Unity at last
by Jonathan Rosenblum
September 13, 2000
Israeli Jews enter Sukkot this year more unified than they have been in decades. Not, unfortunately, unified by their common resolve nor even by mutual love or respect, but rather in despair and by a lack of any idea of where we go from here.
Nothing captured the national mood like a Maariv cartoon depicting a grave with a tombstone marked Joseph’s Tomb. Next to it were a series of open graves – Rachel’s Tomb, the Temple Mount. And finally, the State of Israel.
Nearly 70% of Israelis last week expressed doubts about the future existence of the state in a Yediot Aharonot poll. And that was before Joseph’s Tomb became a mosque and our prime minister reminded us of our worst days as parents: "If you don’t come here by the time I count five. . . . I’m counting – 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 ¼, 4 ½, 4 5/8, . . . , 4.89 . . . ."
Oslo ended the Right’s dream of a greater Israel; our latest war has ended the Left’s dream of a small Israel living in peace and harmony with her neighbors. So what remains?
Oslo stands revealed for what it always was: a unilateral withdrawal disguised as peace process. Unilateral withdrawal, Douglas Feith points out in the September 11 New Republic, was not without its merits, not the least of them being relieving us of the responsibility for the day-to-day lives of over a million hostile Arabs.
But when a nation unilaterally withdraws, it does not arm its former adversaries. Nor does it secure generous international support so that adversary can continue inciting in its schoolbooks and official media for the next war.
By selling Oslo as a peace process, our leaders created lethal illusions among their own people and among our sworn enemies. They placed themselves on an ever accelerating treadmill of concessions in return for yesterday’s promises. Those concessions provided the illusion of progress. Yet at the end of the day, the game had to end as Na’abil Shaath told an audience in Nablus it would four years ago: When Israel finally says it has given all that it can, we return to violence.
Since Erev Rosh Hashana, we discovered not only the absence of a Palestinian peace partner but also that Israeli Arabs have cast their lot with Palestinian national aspirations and against the state of Israel. Thousands of dunams of forest destroyed by arson in recent years, the cries of of "Death to the Jews" heard last spring at Haifa University, the repeated polls showing that our Arab citizens identify themselves as Palestinians, and the open championing by Arab MKs -- who until two weeks ago were still being courted as coalition partners -- of every demand by Arafat, did not wake us up.
Last week’s riots did. Suddenly we are asking ourselves: Can Israeli democracy survive when 20% of its citizens – who produce nearly one out of every three new babies – identify with our enemies? The reliably understated Dan Margalit writes of suspicions of a "fifth column" in our midst, and left-wing columnist Ben-Dror Yemini sounds like Rehavam Zeevi darkly warning the residents of Umm-al-Fahm of transfer.
Other illusions have been punctured beyond repair. One is the belief that the IDF can protect us from every threat. Today it is Hizbullah that conducts the daring, well-planned actions that were once the IDF’s stock-in-trade, while from the bungled Duvdevan raid to Har Dov troubling questions are raised about our own military performance.
Ever since President Clinton dispatched his spinmeister James Carville to the Middle East to elect Ehud Barak, the latter has conducted Israel’s foreign policy as if only Clinton’s approval and favorable world opinion counted. For three months, Barak boasted of how our brave gamble at Camp David swung world opinion from Arafat to us, only to discover that one five-second clip of a Palestinian boy being shot by Israeli troops could cause all that vaunted goodwill to vanish as if it never existed.
Never mind that Arafat had the motive to ignite a conflagration – renewed lustre on the Palestinian street, which smells victory, and regained world support; the will to do so – sending Palestinian children to their deaths is old hat for him; last week the PA was offering $2,000 per martyr; and the means – tens of thousands of Palestinian militia loyal to him and thoughtfully armed by us. Still the world has consigned Israel to her familiar place in modern demonology.
The scales may have dropped from our eyes, but that does not mean that solutions are at hand. After two weeks in which Israelis have been unable to move without fear through much of their country – even on the Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal road a motorist was killed by a boulder dropped on his car and sniper fire was heard in Jaffa and Jerusalem – we are bunkering down for another intifada, this time against a well-armed enemy.
On the Right, we hear grumbling about "mowing them all down," but look the grumblers straight in the eyes and they quickly admit that it is all bluster. On the Left, we hear of the necessity of pouring tens of millions of dollars into the Arab sector. Indeed no democratic state can discriminate against one sector of the population. But we are hopeless dreamers if we believe that once the genie of Palestinian nationalism is out of the bag it will be recorked for any sum.
Jews once knew the power of an idea, and if we have forgotten it, there are plenty who identify themselves as Palestinians within and without Israel, who will teach us.
Our only hope is that we have been here before, with nowhere to turn -- the sea in front of us, the Egyptians behind us. We have absolutely no one in Whom to place our hopes other than G-d. May we only be worthy of His salvation.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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