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Contrary to the received wisdom and official U.S. policy, a Palestinian state is not necessary, desirable or inevitable. Thoughtful and responsible Americans are free to oppose the "two-state solution" and to take that opposition into consideration when voting for candidates for federal office.
Americans have other things to do than worry about Israel, but American voters should know that Israel's fate is largely in their hands. Rightly or wrongly, Israeli governments even ostensibly "right-wing" governments feel themselves to be constrained and compelled by the United States. Because U.S. governments derive their legitimacy from the electorate, Americans should be aware of what is done to Israelis in their name. And it follows that this knowledge should inform their voting.
Or not. Caring about Israel is not obligatory. Although I could argue that strong support for Israel is in America's interests, others could contend with equal determination that Israel is a millstone around America's neck. I have no time for these tedious debates, which degenerate quickly into sterile point-scoring contests. People believe what they want to believe. If you feel an affinity for Israel, if you support the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland, and if you see Israeli settlers as akin to our American pioneers, then this analysis will give you useful information. Otherwise, have a nice day.
What would you think if I told you most of what you "know" about Israeli politics is wrong? Would it shock you to learn that the Likud is not a right-wing party and Likud governments are more dangerous to the nationalist cause in Israel than left-wing governments?
How would you like to be nothing more than a bargaining chip to your own government? How would you feel if your government was preparing to demolish your home, to destroy everything you've built over a lifetime, to reduce your community to rubble and to scatter you, your family, and your neighbors to the winds all in a vain attempt to appease a bloodthirsty and implacable foe who will use the place from which you've been expelled as a base for further attacks against you?
How would you like it if your own government sought to demonize you in the eyes of your fellow citizens, presenting you as "an obstacle to peace," in order to make your eventual expulsion with violence, if necessary palatable to the general public?
Did I say violence? Try this out. Your government has a military plan to deport you, shrouding the operation in a media blackout in which regional cell phone service is disrupted. Two full army divisions will be allocated for the expulsion. Air Force helicopters will hover overhead, and unmanned drones will channel information to the intelligence services in real time. The whole thing will be informed by the lessons a European power learned in its long fight against a gang of murdering terrorists. And in this model, you are the terrorist.
For the moment, these measures apply only to enforcing the Israeli government's ten-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. But if the goal is a Palestinian state in the territories Israel liberated in 1967 as demanded by Washington those contingency plans also will apply to expelling as many as 200,000 inhabitants of the ancestral Jewish homeland on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
THESE DETAILS, WIDELY REPORTED on December 20, 2009, were confirmed in a recent interview with a member of the Israeli Knesset in his parliamentary office in Jerusalem. Dr. Aryeh Eldad, of the National Union Party, was asked to clarify reports about a December 28, 2009, encounter between him and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Barak, leader of the Labor Party, is a former Army chief of staff and former prime minister. He is in the security cabinet of Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition. Eldad, a former chief medical officer of the Israeli Army, is a plastic surgeon specializing in the treatment of burns.
Eldad said the exchange followed disclosure of the military plan of how to impose the government's decision to freeze construction in the West Bank.
"And I asked him [Barak] if he thinks this is the way to operate in a democratic state to get rid of the media, to block cellular phones in the region, to use the military against civilians. And he found the question an adequate platform to tell me that recently he met with former commanders of the SAS the British Special Air Service who told him how they fought against civilians in Great Britain. And I asked him if he wants to compare the war against the terrorists of the Irish Republican Army to law enforcement applied to settlers who build illegally in violation of the construction freeze.
"And he said that the question came out of my lunatic brain, or something, even though all the people who attended [the committee meeting] agreed that he brought to the table the example of SAS commanders who fought civilians in Northern Ireland."
As reported by Ynet's Amnon Meranda on December 28, Eldad said: "The defense minister compared the IDF action to the SAS action against the Irish underground. He is throwing the settlers to the dogs. Next time, he will authorize shooting them."
Barak said in response: "Your deranged mind is hallucinating about events and instances that have no connection whatsoever with reality. You are hiding behind your parliamentary immunity."
