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The "new Middle East" about which Shimon Peres was so fond of talking is supposed to come about by having Israel give territory to the Palestinian Arabs on which they create a state. Their grievances thus addressed, hostilities would cease. This strategy of concession and appeasement assumes that peace with the Arabs is in Israel's hands. It has never worked. It did not work during Oslo, at the 2000 negotiations, or in Gaza. The recent war in Lebanon put the final nail in its coffin. In spite of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon in 2000, with a UN seal of approval, Hezbollah launched an unwarranted attack in an act of war on Israel from Lebanon, abducting two of her soldiers, and demanding the return of the Sheeba Farms to a Lebanon which never claimed them and against international law. By the time the war was over, a feckless UN force was again sitting on Israel's border with Lebanon, preparing a future for a rearmed Hezbollah and complicating Israel's capacity for retaliation. Even regimes like Egypt, which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, continue to aid and abet the filthy racism and terror that characterizes the Arab and Muslim world's stance toward the only Jewish state on the planet.
It turns out that what the Arabs think is very important, because what they think, and not what the Israelis do, is what counts. Their version of reality is rooted in a society that socializes its children to lie as a way of life, treats women as chattel, resists modern ideas, idealizes cruelty and death, and marks infidels for annihilation or conversion. That the murderous hostility Arabs and Muslims harbor towards the West and Israel cloaks itself in the language of a struggle for rights and against colonialism and imperialism ought not to delude anyone. Their conflict is with modern society, i.e., western civilization.
But apparently it does, for western public opinion, notably in Europe, as well as western opinion-and-policymakers are overwhelmingly anti-Israel, fuelling a Palestinian intransigence which wraps itself in the halo reserved for victims of oppression.
Every Israeli withdrawal in the absence of any compromise also fuels this intransigence, making the prospect of peace more distant. Thus the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was not much different from the 1929 British-enforced evacuation of the Jews from Hebron in its impact on the minds of the Palestinian Arabs of the day. They concluded that their grievances were legitimate and they could obtain satisfaction by a relentless campaign of terror and intimidation.
It is time, therefore, for Israeli policy to change course. Israel should take seriously the Palestinian and wider Arab and Muslim narrative about Israel and the Jews and frame its policy accordingly. This means recognizing that Israel is at war with its Arab neighbors, and now the wider Muslim world. Israel must persevere in fighting this war by any and all means, with unrelenting purpose and persistence. It means recognizing that there is nothing Israel can do to induce this enemy to make peace if the enemy does not choose to do so. No compromise by Israel is going to bring peace any closer because its enemy is not interested in compromise. Israel's existence is for them the problem. Palestinian leaders are not interested in a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Their idea of a Palestinian state is one that will replace the Jewish one. Muslim doctrine holds that once Muslims have ruled a country it belongs to them forever. If they lose it, it remains occupied territory to be reclaimed. When the Palestinians talk about the "occupation" they mean Israel itself. They take in these notions with their mothers' milk. This is why even secular Arab leaders have no trouble allying themselves with religious clerics and melding their political dreams with those of a restored caliphate that would cover the entire Arab nation and then the world.
A key element in the Palestinian denial of Jewish claims to Israel focuses on Jerusalem itself, and especially on the Temple Mount. Both sermons in mosques and television broadcasts repeat the charges that the Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem, that the Jews who inhabited ancient Israel were not Jews, and that the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans did not exist. The Jewish claim to the Temple Mount as a holy site is dismissed as pure fabrication. Significantly, the name of the current round of Palestinian terror unleashed in 2000 is the 'Al-Aksa Intifada, just as the Fatah terrorist brigades go by the name of 'Al-Aksa Martyrs. Yaser Arafat used to revel in delirious tirades to his Palestinian audience that they were marching to Jerusalem by the millions, a phrase he would incant over and over as he posed as protector of Muslim holy sites. The liberation of Jerusalem goes hand in hand with the vilification of Jews as interlopers, foreigners, and vagabonds who have to be expelled. This goal weds Palestinian and Arab nationalism to Muslim eschatology, uniting the vast Arab nation and the wider Muslim world in a state of permanent war against Israel.
