A Short History of an Interminable Conflict

In 1948 the state was declared as the British colonialists finally left, and the ensuing war was called the “War of Independence.” Most wars of independence are fought directly against the former colonial power, but ours was a proxy war. The British encouraged the Arabs to attack and helped them as much as they could without actually intervening. The Arabs did the dirty work and paid a high price, particularly the Palestinian Arabs. The war was bloody; many unprepared Holocaust survivors were given weapons and thrown into the front lines. We had no choice. 6,373 of our soldiers were killed between November 1947 and July 1949, almost 1% of the Jewish population at that time.

This was the beginning of our still-running war of independence. It has been going on for 72 years, hot and warm, but never cold. Our immediate opponents have usually been the Palestinian Arabs and our Arab neighbor states, but their support has variously come from Britain, the Soviet Union, the entire Muslim world (via the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), the Gulf states, the European Union, and lately Iran.

After the cease fire of 1949, our enemies fell back on terrorism. In 1952 alone, there were about 3,000 “incidents of cross-border violence” against Israel. The Sinai Campaign in 1956 (Mivtza Kadesh) was initially planned as a raid to end the murderous attacks by the Egyptian Fedayeen who were responsible for much of the inter-war terrorism, before the British and French came up with their plan to exploit it to take the Suez Canal. Israel seized the entire Sinai Peninsula. Some 231 soldiers did not come home from that operation – not many by normal military standards, but every one of them was someone’s son, father, or husband*. In what would become a recurring theme, the American President (Eisenhower) forced Israel to withdraw from the conquered territory in return for promises, which were not kept by a later administration.

In 1967, the Arab nations were encouraged again by the Soviets to go for the prize. We crushed their badly-led forces, and in the bargain conquered enough land to finally enable us to establish the “defensible boundaries” that the UN Security Council – the UN had not yet become one of our most implacable enemies – called for in Resolution 242. The success was so great (some called it miraculous) that it engendered feelings of invulnerability.

Israel wasn’t prepared to digest what she’d bitten off, especially in Jerusalem. Instead of humiliating the Arabs so that they would fully internalize their loss and their weakness, we chose to placate them. We were so generous that we gave them control of the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who apparently disliked religion of any sort, did not understand the importance of Jerusalem to the Zionist enterprise, did not want Israel to control what he referred to as “this Vatican,” and removed our flag from the Dome of the Rock. This decision would come back to haunt us.

Israel’s enemies did not give up. They had suffered a major setback, but they immediately began planning ways to reverse their losses. They made it clear to the world at the Khartoum conference that fall that they would not accept Israel retaining one centimeter of the land she had conquered, when they enunciated the “three no’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it…”

Shortly thereafter a war began which few outside of Israel remember: the War of Attrition with Egypt, in which Nasser tried to take back the Sinai. Some 1,424 Israeli soldiers (and an unknown number of Egyptians) were killed in border clashes between 1967 and 1970. A young Binyamin Netanyahu came back to Israel from the US to serve, and was wounded, almost drowning in the waters of the Suez canal. The PLO, having found terrorism against Israel ineffective, started to specialize in international terror, hijacking planes, taking hostages, and making demands. European governments, already tired of the idea of an independent Jewish state, now had another reason to wish it would go away.

Finally, in 1973, and again with Soviet encouragement and supplies, Egypt and Syria were ready for another go. This time, due to incompetence in Israel’s intelligence services, they were able to surprise us and it was only with the loss of 2,688 soldiers that Israel was able to repel the invasion. Once the tide turned, however, our forces were on their way to Cairo and Damascus. But by the intervention of Henry Kissinger, Israel was prevented from destroying the surrounded Egyptian Third Army, and Egypt exited the war without significant loss of face. Indeed, to this day they present the “October War” as an Arab victory! And perhaps, thanks to Kissinger, it was.

At this point, our enemies’ strategy shifted from direct military confrontation to a focus on the Palestinian issue. The Khartoum resolution, in addition to the “no’s,” also contained the demand for “insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” Following the instructions of their Soviet patrons, the Palestinian Arabs were presented as a colonized indigenous people, yet another group of “natives” fighting to throw off the colonial yoke. Terrorist gangster Yasser Arafat was lionized at the UN like another Mahatma Gandhi. The process of “internationalizing the struggle” began; its high points were the “Zionism is racism” resolution passed in 1974, and of course, later, the Durban Conference on racism in 2001, in which the supposed parallel between Israel and apartheid South Africa was popularized.

