Too Much Deference

Whenever I speak abroad about Israel’s security situation, I’m invariably asked: Why doesn’t the Israeli government ignore world opinion and do what it must to stop the terrorism? I always answer by pointing out that Israel does not manufacture F-16s or most of her other major weapons systems. Second, Israel’s economy is dependent on trade with other countries, chief among them the European Union.

Yet deference to world opinion has been taken way too far by our current government, to the point that Israel is unwittingly helping to fuel the international campaign of delegitimization against it. That campaign led by the unholy of trinity of NGOs, the United Nations, and major Western media outlets, the BBC chief among them, was the subject of a day-long symposium, featuring an impressive array of experts, sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs last week.

Not discussed, however, was the impact of Israeli government policy on the delegitimization of Israel. Since the first Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have adopted the position that Israel’s security is better served through diplomacy than by ensuring that Israel maintains defensible borders.

Yet those diplomatic efforts and the various attempts to subcontract our defense to outside parties — to Yasir Arafat under Oslo, to the U.N. in Lebanon, and to Egypt in the Philadephi Corridor — have only harmed our international standing, which is demonstrably lower today than at the start of the Oslo process. Any fleeting good will generated by such actions as the Gaza withdrawal is soon lost — and then some — when Israel is forced to respond to the consequences of its concessions.

Whenever Israel acts out fear of becoming a pariah state by exercising greater restraint or making further concessions, it only convinces its critics that even Israelis know that they are the villains in this piece. For example, this week’s decision to remove 45 West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints, in response to pressure from Secretary of State Rice, gave credence to Palestinian claims that the purpose of those roadblocks was to imprison Palestinians, not protect Israeli civilians. (It was only 15 minutes before the first Israeli civilian was attacked by a knife-wielding Palestinian just beyond a recently dismantled roadblock.) For knowingly endangering its own citizens, all Israel received from Secretary of State Rice was the frosty message, “We’ll be watching you.”

Israelis tend to observe Prime Minister Olmert’s frantic efforts to remain in power with a certain bemused fascination, and to view as a harmless fantasy his negotiations with the Palestinians over a “shelf agreement,” which will not be implemented until such time as the Palestinians actually do something to stop terrorism and incitement against Jews. That, however, is a mistake.

Leaks from the negotiations suggest that the declaration of priniciples will include a provision that the 1949 Armistice Lines constitute the starting point of negotiations over borders. That represents a retreat both from U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which recognized Israel’s right to “secure” borders, and from President Bush’s much touted promise to Prime Minister Sharon that Israel would hold on to security blocs in any final agreement.

Israel is being forced to enunciate its final positions with regard to unknown future circumstances, without the Palestinians having yet made a single concession. One does not conduct negotiations will one’s cards face up on the table. Entering into negotiations at the present time with the PA only reinforces the perception of Israel as the guilty party in its own eyes, and further convinces the Palestinians that past breeches of agreements carry no penalty.

Why should we be talking with Abbas at all after he declared a 3-day mourning period for arch-terrorist George Habash and the Fatah newspaper splashed a front-page picture of the “martyred” murderer of 8 yeshiva students? One good indication of the success of the PA anti-incitement “efforts” is the recent New York Times poll that 84% of Palestinians supported the murders at Mercaz Harav. Yet the PA’s manifest failures receive no criticism from the U.S. State Department — only Jewish building — because we have adopted the posture of obsequious supplicants.

There is no assurance that the “shelf agreement” will remain on the shelf forever. It will be the Americans, as much as Israel, who will determine when it is time to dust it off. And if Israel disagrees that the circumstances are propitious for granting the Palestinians the power to paralyze the coastal region with missiles aimed at Israel’s center — home to 80% of its population — from the high ground of the West Bank, it may find itself on a collision course with the Americans.