The Jerusalem Post reported on the same day that "Eldad asked Barak to rescind his 'appalling' parallel between the settlers and Irish terrorists, but Barak refused to do so."
In the interview, Eldad said that, as he understands it, part of Barak's plan is to "delegitimize the settlers because we are going to face more and more collisions between civilians and the police and the military in order to impose, in the first stage, the freezing of new building in the settlements and, in the second stage, evacuation of settlements."
To a certain degree, this is Netanyahu's plan as well, Eldad said. "According to Netanyahu's plan, Israel is going to negotiate with the Palestinians on the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria more or less on the '67 borders." Eldad referred to a January 12 news report which stated that Netanyahu has promised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that east Jerusalem would be included as the capital of Palestine. (The prime minister's office quickly denied the report.)
"And this is a course of direct collision between the right wing in Israel, the settlers in Israel, and the government," Eldad said.
"In order to prepare the public for such a collision, it is always useful to delegitimize the settlers."
SUCH COLLISIONS HAVE AMPLE PRECEDENT. In August of 2005, acting on a plan formulated by "hard-line Likud" Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli government uprooted 21 communities in Gaza, razed homes, schools and synagogues, dug up the dead, and turned almost 8,000 Jews into refugees. The operation was wrenching but largely peaceful.
Arab terror organizations correctly claimed success. Who could deny they had driven out the Jews? (Sharon's rationalization that Gaza would have been relinquished in any final agreement begs the question of why, in the absence of Arab terror, any "final agreement" would be necessary.) On January 25, 2006, Hamas won legislative elections in Gaza.
Opponents of the deportations had warned: "Who flees from Gaza will be pursued by Gaza." Sure enough, with the Israeli Army no longer on the strip, Gaza became a launch pad for ever more sophisticated rockets into Israel. This forced an Israeli military incursion into Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, from December 27, 2008 to January 21, 2009. Thus, as Evelyn Gordon has pointed out (Commentary, January 1, 2010), Israeli "concessions for the sake of peace" have resulted not only in more dead Israelis, but also in more dead Palestinians, producing "near-pariah status" for Israel.
Many in Sharon's Likud Party opposed destroying Jewish settlements in Gaza, and on May 2, 2004, the matter was put before Likud's 193,000 members. Turnout for the referendum was more than 50 percent, and Likud voters overwhelmingly rejected Sharon's plan, 60 percent vs. 40 percent. The main reason Likud voters opposed the plan was that they did not believe it would improve security.
Sharon ignored the referendum, abandoned the Likud, and formed a new political party Kadima in November of 2005. But not before destroying the Jewish communities of Gaza in August of that year. As Rabbi Tovia Singer put it, the intensely productive agricultural settlements in Gaza known as Gush Katif, which means the Harvest Bloc in Hebrew were "built by Labor and destroyed by Likud" (israelnationalnews.com, February 6, 2009).
On January 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke that has left him comatose, and Ehud Olmert, who had followed Sharon from Likud to Kadima, became acting prime minister. Olmert, who faced elections on March 28, 2006, could count on little support from the pro-settler right, but much electoral fruit hung on low branches to his left. To harvest these votes it was useful to bash settler heads. The chance came at Amona, in the hills of Samaria, on February 1, 2006.
Leftists in all Western countries tend to look for enemies from within rather than outside their own societies. If the enemy is undeniably external, the leftist looks for reasons why disfavored internal elements provoked the aggression. In Israel the settlers fill this role, just as Israel fills this role internationally. The state for Jews has become the Jew among states. And the settlers are the Jews of Israel.
Amona was established by 30 families in 1995, and by 2003 it was hooked up to the national electricity grid, which requires Defense Ministry approval. In January 2006, Olmert decided to demolish nine unfinished homes the courts had ruled were built illegally on Arab land. But this was a clear case of selective enforcement. Member of Knesset Effie Eitam, a former housing minister in Sharon's government, pointed out that tens of thousands of Arab and Bedouin structures have been built illegally within Israel with no government action taken.