The Arab oil weapon was activated in 1973, and it provided large sums to be distributed to academic institutions in the West. Whole departments of Mideast Studies were created and staffed with anti-Israel professors. Left-leaning academia, already predisposed to accept the Soviet point of view in which Israel was a colonialist entity and a tool of western imperialism, lapped it up – both the money and the point of view. Money was even made available to influence the portrayal of Islam, and of Jews and Israel in American school textbooks. But that was only part of it. Multinational oil companies lobbied the American government to be more “even-handed” in their relations with Israel and the Arabs. They told Americans that the government’s support for Israel was the reason for the shortages and high prices they were experiencing.

The oil crisis reinforced the already accepted idea, in European foreign offices and the US State Department, that Israel’s possession of territory beyond the cease-fire lines of 1949 was “unnatural” and a cause – some went so far as to call it the main cause – of instability in the region. Efforts to overturn the outcome of the 1967 war were redoubled.

In 1977, Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem, and in 1979 the Camp David Accords were signed. Israel would withdraw from every centimeter of the Sinai, and in return there would be peace and normal relations between the countries. In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by a Muslim extremist, and in 1982 Israel withdrew from Sinai. It’s impossible to say what would have happened if Sadat had lived, but in fact the “peace” turned out to be a cold one indeed. Although there hasn’t been another war between Israel and Egypt, anti-Zionist and antisemitic incitement in Egyptian media – including official government media – has continued apace, and trade and tourism has been minimal. While Israel has made significant concessions regarding the demilitarization of Sinai – in order to allow the Egyptians to fight Salafist terrorism – Egypt’s military buildup often appears to aimed in a different direction, including armor, artillery, antiaircraft and antitank weapons, and numerous airfields, which would be more suitable for war with Israel than with suppressing irregular guerrilla fighters. One wonders.

In 1982, the PLO had established itself in southern Lebanon, which it used as a base for terrorist attacks against Israel. When it became intolerable, Israel invaded Lebanon to root out the PLO. It was a short, vicious war, and ultimately the PLO forces in Beirut were surrounded. The PLO negotiated an American escort out of the city, and about 6,500 of them were taken on US Navy ships to Tunis, where they rebuilt their headquarters. Arafat was targeted for assassination, but a desire to avoid civilian casualties prevented it. After the war, Israel retained a presence in southern Lebanon until 2000, when it withdrew as a result of continuing casualties at the hands of the newly ascendant Hezbollah. The war itself cost Israel 657 dead, while dozens more were killed in the period between 1982 and 2000.

What remains of the territories conquered in 1967 are Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. And here we come to what was probably Israel’s greatest strategic mistake in its history, the Oslo Accords.

The idea behind Oslo, at least as envisioned by Yitzhak Rabin after he was sandbagged into accepting it by the borderline-traitorous actions of Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres, and others, was not unreasonable. Israel did not want to absorb all the Arabs in the territories, and the Arabs did not want to be under Israeli control. So we would draw borders of autonomous Arab areas in Gaza and Judea/Samaria by mutual agreement with the Arabs, who would get “something less than a state” – a demilitarized entity in which they would be able to govern themselves except in areas that would impact Israel’s security. Israel would retain areas like the Jordan Valley which were essential for defense. Both sides would agree to mutual recognition and to work together for peace.

The only problem was that no Palestinian Arab leadership existed that would – or could – accept such terms. For decades, they had been promised a “return” to “Palestine,” where they would regain all the land that had fallen into the hands of the Jews (indeed, they would throw out or kill the Jews and inherit all their wealth). The very raison d’être of the PLO was the destruction of Israel by violent “resistance,” and the conquest of “all of Palestine from the river to the sea.” In 1974, the PLO had approved its “phased plan” to use any territory it could obtain in the land of Israel as base for terrorism. The idea that the PLO, and its treacherous and murderous leader, Arafat, would accept such an agreement in good faith was absurd.

And in fact, Arafat broke every commitment that he made in the Accords. The PLO did not recognize Israel, it did not renounce terrorism, and it did not stop incitement. On the very first day of the agreement, Arafat smuggled terrorist operatives that he had agreed would not be allowed into the country in the back seat of his car. He made speeches in Arabic that explained his signing the agreements in terms of the phased plan to “liberate all of Palestine,” and he compared the Oslo Accords to the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, when Mohammad broke a treaty and betrayed his partners. All anyone had to do to know that he wasn’t interested in peace was to listen.

Israeli officials were familiar with the career of Arafat, his history of lying, killing, betrayal, and corruption. And yet they believed that this time would be different. Even after he made his intentions clear to his followers in Arabic, they did not lose faith in him. And even after the years of terrorism and incitement that followed, they did not tear up the treaty. As a result, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza have become in effect enemy states inside the Land of Israel, from which have come countless acts of terrorism that have claimed the lives of more than a thousand Israeli Jews.