Every Israeli offer — even those that are rejected — eventually wends its way back into future negotiations. The rejected Israeli proposals at Taba continuously resurface, despite President Clinton’s assurances that they were off the table. The past is never past in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Our obsession with “peace” treaties with our neighbors — treaties for which the purchase price is always further territorial concessions — has blinded us to the larger strategic threat facing us — i.e., Iran’s emergence as the leading regional power and the noose of Iranian proxies closing around our necks. Consider the absurdity of Israel sending Syria twenty peace feelers, at the very time that half the members of the Arab League were boycotting a Damascus summit because of Syria’s continued obstructionism in Lebanon and close ties with Iran.

Finally, Olmert is undermining Israel’s still strong support in the United States. One cannot expect Americans to be more supportive of Israel than the Israeli government. President Bush has repeatedly said that he is only pushing for the “final” agreement Israel says it wants. When he talks to Bush, Olmert is like a little kid afraid to rat on a bullying older sister (Condoleeza Rice) for fear of being pounded later if he does.

A SELF-RESPECTING ISRAELI STANCE would begin by pointing out that twice in the past century the world community affirmed the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute its ancient homeland in Eretz Yisrael. It would counter every discussion of Palestinian refugees with a discussion of the equal number of Jewish refugees from 1948. It would seek the right for Jews to live in security in a future Palestinian state just as Arabs live as citizens with full rights in Israel. It would scoff at the concept of international law that applies to only one country in the world. And it would never tire of pointing out the double standard inherent in the world’s lack of concern with the execution of 100 Buddhist monks in Chinese-occupied Tibet, or the deliberate extermination of hundreds of thousands of black Muslims in Darfur.

But our leaders are incapable of making this case, for they are not truly convinced that we Jews have any real claims in Eretz Yisrael or that we should not be happy with whatever the Arabs grant us. They are products of an educational system that Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover described recently as failing to provide its products with any reason to live here: “We have . . . attempted to copy, unsuccessfully, the developed countries of the West, in an effort to be like every other nation.”

When David Ben-Gurion was asked from where the Jews derived the right to live in Eretz Yisrael, he would hold up the Bible. He conducted a Bible study group in his home. How absurd to imagine today, observes Ciechanover, “that one of this country’s leaders would study and teach the Bible in his home. . . ”

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10 Responses

  1. Joseph says:

    In summation, zionism is bankrupt, always has been, and has never not will ever provide any tangible solutions but rather continue to cause mayhem.

  2. Ori says:

    Moderators, I made a grammar error. Please use this comment instead. Sorry for the hassle.

    I think you identified one problem out of three. The second problem, which may or may not be related to the first, is a lack of willingness to fight and suffer the necessary casualties to make Israel safer in the long run. People unwilling to fight, or leaders unwilling to order others to do so, will be tempted to find peaceful solutions even where none exist. The ghost of Neville Chamberlain could explain why this is a bad idea.

    The third problem is either laziness or cowardice. People who don’t believe Israel has a right to exist have no business living there. People who aren’t willing to suffer what it takes to keep Israel on the map(1) have no business living there either.

    (1) I am a member of this group. I resented being conscripted, so I moved to a country that does not force its people into military service.

  3. Ori says:

    Joseph, I think your summary is inaccurate. You interjected your own opinions, which Jonathan Rosenblum may or may not share.

    1. Jonathan Rosenblum mentioned Ben Gurion favorably. This would argue that he doesn’t believe that Zionism has always been bankrupt. Maybe that is always had a negative balance.

    2. Zionism always came in two flavors: secular and religious. The leaders in this article all came from the secular camp. Religious Zionists still use the Tanakh as their justification. That’s one of the reasons they place so much importance on the west Bank – most of the Tanakh does not take place in the coastal regions Israel conquered in 1948.

    3. Zionism will never provide perfect solutions, but nothing short of Mashiach would. However, are you sure that having six million Jews all over Eretz Israel, rather than the few who lived in a few places a two centuries ago, is not tangible?

  4. Garnel Ironheart says:

    I recall Shimon Peres explaining his rational for the Oslo Discords back in 1993. He looked around at the Israelis and saw that they were less and less willing to stand up for themselves as time went on. After all, they were getting richer and more content. Rich and content people do not like to fight wars. Too much to lose, not much to gain.