As they had done in Gaza five months previously, Knesset Members Eitam, Eldad, and Benny Elon, went to Amona to mediate between the settlers and security forces. But this time things were different. Shortly after making the statement, Eitam a retired brigadier general who was part of the 1976 Entebbe rescue mission was trampled by a mounted policeman, receiving a head wound.
Olmert refused a settler offer to move the nine houses to the nearby town of Ofra. (Whether the offer was feasible or a stalling tactic can be debated.) The acting prime minister was looking for a confrontation, and he got it. Some of the youths gathered at Amona fell into Olmert's trap and threw stones at police, but most of the violence came from the security forces. Protestors sitting passively were repeatedly bashed in the head. Mounted police charged into unarmed and unresisting demonstrators. A 15-year-old boy, Yechiam Ayal, was almost killed, his skull fractured. Member of Knesset Eldad, like MK Eitam a retired brigadier general, had his arm broken. MK Elon, a rabbi, also was wounded.
"For 30 years I fought on the battlefield, and never believed I would be wounded by a Jewish policeman," Eitam said. "They came with the order to spill our blood."
Video shot by the media and on cell phones support this statement. Images of club-swinging mounted police riding into massed civilians evoked those of rampaging Crusaders from the Middle Ages or Cossacks in Eastern Europe. Oded Balilty of the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of a 17-year-old girl in religious garb pushing back against the shields of a column of riot police. The picture also won first prize in the World Press Photo Awards. Of course, a girl can't hold back a column of riot police for more than an instant. Seconds after the shutter snapped, she was thrown to the ground and clubbed in the head.
Because of the visual evidence, the courts subsequently indicted several police officers for using excessive force. A dismissed policeman testified that orders had been given that it would be necessary to use clubs against the settlers. Understandably, police and soldiers resent it when they and only they are punished for executing the orders of politicians. Hence the contingency plan for media blackouts. No evidence, no indictments, no damaged police morale. The world won't watch. And no more embarrassing Pulitzer Prizes.
In case anyone missed the message, and aide to Olmert spelled it out: The setters and their supporters constitute a "Jewish Hamas," he told Ynet news. The official demonization of the settlers could not have been more explicit.
In his political campaign, Olmert stated clearly that he would do to Judea and Samaria what Sharon had done to Gaza. The turnout on March 28, 2006, was low. Nevertheless, a plurality of Israeli voters cast their ballots for Olmert's Kadima Party, and the acting prime minister was now a prime minister who could lay claim to an electoral mandate.
Fate gave the settlers a reprieve. On June 25, 2006, Hamas, smelling blood, raided out of Gaza into the area of Kibbutz Karem Shalom, killing two Israeli soldiers, wounding four others, and kidnapping Corporal Gilad Shalit, who remains in captivity. Then on July 12 Hezbollah fired rockets at border towns in northern Israel as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence. Five soldiers were killed, two were wounded, and the bodies of two of the killed were taken into Lebanon. Five more Israeli soldiers were killed in a failed rescue attempt.
This is not the place to analyze the conduct and ramifications of the ensuing 34-day war. Let it be enough to say that Olmert, who knew how to fight settler girls, was not as adept as commander in chief against Hezbollah.
The Gaza raid followed closely by the Lebanon War, combined with corruption charges against Olmert, sidetracked Kadima's plans to expel the settlers. On July 30, 2008, Olmert announced that he would not seek re-election as party leader and that he would resign his position as prime minister as soon as a new Kadima leader was chosen. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was selected and attempted to form a government in September of 2008. She was unsuccessful, and the election of February 10, 2009, brought Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party to the prime minister's office for the second time.
But wait. Doesn't the return of "hard-line" Premier Bibi Netanyahu and his "right-wing" Likud government mean the settlers face no danger of dispossession? Unfortunately, no. Netanyahu is no longer "hard-line," if he ever was, even though he is represented as such by lazy journalists who copy each other's boilerplate. A sure tipoff is the mainstream assessment that he has "grown" since his first administration in 1996-1999, when he rejected the idea of a Palestinian State. Now he accepts the "two-state solution," which means rendering Judenrein the territories surrendered for such a state.