In 2006, Hezbollah had built up its forces in southern Lebanon where Israel had maintained control between 1982 and 2000. After a border incident in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed, rocket attacks caused hundreds of thousands of residents of the Galilee to flee, and more to live in bomb shelters for almost a month. The Second Lebanon War lasted for 34 days, cost 117 soldiers and 43 civilians, and ended with a UN-imposed ceasefire. UNSC Resolution 1701, which officially ended the war, and provided for UN troops to prevent Hezbollah from rearming. Unfortunately, Hezbollah ignored the UN, which did nothing, and today Hezbollah has some 130,000 rockets aimed at Israel.

I could go on, but the pattern is clear. Since 1967, our strategic position has deteriorated, and at the same time, our image in most Western minds has changed from generally positive to that of a rogue state. Of course there are many reasons, but one stands out: the failure of Israel to destroy her enemies when she has the chance, sometimes because she is restrained by external powers, and sometimes because – out of a mistaken belief that generosity will be reciprocated, she pulls back.

Now we are in a position to take bold steps to reduce the danger from Judea and Samaria and to protect our eastern border: applying sovereignty to Israeli communities in Judea/Samaria and to the Jordan Valley. At the same time we are facing increasing threats from Iran and her proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. I believe that the next year will be decisive in either establishing Israel as the preeminent regional power, or in weakening her so that the Iranian predictions that she will not survive will come to pass.

There are important lessons to be taken from history if we want the former outcome rather than the latter: one extremely important one was enunciated by Ben-Gurion back in the 1950s, when he said that “it doesn’t matter what the goyim say, but what the Jews do,” a remark that is dearly hated by the Left that above all wants to be liked in places like Brussels and New York, but which is relevant when we consider what to do about the Jordan Valley. Another is one from Machiavelli, who said “never do an enemy a small injury,” advice that we have failed to take over and over with regard to Hamas and Hezbollah. And finally, my favorite: si vis pacem, para bellum: if you want peace, prepare for war.

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* Women served in the IDF during the 1956 war, in non-combat roles. I do not believe any were killed in that war.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Academia, Information war, Iran, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli or Jewish History, Terrorism, War | Leave a comment

The Manufactured Outrage over “Annexation”

Annexation. The word is spat out with such vitriol that one would think that what is contemplated is mass murder. From Mahmoud Abbas to Jordan’s King Abdullah, to the European Union, to Justin Trudeau, the condemnations, warnings, and threats continue to flow. And of course, Joe Biden had his say.

A few words about the reality behind the so-called “annexation.” To start with, nothing is being annexed. It is the reasonable position of the Israeli government that it is sovereign in Judea and Samaria according to international law; and you can’t annex something that already belongs to you. But wait, you say, virtually the entire world disagrees, as is pointed out ad nauseum by sources like the BBC and the NY Times. Unhappily for them and the Palestinians they empathize with, international law is neither a popularity contest nor subject to a majority vote in the UN General Assembly. It is quite possible that the Government of Israel is right and “virtually the entire world” is wrong. This isn’t an article about that, but if you are interested, here is a good one.

The government calls it “extension of Israeli civil law,” and that is because presently those parts of Judea and Samaria that are not under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are subject to a military government (this is the case whether residents are Israelis or Palestinians).

Those who are so up in arms about the proposal also like to say that “Israel plans to annex the West Bank.” The correct formulation is that Israel proposes to extend its civil law to certain parts of Judea and Samaria where Jewish communities exist, and to most of the Jordan Valley, with the exception of Jericho, with its large Arab population. It’s important to note that almost no Arabs live in the areas in question. Those that do will be offered full Israeli citizenship, just like the Arabs of Jerusalem – or Haifa, or Yafo.

The Jordan Valley has always been considered an area that must be under Israeli control in any permanent establishment of borders, because it is essential to Israel’s defense. No “two-state solution” that did not recognize this would ever be accepted by Israel. And neither would one which included the ethnic cleansing of Jews and the destruction of their communities in Judea and Samaria.

The furor over “annexation” is an excuse to attack Israel and the Trump plan, which is the first real breakthrough in diplomatic efforts to end the conflict since the unfortunate Oslo Accords institutionalized it.

The Palestinians have adopted a paradigm of the conflict in which Israel is entirely at fault. Justice, they say, requires that we vacate “their” land – in fact, if you asked them, they would say that this includes everything from the river to the sea; they believe they are being generous by just asking for Judea and Samaria (at least, for now). But this paradigm is wrong. In fact, we are the ones who have been excessively generous in repeatedly offering them large parts of the land, offers that were rejected because they did not provide a clear enough path to an Arab state in all of the land.