Israel responds by banning Jews from the Temple Mount on Tisha Be'Av, the day Jews mourn the destruction of their Second Temple in 70 C.E., the one that supposedly never existed, out of fear of the violence that might erupt. And long before the Oslo Accords, Israel had given the Muslim religious authority, the Waqf, control over the Temple Mount, allowing Jordan a role in its supervision; the same Jordan that systematically desecrated Jewish holy sites when it controlled the area before 1967.
The first step in Israel's new approach to her Arab enemies must be the belated recognition that she faces an enemy engaged in an ongoing war and that appeasement leads to increased violence. The best tactic to use in signaling this recognition must involve some action since the enemy sees the world quite concretely. The most logical place to start would be with the 'Al-Aksa mosque. That mosque, built as it is atop Judaism's most sacred shrine, is the embodiment of the Arab project to annihilate the Jews. It stands as the symbol par excellence of the Arabs' genocidal intent against the Jews, used to negate the very existence of the Jewish people now and historically. By blowing up the 'Al-Aksa mosque and then without hesitation rebuilding the Temple, Israel reasserts its right to exist in the only language understood by those poised to destroy it. It sends this message: We are now finally taking everything you do and say literally. You rocket our cities, murder our children and openly long for our destruction chanting "death to the Jews". We hear you! We recognize you as the totalitarian enemy you are and so we must wage war against you to survive. Indeed, in the face of such aggression we have but one response: Your unconditional surrender.
There are, of course, a number of corollaries to such a change of policy, all of which are unpalatable to democracies, but unfortunately necessary for their survival. One is that Israel will no longer tolerate any attacks on its population or its territory. They will be met with overwhelming force and lead, ultimately, to the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In the course of the military operations such a policy would entail, Israel can make no distinction between civilian and military combatants on the Palestinian side, since the Palestinians themselves make no such distinctions. Israel will not apologize for any consequences of its military operations, nor will it suspend them because of so-called innocent civilian casualties. It will regret all deaths that will inevitably ensue, both among Israelis and among Palestinians, because such is the Jewish tradition and the response of a democratic mindset to which the Jewish tradition has contributed.
Even at the Red Sea, Jehovah is reputed to have rebuked his angels for celebrating when the Egyptians were drowning as the parted waters returned. The Arabs have never taken seriously former Prime Minister Golda Meir's quip about the one thing Israelis will not forgive the Arabs: namely, that in order to defend their homeland Israelis have had to oblige their children to kill the Arabs' children. Like the Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, the Arabs mistake such regret for weakness. It is high time they understood otherwise.
It is also high time the Israelis understood otherwise. It is time the Israelis understood that they should take their own laments at Palestinian intransigence, duplicity, and genocidal incitement seriously. It is also time the Israelis understood just what the exercise of sovereignty entails. They are no longer strangers in a strange land, but like the Jews of old, they have returned home to a land that is indissolubly linked with their existence. As the sovereign power in their own land they have a duty to protect and safeguard it and the persons who reside within its borders. If their neighbors seek to destroy them, they are duty bound to defend themselves as the U.S. would be if Canada started rocketing the populations of Vermont and Michigan.
War is not pleasant but the alternative is suicide. It's that simple. The Arabs have literally been allowed to get away with murder. No longer. This is what "never again" means: Jews having and using the means to defend themselves, and by themselves if it comes to that. Blowing up the 'Al-Aksa mosque would be a massively powerful first blow to the enemy without loss of life. No less of a gesture would serve notice to the Arabs that they ought to sue for peace or suffer the consequences, and that the consequences will be disastrous. It would also serve notice to the Jews that they are no longer court Jews, that Zionism is a project that remains to be completed, and that failure to do so will entail the disappearance of the Jewish people Zionism was supposed to prevent.
Dr. Stephen Shecter is Professor of Sociology at Université du Québec à Montréal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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