    And that was his naive hope for Oslo. If the Arabs could also develop a middle and upper class, also have homes, neighbourhood parks and pools, cable television and decent jobs, then they too would become content and not be interested in fighting any more wars.

    So Israel developed a leadership that fulfilled its part of the agreement. On the right, the Chareidim won’t serve in the army. On the left, the extreme seculars won’t serve either. In the middle, the Mizrachi are committed to serving but the kibbutzniks won’t let them advnace past a certain rank. And everyone up to and including the Chief of Staff is more interested in protect his butt (remember the stock selling the day before Lebanon II) than working for the good of the country.

    Unfortunately, on the other side, the leadership has not done the same thing. They have continued to foster an impoverished and rabidly hate-filled population dedicated only to increasing their own misery in the hope of eventually putting an end to the hated Zionist Entity.

    As a result, you now have one side constantly ready for war and another desperate to do anything to avoid one. Is there any wonder no one is backing Israel?

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Since you now live in the US, shouldn’t the logic in your comment of April 4, 2008 @ 10:39 am (“People who aren’t willing to suffer what it takes to keep…on the map have no business living there either”) lead you to volunteer for service in the US armed forces?

  6. Ori says:

    Bob Miller, that’s a good question. However, there is one important difference between Israel and the US.

    The US does not need everybody to serve in its armed forces. The US does not want everybody to serve in its armed forces. In fact, over half the high school graduates each year are ineligible for enlistment because the minimum requirements are set so high. The US is in an environment where a small, professional military is sufficient for national defense. Israel is not.

    It would be different if we were plunged into a WWII type situation. Then I’d be morally bound to go to the recruitment office and have them decide if they want me or not, or leave the country. However, we are not in that situation and short of a war with China we’re unlikely to be in that situation any time soon.

    The war on terror is nowhere near that level. Despite fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, there hasn’t been a sizable increase in the size of the military. Conscription might be a hot potato politically, but there hasn’t even been an appeal for more recruits. The US doesn’t need me in its armed forces, and is probably better served by having me as a productive tax payer.

  7. cvmay says:

    “Since the first Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have adopted the position that Israel’s security is better served through diplomacy than by ensuring that Israel maintains defensible borders”

    Interestingly enough, the Israeli Gedolim shared this same view that diplomacy and peace concessions will safeguard the country and the correct halachic decision for ‘pikuach nefesh’. Rav Schach, Belzer Rebbe and Chachem Yosef were the pioneer advocates of ‘peace talks’ together with Shimon Peres. Passivity has been the prefered modus operanda, brought to Israel from the shores of Europe.
    WHAT CAN & SHOULD BE DONE????????? We are awaiting a response and the silence is unbearable. Nu!

  8. Bob Miller says:

    Cvmay referred to “Passivity…brought to Israel from the shores of Europe.”

    This is of a piece with the proposition that the Golus (exilic) attitude is obsolete now that we have a State, having been replaced by a new, bold, youthful self-reliance. The new, bold, youthful self-reliant State has somehow become a colony taking direct orders from the likes of Condi Rice. Many of its manual laborers are Arabs or other foreigners. Every available form of Western decadence has now been imported, by progressives!

    Cvmay, how has this happened? Is this condition not a warning that we are still in Golus because we have not taken the necessary steps as a nation (including a true rapprochement with HaShem) to achieve Geula and true independence?

  9. cvmay says:

    Have you noticed that the Gedolim have stopping sharing (they shared-past tense)the policy of diplomacy?
    Passivity – a trait with pluses and minus.
    I was refering to the “active stance” of the Nachshon ben Aminadavs, Bnos Tzelafchak, Rabbi Akivas, Rav Eliezer Silvers, Reb Moshes, Bostoner Rebbe and many more.
    (BTW you have the right to deduce your personal opinions from my words, as you desire)

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by cvmay — April 7, 2008 @ 11:36 am:

    My apologies! But please re-read your original comment which was ambiguous about your real point.

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