Mahmoud Abbas says that he wants a “two-state solution,” and “annexation” would make that impossible. But Abbas has always understood “two-state solution” to mean a virtually complete withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, including the expulsion of all Israelis from those areas. He also envisions the realization of a right of return (a made-up concept that doesn’t appear in international law) for the millions of descendants of the Arab refugees of 1948. He does not accept that even the portion of Israel that would remain in Jewish hands after such a “solution” would be a “Jewish state” or “the state of the Jewish people;” indeed, he has said several times that there is no Jewish people. Therefore, it isn’t inaccurate to describe Abbas’ two states as one exclusively Arab state and one multiethnic state that would soon have an Arab majority.

There is little likelihood that the Palestinians will abandon their paradigm and their concomitant demands, and none at all as long as they are led by the PLO and Hamas.

The Trump plan, which is the framework under which Israel is acting today, recognizes that the traditional two-state idea is a non-starter, which is why countless rounds of negotiation have failed. Therefore it does not require Palestinian agreement before starting the process that is intended to lead to permanent, recognized borders for Israel, and autonomy (although not full sovereign statehood) for the Palestinians. This is unacceptable to the Palestinians just because it makes it impossible for them to realize their actual goals, spoken only in Arabic, of replacing Israel with an Arab state.

The European Union and Obama Administration officials accepted the Palestinian paradigm, although – at least for public consumption – they also said that they supported Israel’s security and right to exist. Thus they constantly reiterate as a mantra “two-state solution.” This position is self-contradictory.

Joe Biden, who wants to be President of the US, also favors a “two-state solution” and opposes “annexation.” He must: to do otherwise would lose the left wing of the Democratic base, as well as put him on the same side as his opponent. I don’t know how he feels personally about there being a Jewish state, if he has ever asked himself this question, or indeed if he has any actual ideas beyond wanting to be President. But I do know that he lent himself to the Obama Administration’s attempts to pressure Israel.

Back in May of 2010, while Biden was visiting Israel – Obama himself chose to avoid Israel until his second term, traveling to some 33 countries before then – the EU-funded Peace Now organization in Israel reported to the Americans that a regional committee had taken a preliminary step to add 200 more housing units to an existing plan to build apartments for religious Jews in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood in Jerusalem that was outside of the Green Line. A total of about 1600 apartments were included in the plan.

Biden harshly condemned the announcement, but insisted that “There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security.” However, after he returned to the US, the administration ramped up attacks on Israel, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Netanyahu in angry 43-minute phone call in which she accused Israel of “insulting” the US and Biden personally, blamed Israel for preventing negotiations with the Palestinians, and demanded additional concessions to the Palestinians, including the release of terrorist prisoners, to “build confidence.”

Like today’s row over “annexation,” there was a manufactured outrage, an international pileup on Israel for its stubborn intransigence. The difference is that today the American President supports us, rather than leading the charge against us. Today it’s easy to forget 2010, when it seemed that the pressure from Washington for dangerous, even suicidal, concessions would never let up.

For what it’s worth, no new housing was built in Ramat Shlomo until 2018, when some 500 apartments were built. The promise of 1600 new units that so angered Biden and Obama in 2010 is only now being kept.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments

Two Books

On rare occasions I read something and experience the writer opening doors to understanding phenomena that hitherto mystified me. Or perhaps a book makes me see that my present ideas about something are entirely wrong. Or it gives words and concepts to something that I had begun to grasp myself, but didn’t fully understand.

Here are two of them, and some of what I learned from them:

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), by Thomas S. Kuhn.

Kuhn argued against the orthodox view that scientific progress was characterized by a steady accumulation of observational data from which theories were developed and then confirmed or falsified. Rather, he saw it as a series of revolutions in which existing paradigms were suddenly overthrown by entirely new ones. In between revolutions, scientists worked to explain observations in terms of the accepted paradigm; but at some point, the pressure from data that until then had been difficult to explain in the old paradigm – and were often pushed aside as “anomalous” – inspired a breakthrough into totally different picture of reality. One of Kuhn’s primary examples was the change from the earth-centered astronomy of the Ptolemaic system to the heliocentric one of Copernicus.

Kuhn’s discussion of the power of the paradigm – which includes not only the main theory but also ideas about what kind of data are important, appropriate directions for and methods of investigation, mathematical tools, and even the sociological consideration of which scientists’ work is taken seriously – is important. The existing paradigm is difficult to challenge. It requires both a mental wrench and a change in practical arrangements. There is an inertia that opposes change, a not inconsiderable part of which is the “old boy network” who are deeply invested in keeping the older paradigm that they perhaps had a part in developing. Sometimes a generation has to die off before a revolutionary change can take place.

