It has been this way since our ancestors started walking upright, maybe before that. Two tribes struggle over a piece of land. One will prevail and the other will be defeated. One will remain in the land and the other will not. The loser will be destroyed, expelled, dispersed, or absorbed. Usually, the loser of such a conflict disappears from history.
The Jewish people are connected to Eretz Yisrael by religion, language, culture and history. They were expelled from their historic homeland and were dispersed throughout the world for thousands of years, before they finally succeeded to return and reestablish sovereignty here. I know of no other people with a comparable story. Indeed, the Jews are the paradigm case for the concept of a people. And our struggle to keep the land that we regained at great cost is classic.
Arguments about international law and postcolonialism vs. Zionism are a waste of time. The justice of our case is entirely irrelevant to the likely outcome of the struggle. It will be determined by which tribe is successful at occupying the land, establishing control over it, and assuring its demographic dominance, just as humans and other primates have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years.
This is what our enemies, the Palestinian Arabs, understand – and what many, perhaps most, Israeli Jews do not. How else can you understand the weakness and vacillation that characterize the policies of the State of Israel?
We have amply demonstrated that we Jews are capable of fighting, fiercely and effectively, to protect our land when we have been attacked. What we can’t seem to do is to see clearly what’s necessary to keep the state that we won at such great cost. We have consistently failed to articulate long-term national goals and make policy to reach them.
Our greatest mistakes have come from our failure to perceive the nature of the struggle that we find ourselves in. Three examples speak for themselves: the decision in 1967 to give control of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf; the Oslo Accords of 1993; and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In each case, Israel deliberately surrendered sovereignty over part of Eretz Yisrael, giving up our honor in addition to our land, and weakening our strategic deterrence. Whatever was expected in return by our foolish leaders was not forthcoming, as the Arabs took what we handed them and only pressed harder.
These mistakes and countless other less serious ones have encouraged the Arabs to believe that their strategy of combining violence short of war with diplomatic and cognitive warfare is succeeding. Our reactions have been sporadic, weak, and partial. The Arabs are convinced that time is on their side and they will ultimately prevail. We, on the other hand, are conflicted and unsure of how to proceed. They sense our lack of direction and reluctance to fight, and respond with more frequent and more vicious terrorism, such as we’ve seen in recent days.
Violence is now decentralized, and traditional command and control has been replaced by “organic” terrorism, in which civilian youth are the soldiers and social media the motivator. This is a relatively novel development in warfare, and it is very difficult to counter.
At one time, many of us believed that our conflict had a compromise solution, that Jews and Arabs could share the land. We thought that if the economic condition of the Arabs could be improved, they would come to accept Jewish sovereignty between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and give up their historical grievance against the Jews. We thought we could cooperate, at least to some extent, with “moderate” elements among them. But we underestimated their tenacity and the seriousness of their ideological and religious commitment.
Perhaps we also failed to understand that Jews and Arabs are still primates (at least in respect to territorial behavior), and that victory over our enemies is a necessary condition for our survival. I call this fact the survival imperative. In particular, it calls on us to strengthen our sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael, to fully occupy it, and to ensure perpetual demographic superiority for our people in it; because only thus will we survive as a people.
While this reality might be disappointing, inasmuch as it precludes a quick, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it also is liberating: it provides clear national goals and suggests policies for reaching them.
For example, rather than dismantling Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, we should be strengthening them and building new ones. Sovereignty over all of the land is paramount. Efforts should be made to settle Jews everywhere in the land. Policies should be designed to encourage Jews to move to Israel and stay there, while Arabs, particularly those in the territories, should be encouraged to emigrate. Policies designed to improve the lot of Arabs should be replaced by their opposite. Cooperation and support for the Palestinian Authority should be stopped. Enemies should be treated as enemies.
There will be objections that this is a prescription for war, that there will be international condemnation, that the policies I advocate are racist and undemocratic, and that the Biden Administration will be displeased. But (if you hadn’t noticed), we are getting war and international condemnation in any case, and hypocritical moralism from those without a knife at their throat is best ignored. Finally, part of the program must be to end our dangerous dependency on the US, whose military aid is intended to control Israel and reduce her to a satellite nation.
The survival of the world’s only Jewish state, and probably also of the Jewish people, depends on our clear perception of the world in which we live, and of the unchanging reality of human behavior. We have the resources and the strength to prevail; the only question is whether we have the vision and the will.
A version of this article appeared at https://www.jns.org/opinion/israel-and-the-survival-imperative/