James McDonald, the first US ambassador to Israel, once remarked on the tendency of Israeli policymakers to factor a certain percentage of miracles into their planning.
That same tendency has of late overtaken Israelis across the political spectrum.
We are reeling from the daily spate of suicide bombers and a series of incidents in which the Palestinians have bested the IDF. Confronted by the pervasive, lethal hatred of the Palestinian population - a hatred carefully nurtured during the years of Oslo - we see no way out of another 50 years of war and terrorism.
The old proclamations of Israel's might and ability to defend its citizens from any and all threats ring absolutely hollow today. It is an act of black humor to replay Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's campaign slogan: "I know how to deal with terror."
In desperation, Israelis are grasping at any and every straw. On the same day, in the same poll, a majority of the public is capable of declaring its support for a return to the 1967 borders, if peace will be achieved, and for the transfer of all Palestinians across the Jordan River. (At least that was the situation until the carnage of Pessah week, which has created, at least for the moment, a consensus behind the need for some decisive military action.)
I recently listened to two of the most intelligent people I know debate the unilateral withdrawal and transfer options. Both suggestions depend on miracles not much smaller than those which God did for our ancestors in Egypt.
The return to the 1967 borders would of necessity precede peace, and it would be irreversible no matter what followed. Remember when prime minister Ehud Barak assured us that if Hizbullah struck after our retreat from Lebanon, "we will be justified in firing back - not just at the border areas, but deep within Lebanon. From the point of the view of the world, we will be the element attacked."
Well, events have not quite worked out as our former leader promised. When Hizbullah operatives picked off six Israeli motorists recently, Israel did not respond. That failure is a harbinger of the future, for a simple reason: The world will never recognize any form of terrorism against Israel as a causus belli. Each incident will be attributed to Hamas or Hizbullah, and Israel will be told that Lebanon or Palestine, as the case may be, cannot be held responsible for rogue groups.
Palestinian demands do not end at the 1967 borders. Arafat has repeatedly reaffirmed his strategy of conquest in stages, and as Camp David made clear, he has never prepared his people to live in peace with Israel, within any borders.
Another generation of Palestinians has been indoctrinated in the belief that all of Israel is theirs, and that nothing could be more glorious than to die reclaiming it.
The past 19 months of war have only intensified Palestinian hatred for the Jewish State, and upped the stakes for them.
The "Four Mothers" who promised quiet on the northern border if only Israel fled from Lebanon have now been thoroughly exposed. And if the claim that Hizbullah would become a pussycat when it had "no more reason to fight" was implausible, it is doubly so with respect to the Palestinians, who have never renounced their claim to Israel from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
The Karine A affair and the ongoing arms smuggling into the Palestinian Authority reveal that the promise of a demilitarized Palestinian state would not be worth the paper it was written on. Perhaps in recognition of that fact, Ha'aretz's Amos Schocken recently advocated placing no restrictions on the Palestinian state's right to arm itself.
If those advocating unilateral withdrawal have their way, then the only possible outcome is full-scale war, with Israel fighting from what Abba Eban called its pre-1967 "Auschwitz borders," against well-armed and determined foes, including most of the Arab world.
The more realistic among those advocating withdrawal to the 1967 borders acknowledge this. They prefer, however, a war for Israel's very existence, in which everyone will fight, to a "war of occupation," in which, they argue, large numbers of soldiers would not show up.
Here we have rope-a-dope with a vengeance. Israel will make itself as weak and vulnerable as possible in order to fight with her back to the wall.
THOSE ADVOCATING transfer - the other popular nostrum - have to reckon with the fact that Israel does not manufacture F-15s or most of the other weapons that compensate for our vast numerical and geographical inferiority. Any attempt at transfer would place Israel in the same position, in world public opinion, as the Serbians in Croatia and would surely result in a complete American arms embargo.
Transfer advocates respond: we will hint to America that if deprived of the means of defending ourselves, we will have no choice but to do open-air testing of our nuclear weapons. How many times, do they imagine, we will be able to rattle our nukes credibly? Do we really want to spend the next 50 years with Israel playing the role of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, threatening to blow up the world?
In short, the unilateral withdrawal and transfer options share in common a reliance on miracles.
As one who believes in miracles, I nevertheless have two objections. First, our sages warn us against such reliance. Second, if we are already depending on miracles, doesn't it make more sense to openly proclaim our belief in the Author of those miracles, rather than to dress our dependence up in the guise of realpolitik?
In that light, I humbly offer my own more realistic plan (a plan which at least avoids any downside risks, since it requires Israel to do nothing that would weaken its security posture). Let the Jewish people observe two Sabbaths in a row - the Talmud's recipe for bringing the final Redemption.
The Hazon Ish once said that God's salvation only comes when it has become clear to all that there is no natural solution.
Two days ago, we commemorated our ancestors' deliverance from precisely such a situation, trapped between the Egyptian chariots and the sea. If we acknowledge once again that we have no natural solution, then perhaps this Nissan will still live up to its name as the month of redemption.