Kuhn’s analysis can be applied outside of science. In almost every area of endeavor there is an accepted paradigm. Social and political ideas also change in jumps, as new paradigms drive out old ones. But there is an important difference. In science there is always a grounding in observation, and the overall direction of change is positive, toward a better understanding of the phenomena being studied. Political paradigms, on the other hand, can just as easily move in a negative direction, away from maximizing peace, human freedom, and happiness, and toward war and tyranny.

Which brings me to the next book I want to mention,

Yoram Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism (2018).

Hazony explains that the most basic form of political organization, which he calls the order of tribes and clans, consists of individuals giving their loyalty to their families and to their extended families, their clans. Without further political organization, violence is always close by, as clans struggle with their neighbors. There can be cooperation, especially when a group of clans that share a language, religion, or ancestry are threatened by outsiders, but because of the small size of the groups, they have little military strength and are easily overrun.

Most clan members know one another, and the share feelings of mutual loyalty, from which cohesion develops. A stronger society can be created when the clans, on the basis of their shared culture and need for protection, join together into a larger units, tribes which control large areas. The individual clan leaders must give up some of their authority, but the shared culture makes this palatable. Individuals are loyal to their tribes as an extension of their loyalty to their clans and their trust in their clan leaders.

Finally, several tribes can join to form a nation, a still larger unit, usually sharing a religion and a language, held together by the mutual agreement of its leaders. A nation has still more military and economic strength than isolated clans, and can push violence farther away, to the periphery of the area claimed by the nation. People offer their loyalty to the nation because of their shared interests with other citizens, but also because of their shared ideals, goals, culture, religion, and so on.

It’s important to understand, says Hazony, that although cohesion in political groupings promotes security and helps individuals advance their own material interests and those of their families, their direct motivation comes from their feelings of obligation to their clans, tribes, and nations, that are modeled on the family. There are also connections stemming from religion, tradition, historical memory, and so forth.

This he believes is an empirical account of the development of political organization, opposed to the rationalist theories derived from the work of John Locke, in which the only motivation recognized is the desire for security and advancement, and in which the whole corpus of familial, religious, and cultural obligations – which in Hazony’s view are the primary motivations for political cohesion – is ignored. Hazony sees this as a serious mistake.

Nations can be focused inwardly, much like the biblical Israelites (at least, once they had conquered Canaan), wishing only to rule their own tribes. The moral basis of such a nation-state is loyalty to one’s own, on the analogy of loyalty to one’s family. This is the model of the nation-state in the Jewish bible.

On the other hand, there can be an imperial state. An imperial state is based on an ideology, an a priori idea about what is best for all humans everywhere. By subduing the anarchic tribes outside of it and forcing its ideology upon them, an imperial state hopes to bring about peace and stability for all. Some imperial ideologies include Communism, Islamism, Nazism, and Liberalism.

By “Liberalism,” Hazony means the theory derived from Locke that all people are essentially “free and equal human beings, pursuing life and property, and living under obligations that arise from their own free consent.” People therefore have the same human rights and must be treated equally irrespective of their family/clan/tribe/nation connections, their religion, gender, ethnicity, or any of the socio-cultural characteristics that distinguish people. For liberals, a person’s primary loyalty is owed to all humankind, rather than his clan, tribe, or nation. Therefore, it is seen as the job of the liberal imperial state to impose this ideology on others (although its proponents see it as a self-evident principle rather than an ideology).

There is no doubt that morally this ideology is superior to some others, for example, Nazism. But it is still a justification for the imposition of control by one nation over others. When George H. W. Bush spoke about a “New World Order” after the Gulf War, he meant that the “sole remaining superpower” had the right to impose its liberal ideology over nations that refused to behave in keeping with it. And this was attempted in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya (with limited success).

Hazony argues that liberal imperialism has ironically become more and more illiberal in its refusal to tolerate nonconformity in speech, religion, and ideology; and more totalitarian in its enforcement of its unitary standard of thought. This is expressed toward individuals within the state and also in the state’s international relations. In particular, liberals dislike nationalism, the idea that one’s primary loyalty should be to a nation, rather than to all humankind.

Since liberalism believes that everyone should be treated equally in every respect, it is hostile to borders and national sovereignty. The European Union is an example of a liberal imperialist state, and its hostility to Israel, a nation-state created in the name of Jewish nationalism (Zionism), is partially explained as a reaction to Israel’s stubborn refusal to give up its “discriminatory” privileging of Jewish immigration, symbolism, and culture.

In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War and made the idea of peaceful coexistence between sovereign states, with its corollary principle of non-intervention in another state’s internal affairs, the dominant paradigm of international affairs. But after the cataclysmic world wars of the 20th century, the paradigm changed. The wars were blamed on excesses of nationalism, and it was decided that the freedom of sovereign states had to be limited.