Netanyahu's stipulation that the state be demilitarized is risible, a losing proposition. The West Bank is not Costa Rica, and Israel has no way to enforce such a restriction short of an endless series of military campaigns. Even if rockets were falling on Ben-Gurion Airport, the nations of the world would insist that Israel use "restraint," that its response be "proportionate," and under no circumstances should it engage in "collective punishment." As in the Gaza operation, time-honored military practices would be redefined as "war crimes." With false symmetry, Israel would be accused of perpetuating a "cycle of violence." And with each campaign, Israel's standing in the world would fall.
Nor is Netanyahu's coalition "right wing." In fact, the prime minister has ruled out any partnership with Israel's small National Union Party, although Labor is in his government, and he has been trying to co-opt Kadima. For MK Eldad, conservative members of the Likud are "hypocrites" who are at least as culpable as Netanyahu and Barak because conservative Likudniks who stay in the government "put the kosher stamp" on the construction freeze and the determination to expel settlers for the creation of a Jew-free Palestine.
Eldad said Netanyahu has neutralized conservatives within the Likud by convincing them that the alternative a Kadima government led by Tzipi Livni would be much worse.
"He's wrong," Eldad said. "Tzipi Livni can't do against a very strong right-wing opposition what Netanyahu can do when the opposition against him is very weak." The National Union is only four seats in a Knesset of 120. So, Eldad said, Netanyahu knows that when it comes to evacuation, the destruction of settlements, and the creation of a Palestinian state, he always will have a partner on the Israeli left.
"It is disastrous to have the right wing in power in Israel," Eldad said. "We need the right wing to stay in opposition."
Shlomo Wollins an independent journalist, photographer and filmmaker whose ribs were broken at Amona has the same view. In an Internet interview, Wollins pointed out that every Likud leader in the past 40 years has betrayed his platform, his principles, and his constituents (israelnationalnews.com February 6, 2009). Wollins believes that the paralysis of a Kadima or Labor government is preferable to the destruction that is likely to be wrought by Likud.
Speculation abounds about what understandings Netanyahu may or may not have got from President Obama regarding Iran and its nuclear program. Clearly, Netanyahu regards Iran's incipient bomb as an immediate existential threat to Israel. By this reckoning, a ten-month construction freeze beyond the 1949 armistice lines is a small price to pay for an understanding with Washington.
But how much weight can be given to speculation? What we know is that Netanyahu has come out for a Palestinian state and that the Arabs want no Jews in that state. For an Israeli government to accede to American demands for such a state, it must expel Jews from the Jewish heartland. To make such an expulsion politically palatable in Israel, the settlers are delegitimized. Is this what American voters want?
Eldad believes Netanyahu knows a Palestinian state is a bad idea. But, said the doctor, Netanyahu "is a very weak leader." Eldad used the Yiddish word shmatteh to describe the prime minister, which means rag. "He is spineless. He cannot stand against pressure."
The former IDF chief medical officer said Netanyahu returned from his first meeting with Obama in May of 2009 "like a man in shell shock. He was PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. So he collapsed. And once he collapsed, he must cater to Obama's demands."
AT LEAST SINCE THE DISASTROUS OSLO AGREEMENTS OF 1993, American supporters of Israel have faced accusations of being "more Catholic than the pope," more Zionist than the Israelis.
Oslo skeptics were asked: "Do you think you know more about Israel's security than Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a former commander of the Israeli Army?" The same question was asked when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, also a former IDF chief of staff, was ready to give away the store to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in the summer of 2000. Today Defense Minister Barak is at it again, operating under the delusion that finding some Arab willing to accept his surrender is preserving the "Jewish and democratic" nature of the state.
Orwell famously said some ideas are so stupid only intellectuals could believe them. Barak is very smart, and he shares a flaw common to many intelligent people: blinkered arrogance. Does he think that any Israeli government could contrive a "final agreement" so enticing that the cognizant Arab leader will consider the offer and say: "That's it! This is the deal we've been waiting for. The war is over." And make it stick?
