – will also be granted as a humanitarian gesture and thereby the State of Israel will slowly but inexorably sink into the sea and disappear as surely as did the Crusader kingdom of the Middle Ages.
Well, what are our options?
It seems to me that there is a simple answer to this question. Nothing more is to be done. Just sit and not do anything. No new schemes, accords, trial balloons and grandiose promises from our untrustworthy politicians and leaders. No more concessions, no more acceptance of Arab violations of agreements, no more business as usual. Condoleeza Rice expended a great deal of energy, as have all previous United States Secretaries of State, in brokering an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel – this time regarding border crossings into Gaza. Less than a month later, this agreement lies in disabuse and tatters due to Arab noncompliance. The European Union monitors of the border crossing are reminiscent of the three blind mice.
Longer-range rockets and expelled terrorists continue to return to Gaza unhindered. Nevertheless, Israel still upholds its end of the bargain. What madness possesses us to behave so foolishly? The results of the disengagement from Gaza so far have been pretty abysmal. Rocket attacks on communities as far as Ashkelon and into the Negev settlements, all within Israel proper, continual efforts to smuggle suicide bombers into Israel, no real savings in manpower or resources for the army, a lingering bitterness and feeling of alienation by a large section of Israeli society as to how the disengagement was handled and the destruction of the lives of hundreds of Jewish families are all evident results of the disengagement folly.
The tangible positive benefits, which in any case were never clearly articulated when Prime Minister Sharon bulldozed the disengagement through the Knesset, have yet to be seen. Synagogues were destroyed, graves were opened and bodies exhumed, prosperous families were reduced to poverty, children denied new proper schooling, a flourishing agricultural industry and economy willfully ruined, and all for what? So that the European Union can now demand more concessions from Israel and ignore the continuing terror now coming from northern Gaza? It hardly makes any sense at all.
Most of this Israeli blindness can be attributed to the unbelievable hubris of our leaders from Rabin and Peres through Netanyahu, Barak and Sharon. The idea that only “I am able to establish the borders of Israel” or that “I can settle the one hundred year dispute in three months” has led us to disasters, wars, terror and weariness. I would like to hear from a political leader the following statement: “We are engaged in a long, bitter and protracted struggle for our existence. I know of no easy solutions or quick fixes to this problem. So I promise that I will do nothing – no unilateral withdrawals, no pie in the sky rosy Middle East projections and ventures – until the Arabs agree to publicly recognize Israel’s right to exist and include that statement in their textbooks and pronouncements. Time is not on anyone’s side. If they can wait, then so can we. I will not communicate any signs of weakness and I will not negotiate amongst us as to what any final settlement should look like. Patience is a virtue, and I intend to employ it.”
Not only does that statement make sense, it absolutely puts the matter into the correct perspective and framework. Israel’s Nobel Prize winner, Professor Yisrael Aumann, lectured recently at a gathering which I attended. In a brief explanation of his ideas on game theory, the area of economics for which he received his Nobel Prize, he pointed out that taking the long road more often than not brings results, and even quicker results, than playing an immediate, short-term game of temporary advantage. This has been proven in economics, business, finance, sports and even diplomacy and war. Only when both sides see an advantage to compromise and concessions, can anything be achieved. By simply holding out for more when the other side is anxious to make a quick deal will always give that stubborn side the advantage. However, if both hold out and is clear that both sides are willing to wait, then the realization of this facilitates a more likely scenario of agreement and settlement.
Until now, Israel has been steadily losing the diplomatic and territorial war, not to speak of the larger problem of its very existence as a Jewish state, because of its inability or unwillingness to play a long-term game. The prospects for such a realization and understanding, and thus a change of policy, by the current crop of Israeli leaders, judging by the candidates for election here, are pretty bleak. However, one should not give up hope that maybe one of them will come to his senses, shed the cloak of hubris and infallibility that currently bedecks them all and return to common sense basics.
The Arabs must be disabused of the notion that this is a rerun of the Crusades. Only our steadfastness, patience and innate wisdom can help accomplish this basic and most necessary change of mind and heart of the Arab street and its leadership.
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from the January 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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