But as Hazony notes, Germany, Russia, Japan, Ottoman Turkey, Britain, Austria-Hungary, and other states involved in the major wars were or aspired to be imperial states, and the conflict arose primarily because of their external designs, not because of exaggerated nationalism. The solution offered, the development of overarching international organizations like the UN and the EU, was an attempt to create imperial super-states in order to limit the sovereignty of nations and impose liberal ideology on the entire world.

The fact that the liberal paradigm has taken hold so strongly is one of the reasons that accusations of racism – a word that seems to mean anything that opposes the liberal one-world ideology – against Israel are so popular.

Does a new paradigm have a chance of replacing this one?

Perhaps. The UN has proven itself worthless for promoting peace, and in some areas – the Israeli-Arab conflict, for example – arguably works against peace. Its resolutions are often ignored, and it has become more and more irrelevant, despite being exceedingly expensive. The EU has a great deal of power over its member nations, but some of them have become restive over what they see as arrogation of their national sovereignty. The recent exit of the UK is a very significant event which, I hope, signals the beginning of its decline.

But as Kuhn explained, once a paradigm is in place, it isn’t easy to dislodge. Perhaps the work of Yoram Hazony will help do so, just as the observations of Galileo helped kick off the Copernican revolution.

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Our Soft Enemy

Israel has many enemies. There are our “hard enemies” that fight us with weapons and explosives. And then there is the European Union.

The European Union is an organization of monumental size and bureaucratic complexity. It has been compared to the Holy Roman Empire, but I’m sure it has more functionaries today than that sprawling affair ever did. There is a European Council, a Council of the European Union (they are not the same), a European Commission, and a European Parliament with no less than 705 seats. There are courts and a central bank. There are agencies beyond counting. The EU’s draft budget for 2020 includes expenditures of more than 168 billion Euros (US $182 billion or 641 billion Israeli shekels). This is more than 1% of the total GDP of its 27 member states (not including the UK, which had the good sense to leave the Union on January 1 of this year).

Although the individual member nations influence the EU’s decisions via the councils and the parliament, there is no question that they have traded a great deal of sovereignty and freedom of action for the financial benefits of membership. Sometimes, as a majority of the citizens of the UK decided, this does not serve their national interests. It’s felt by many that the EU’s bureaucracy is too far removed from the citizens of the various member countries. The EU’s councils are made up of heads of state and ministers, and the massive Parliament is elected according to a system of proportional representation like Israel’s, in which the voters choose between parties which in turn pick the candidates. Overall turnout in these elections is about 51% of eligible voters.

As a citizen of Israel, my concern is that the EU also has a foreign policy, a very active one, and I don’t like it at all. The policy is mostly determined by voting in the Council of the EU, which is composed of ministers from the member states. It is implemented by the EU Commission, led by the Vice-President of the Commission, who sports the impressive title of “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.” This position is held today by Josep Borrell, the Spanish representative on the Commission, who recently succeeded Federica Mogherini.

To give you an idea of what we can expect from him, Borrell recently announced that the “most important item” on the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council agenda for its meeting this Friday will be “Israeli annexation plans.” In a previous statement, he hinted at the possibility of EU sanctions on Israel if it carried out its plan.

In addition to the fact that it’s none of their damn business, it can hardly be the most important foreign thing that is going on – or that might at some point in the future go on – in the world. So it appears that Borrell is following in the footsteps of Mogherini and her predecessor, Catherine Ashton. Ashton once compared the terrorist murder of four Jews, including three children aged three to eight, at the Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France, with “what’s happening in Gaza” (what was happening at the time was a war provoked by Hamas rocket fire). Mogherini was usually more classy, but her positions on such subjects as “settlements,” Jerusalem, labeling of products from Judea/Samaria, Gaza, the Iran deal, and others have been consistently anti-Israel.

The EU’s grandparent, the European Coal and Steel Community, was created after WWII as a deliberate first step toward unifying Europe economically and politically, beginning with those parts of the economy that were felt to be the most important to making war, and therefore over which the founders wanted to establish international control. This organization, initially including only six countries, grew into the European Economic Community, and ultimately the EU, by way of various treaties and agreements. It is important to understand that the union was intended to ultimately wipe out not just the economic barriers to trade between Europeans, but also the social and ideological walls that made possible the nationalistic feelings which they believed were responsible for the world wars of the 20th century.

