As Ramadan begins and Passover draws near, Israel faces pressure on almost all fronts. Last night in a firefight near the Palestinian Authority city of Tulkarem, three terrorists associated with Fatah were killed. Four members of Israel’s Yamam counterterrorism unit were wounded, one of them seriously. The terrorists were on their way to carry out an attack, possibly against Israeli military installations or civilian homes. Army radio reported that one of them left a “will” in which he claimed a connection to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization in order to provoke Israel to retaliate against that group, which would in turn respond by launching rockets from Gaza. Security forces say they have foiled several other planned attacks by Arab citizens of Israel and residents of the Palestinian authority areas.
Following three murderous attacks in the space of one week, there have been violent demonstrations in Jerusalem and in various locations in Judea and Samaria. The terrorists are trying to escalate the situation as much as possible, while Israel wants to avoid a general conflagration. Many disturbances and non-fatal attacks on soldiers, police, and civilians are not reported in the mainstream press even here in Israel, and information is disseminated by Telegram and WhatsApp groups.
This is in keeping with the general progression of the conflict, which I and many others see as the continuation of Israel’s War of Independence. In recent years, Israel has moved from the offensive strategy that produced the military (but not always political) successes of 1948, 1956, and 1967, to an overall defensive posture. Rocket attacks and terror tunnels from Gaza have been met with economically unsustainable missile defense systems and an astronomically expensive underground barrier. Recently new defensive laser weapons have been developed, with science fiction-like capabilities to shoot down drones, rockets, and possibly ballistic missiles.
Surrender to extortion is another kind of defensive weapon. Israel has arranged for large sums of money to be transferred to Hamas in Gaza from Qatar, and has made large “loans” to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Purportedly this is done in order to “improve the Palestinian economy,” on the grounds that “poverty breeds terrorism;” but a) this is demonstrably not true, and b) much of the money is used to produce weapons and pay terrorists, and to personally enrich the leaders of Hamas and Fatah. One wonders how either Ben Gurion or Begin would respond to this strategy.
So why do we do this? Why don’t we just crush Hamas, and expel the terrorists and their sympathizers both in the territories and among our own citizens? Why don’t we stop trying to “improve the economy” in Gaza and the PA, and do the opposite in order to encourage the populations to emigrate? Why don’t we apply the death penalty and family expulsion to terrorist murderers? Why do we cooperate with the PA, which is identical with the PLO, which in turn is dominated by the antisemitic, murderous Fatah organization? Why don’t we subsidize builders that do not use Arab labor? Why did we withdraw from Gaza? What came over us to make us sign the Oslo Accords? There are several answers to these questions:
It is easier to pay than to fight. Politicians always prefer to kick problems down the road, because by the time an issue becomes inescapable, they will have banked the rewards of “public service” and someone else will deal with it. Especially when all they have to do to postpone a crisis is to spend someone else’s money.
The West treats us like Switzerland. European and American regimes threaten and sometimes even sanction other countries for “violating human rights,” which includes any form of discrimination, the death penalty, anything that can be called “collective punishment,” and so on. But what works for countries with a strong common national identity and friendly neighbors does not necessarily work for us. Often Western countries apply a double standard and judge Israel by criteria applicable to, for example, Switzerland. And we accept this.
We ourselves believe that we are Switzerland. Some Israelis, including many of our politicians and officials of the legal system, act as though we are not really threatened by our hostile neighbors and from a minority within the country that is ideologically and religiously committed to our removal from this land. This leads to our inability to fight terrorism effectively, and produced the Oslo Accords, one of the most suicidal initiatives in history since someone pulled that wooden horse through the gates of Troy.
The first and third of these are our own fault. When the new state was declared, the goal of creating a “New Jew” free of diaspora timidity was ascendant. The New Jew, among other things, was aggressive and not afraid to fight for his or her historical homeland. The New Jew was self-sufficient and didn’t shirk from hard work or hard choices. Some things about the New Jew were less attractive, such as a lack of understanding of the importance of religion (or respect for our own). But in general the New Jew was well-suited to the struggle to re-establish a sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. New Jews like Moshe Dayan and Arik Sharon won Israel’s first few wars for us. Unfortunately, the diaspora caught up with some of our leaders, like Ehud Olmert, who once admitted that he was tired of winning wars. Did he think we would survive losing one?
We can’t face our enemies, or even our “friends” – unfortunately the quotation marks seem more appropriate every day in connection with the EU and the Biden Administration – if we don’t change our own attitude. Certainly they would treat us with more respect if we restored the offensive element to our military doctrine, instead of cowering behind higher, deeper, ever more sophisticated barriers and under iron and photonic domes.
But one thing we can learn from the double standards applied to us is that it is not all our fault. Many in the West, and among our more open antagonists in our own region, are antisemites who hate and fear us, but at the same time hold us in contempt. There is little that we can do about the hate (the fear should be encouraged), but we can gain respect by dropping the pretense that we are a kind of Switzerland. If we want to live in the Middle East, then we have to behave like a Middle Eastern nation – one that doesn’t shrink from using whatever means necessary to reach its national goals.