SO MUCH IS WRONG WITH THIS THINKING it's hard to know where to start. First, no such Arab leader exists or is likely to exist. Certainly not "moderate" Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who with admirable consistency has said he has no intention of cracking down on terror because it would mean a Palestinian civil war. Yet Washington has designated Abbas as Israel's "peace partner." (Obama's first official presidential phone call was to Abbas.) But Abbas has little power, and the PA is corrupt and unpopular. Hamas ran the PA out of Gaza, and the PA's hold in the West Bank is tenuous. Moreover, Abbas knows that only the operational autonomy of the Israeli Army in Judea and Samaria prevents Hamas from throwing his men off the rooftops of the West Bank, just as they were thrown off the rooftops of Gaza. It's not that Hamas is "extreme" and the PA is "moderate." They are rival criminal gangs, which sometimes cooperate against Israel, with far more in common than what divides them. Abbas couldn't end the violence if he wanted to, and he probably doesn't want to. So who needs him?
Second, the Palestinian Arabs could have had a state a long time ago if they really wanted one. But their goal is not a state alongside Israel. It is a state instead of Israel. The evidence for this is voluminous and too extensive to elaborate here, but Israel doesn't even appear on Palestinian Authority maps.
Third, the premise underlying the "peace process" i.e., "If you stop killing us, we'll give you land" is not only flawed, it is debauched. Who but a defeated people would negotiate from this position? Americans wouldn't. Why should Israelis? As far back as 1968, Eric Hoffer noted that Israel is the only victorious nation that is expected to sue for peace and ask the enemy for terms. The real currency in such a transaction is not disputed land, but rather Jewish blood.
A founding principle of Zionism is that self-respecting Jews would live independently in their historical homeland. If they failed to win the respect of the Nations, it would be through no fault of theirs. But Israel's obsequious acquiescence to the "peace process," which recapitulates the worst of Diaspora cringing, invites contempt and aggression. It also confirms the saying that it's easier to take the Jew out of exile than to take the exile out of the Jew. Israel's Middle Eastern enemies are not like European nobles and bishops, whose sufferance could be attained (at least temporarily) by Jewish accommodations. They are atavists who want the Jews dead, driven out, or reduced to a degraded remnant. Peace will come to the region only when they are convinced that Israel is here to stay. Bringing about this state of mind is the only "peace process" worth pursuing, and it won't happen by surrendering land and turning your best citizens into refugees. On the contrary.
Generally, the American people have been more sympathetic to Israel than U.S. officialdom. But would it be reasonable to expect any American president to have the courage to get to the right of an Israeli prime minister? For example, could a U.S. president have opposed the self-inflicted folly of Oslo, which imported Arafat's terrorists from Tunis and armed them? Any president who did so would expose himself to vicious and bigoted political attacks. Fortunately, members of Congress have more latitude, and Americans will go to the polls to elect them on November 2, 2010.
Issues have as much importance as we choose to give them. Understandably, U.S. voters will be concerned about the economy and other matters that are immediate to their lives. But voters might give a thought to whether they want to have Israeli settlers thrown out of their homes in their name, whether they want to give a tailwind to terror in the Middle East, and whether they want to see a terror state, purged of Jews, established in the biblical Jewish heartland.
Friends don't let friends commit national suicide. And they certainly don't let their elected public servants push their friends off a cliff.
Lou Marrano is an anthropologist and former journalist, recently
returned from a visit to Israel.
"Israel is not
just a Jewish issue. Millions of Christians resolutely endorse the
principle of peace with security for the state of Israel. Because we
work closely together and speak with a united voice, our message is
This was published February 25, 2010 as an exclusive to Unity Coalition for Israel (3965 W. 83rd. Street #292 Shawnee Mission, KS 66208; Phone: 913.648.0022 ; Fax: 913.648.7997) UCI The Unity Coalition for Israel (http://www.israelunitycoalition.org) is "the largest worldwide coalition of Jewish and Christian organizations, with more than 200 groups representing millions of people dedicated to Israel. Though we have many different backgrounds, we have one common goal: A Safe and Secure Israel."
"Israel is not just a Jewish issue. Millions of Christians resolutely endorse the principle of peace with security for the state of Israel. Because we work closely together and speak with a united voice, our message is being heard!"
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