Yoram Hazony, in his book “The Virtue of Nationalism” argues that the project was misconceived. He believes that the wars were not caused by extreme nationalism among nation-states, but rather by the clash of expansionist empires and states with imperial ambitions. The problem, in other words, was not that nationalist nation-states fiercely favor and guard their particular cultures, languages, religions, and ideologies; but rather that empires and would-be empires seek to assert their dominance over their neighbors, because they wish to universalize their ideologies.

A nation-state, says Hazony, offers a much better chance for the various tribes and clans and peoples that are the basic units of human society to create and enjoy the kind of political structure that most suits their culture. An empire, on the other hand, at most empowers only its dominant culture – there is one in all empires – and subjugates others in its zeal to universalize its “perfect” ideology.

The EU has no military forces of its own, and most of its members are relatively weak, preferring to nestle under the nuclear umbrella of the US. But the EU has a potent weapon in the form of its treasury, and it uses its money to promote its liberal, internationalist, anti-religious (except Islam, which it is too cowardly to oppose), ideology – in part to atone for the post-colonialist and post-Nazi guilt of some of its members. While decrying imperialism, it has built an empire in Europe that rivals the achievements of Rome and Byzantium; and its resources are committed to spreading its liberal ideology, defeating competitors (e.g., the new Russian Empire of Vladimir Putin), and crushing rebellions (e.g., Orban’s Hungary) as well as successful independent nation-states, like Israel.

Israel is a particular target of the EU Euro-weapon for several reasons: first, it is proudly nationalist; second – thanks to the ideological cover provided by the KGB’s propaganda offensive of the 1960s and 70s – it can be falsely portrayed as colonialist and racist, thus providing the Europeans a way to assuage their guilt for their own colonialist and racist past; third, its local enemies are Muslims, providing a way for Europe to pay jizya to its own uneasy Muslim minorities; and finally, it’s a Jewish state – and here no further explanation is necessary.

The EU is the largest funder of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency that exists to maintain a constantly growing population of stateless people, which it educates – some 98% of UNRWA staff are Palestinians, many of them members of Hamas, Fatah, or other terrorist organizations – to hate Jews and Israelis, and to blame them for the ill-treatment of the original refugees and their descendants by the Arab nations in which most of them live. UNRWA is set up to reward large families and to prevent their becoming independent or being resettled as normal citizens anywhere – except in the context of a “return” to Israel which would displace her Jewish population. The EU gave UNRWA 127 million Euros in 2018.

But that is only the beginning. The EU provides direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, for salaries and pensions, as well as for hospitals, security forces, and other purposes. Much of the “salaries and pensions” are paid to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for terrorism-related offenses, especially murder – the so-called “pay to slay” program. This aid amounted to 154 million Euros in 2019.

The EU also distributes 5 million Euros per year to “civil society organizations promoting links across the political divide” in Israel and the PA. This includes organizations spreading hate and incitement to terrorism under the cover of “arts and culture,” as well as Israeli and international NGOs that promote BDS, engage in “lawfare” against Israel, try to sway Israeli elections, oppose “normalization’ (i.e., treating Israelis like human beings), and provide a constant flow of propaganda accusing Israel of being an apartheid state, the IDF of deliberately targeting children, and so on. And much of the money that flows from the EU ends up in the pockets of terrorist organizations.

Finally, there are numerous “development projects” by which the EU constructs buildings for the Palestinians in Area C of Judea/Samaria, the part which is supposed to be under Israeli security and civil control, in violation of Israeli zoning and building regulations. Few Palestinians live in these areas, but this creates facts on the ground intended to prevent strategic areas from becoming part of Israel in any future agreement.

Some of the money granted to NGOs and used for development projects is done in cooperation with the governments of various countries, like Germany, France, or the UK. Thus the amounts appearing in the EU budget may be much smaller than the actual amounts involved.

All in all, the “soft war” against Israel is one of the EU’s largest and most ambitious projects.

So who is Israel’s greatest enemy? Is it Hamas and Hezbollah? Or is it Europe, a much older enemy of the Jewish people?

Posted in Diplomatic warfare, Europe and Israel | 2 Comments

Annex it Already

Discussions of “annexation” by Israel’s new unity government have triggered shrieks of outrage from the usual suspects, from Mahmoud Abbas to the EU to Joe Biden. The Arab League announced that it would be a “new war crime…against the Palestinian people.” The Israeli Left is up in arms. Even the American Union for Reform Judaism got into the act.

They should calm down.

What is proposed isn’t new, it directly affects virtually no Palestinian Arabs, it is not “illegal under international law,” and it isn’t a “war crime.” As part of the Trump plan, it is perhaps the most practical path to ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs that doesn’t involve war.

What is to be annexed is only part of Judea and Samaria: the Jordan Valley, with the exception of the city of Jericho, and Israeli communities in the rest of Judea and Samaria. There are almost no Palestinians living in these places. The map will be complicated, and in order to provide contiguity for Jewish and Palestinian areas, will include bypass roads and tunnels. The Palestinian area will get as much autonomy as possible, consistent with Israel’s security: it will be something less than a completely sovereign state, since it will be demilitarized and its borders will be controlled by Israel.

It’s interesting to note that this is not a new idea, or a uniquely right-wing one. Indeed, its biggest proponents have been left-wingers.

The plan is an implementation of the idea originally expressed in the famous UN Security Council resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from parts of its conquered lands, and to establish “secure and recognized boundaries” for all states in the region.  Shortly after the war in 1967, Yigal Allon, a former general and a Labor Party minister in the Israeli government, proposed a map similar to Trump’s which envisioned a “two state solution” with Palestinian control of the Arab areas. Later, he modified it for Jordanian control, but the map was similar. Of course both Jordan and the PLO rejected the idea. But for years, the “Allon plan” was the paradigm accepted by the Israeli Left.

After the signing of the Oslo Accords, and almost exactly a month before he was murdered, another former Palmach commander and left-wing hero, Yitzhak Rabin made a speech to the Knesset in which he described the Interim Agreement that had been signed with the PLO, and his understanding of what the final status would be like. Among other things, he said,

We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines. [My emphasis]

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

  1. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
  2. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term. [My emphasis]
  3. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line” prior to the Six-Day War.
  4. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

This too is very close to the Trump plan. It is ironic that some of the same people that call Netanyahu a hard-liner or even a criminal for his stated intention to annex the Jordan Valley are those that celebrate Rabin as a progressive peacemaker.

Until 2000, this was more or less the Israeli understanding of “two-state solution.” The PLO, naturally, had a different vision. For them, it meant that Israel would remove both the IDF and civilian communities from all areas conquered in 1967 including the Jordan Valley and eastern Jerusalem (perhaps with very minor adjustments), and that Arab refugees would have a right to return to Israel or to receive compensation. They saw Oslo as a very great compromise of principle, since they believe that all of Israel should be in their hands. But as Arafat said shortly after, once this was accomplished, the rest would soon follow (see also here).

Israel, under pressure from the US and Europe, and still in the grip of the Oslo delusion that the PLO could be a partner, ignored the threats from Arafat and other PLO members as well as the murderous terrorism that ramped up during the 1990s, and made concession after concession to the PLO. In 2000, the plan as envisioned by Rabin was almost forgotten as Ehud Barak offered almost all of Judea and Samaria to Arafat – and was still turned down. Arafat’s strategy had always been to alternate diplomacy and terror, and now, after the diplomatic gains he had achieved by pocketing the Clinton-Barak proposals, he unleashed the greatest terror offensive of all, the Second Intifada.

But he went too far. The IDF crushed the revolt and the Israeli people, at long last, gave up on the Oslo process and the political parties that had been telling them that peace was just around the corner if they would just give up a little more. When the evacuation of Gaza was followed by rocket barrages, it only emphasized that a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be even more disastrous. The last gasp of the “Clinton parameters” was an abortive attempt at surrender in 2008 by Ehud Olmert, Israel’s worst PM ever. Anti-Israel President Barack Obama tried to revive the concession process, but Israel, now with Binyamin Netanyahu as PM, maintained the status quo.

With the advent of Trump, it became possible to restore considerations of Israel’s security and other interests into discussions of the future of Judea and Samaria, which had become focused entirely on Palestinian demands. Israel’s experience with Gaza has shown that we cannot afford to give up military control to a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the high ground opposite our population centers. Geographical considerations make it clear that Israel also has to occupy and fortify the western slope of Jordan Valley, in order to defend the state against conventional attack from the east. Strategic depth is required even in this day of threats from nuclear-armed missiles, because it is needed for early warning and interception systems. The Jordan Valley also must be under our control if we are to maintain the demilitarized status of the Palestinian entity.

Some on the Right argue that the Trump plan is unacceptable because it calls for a Palestinian state of some kind, and that allowing any such entity in Israel’s heartland will ultimately prove destructive. I can sympathize. But today it is not necessary to accept and implement the Trump plan as a whole. It is still absolutely clear that whether or not there will be a Palestinian entity and what its degree of sovereignty will be, the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria are essential to our defense. It is still certain that we can never again allow the expulsion of Jews from their homes as happened in Gaza. And while we have a window of opportunity to move today to establish facts on the ground, we can’t be sure that it will persist beyond the next American election.

Therefore there is only one course of action that makes sense today, and that is to move forward with the annexation. Whatever happens, our security demands it.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism, US-Israel Relations | 3 Comments