Do We Have What it Takes to Live in the Middle East?

The struggle to establish and maintain a Jewish sovereign state in Eretz Yisrael has lasted more than one hundred years. Since 1948, the existence of the state has hung in the balance several times. This is one of them.

Our endless war is primarily with the Palestinian Arabs, but other nations join in confrontation from time to time. The war is at bottom a tribal/religious war, between Muslims and Jews over this land. Despite various shifting alliances, and despite the involvement on either side of various non-Muslim powers and their maneuvering for access to the resources and strategic aspects of the Middle East, one single fact is unchanging and underlies the hostility directed at Israel: Muslims cannot tolerate a sovereign Jewish entity in Dar al Islam. It is an affront to Islam and an affront to the honor of the Muslims who have been defeated – to their minds, only temporarily – by Jews.

Although Israel has signed “peace” treaties with some of her Muslim neighbors, Islamic ideology does not admit the possibility of a permanent peace with a non-Muslim tribe. What the West thinks of as a peace treaty is at best an extended hudna, a temporary cease-fire that can be broken when the Muslim side believes that it is strong enough to win, after the model of Muhammad’s CE 628 treaty of al-Hudaybiya – which he broke with devastating effect two years later.

When Israel was attacked on 7 October, a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred was unleashed throughout the world, led everywhere by Muslims for whom the religious importance of the war in Gaza is clear. In American universities, Muslim students have been in the forefront of the demonstrations; and in Europe, Muslims are the main perpetrators of anti-Jewish violence.

There have been “secular” or “Marxist” Arab organizations among our Arab enemies, but they are a minority; and their energy comes ultimately from the religious imperative in Arab culture, and their shock troops from the ranks of the pious.

Religious/tribal wars end when one side is defeated or pause when both sides are exhausted. A defeated tribe is expelled, killed, or absorbed. Partition or compromise solutions have not proven fruitful for this kind of conflict, and certainly not when the land itself is closely tied to religious beliefs or tribal traditions.

In our conflict, land is primary. It is not an accident that our enemies in the north and south have bombarded civilian populations near the borders with intent to force them to flee. Although from a tactical point of view this is not advantageous to them – it will be easier for us to repel an invasion using air power and artillery if it is not occupied by our own people – the result is to weaken our claim on the land, to reduce the area of “Muslim” land inhabited by Jews. The 7 October attack, with its extreme, sadistic brutality targeted primarily at civilians, is characteristic of tribal/religious conflicts; and like the bombardment, incurred a tactical disadvantage: a very destructive counterattack by Israel. But Hamas saw the brutality as essential and so instructed its combatants.

What are the implications of this for Israel’s short- and long-term strategic decisions?

One is the imperative to defeat and destroy Hamas. But even if it is removed from power and its military capabilities destroyed, the population of the Gaza Strip will be fertile ground for its reconstitution or the development of similar movements. If there is no real and permanent change in possession of the land, there will be no perception of defeat from an Islamic perspective. Israel’s victory requires that the land itself must be lost to Islam.

The only way to permanently solve the problem of the Gaza Strip is to replace as much of the Arab population as possible by Jews. Practical steps include taking a decision not to permit Gazans displaced to the southern part of the strip to return to the northern part, to facilitate their emigration to other Arab countries and the West, and to reestablish Jewish settlements in Gaza. Of course Jewish sovereignty, probably by a military government, is essential. The same reasoning applies to Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

The US, Europe, the UN, and virtually all international institutions are vehemently opposed to this. Indeed, there is now a rumor that if Israel invades Rafiah – which is necessary in order to defeat Hamas – the UN and various European countries will recognize a “State of Palestine.” At the same time, the US will cut off the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Israel, and may apply sanctions of some kind, either to Israeli leaders or to the state herself. The International Criminal Court may issue warrants to arrest government officials and military officers on war crimes charges.

All these threats are real. Some in Israel say, therefore, that we should follow the instructions coming from Washington, accept a cease-fire that will leave Hamas in existence, although in some (magical!) way, no longer in control of Gaza. That would keep American weapons flowing (although we won’t be allowed to use them). There would be, at least for a time, quiet in the south. And we could, they say, concentrate on the threats from Hezbollah and Iran.

They are wrong. This would be a disaster. It would be perceived and described as a great victory for Sinwar and Hamas, and an encouragement for the terrorists in Judea, Samaria, and Lebanon to win a similar victory in the same way. The civilian population in the Western Negev and the Galilee would not be able to safely return to their homes, essentially shrinking our state. It’s clear that the position of Washington on our conflicts with Hezbollah, Iran, and the PLO is even less in our favor than that on Gaza, and we would not be allowed to win a decisive victory in any of them. Quite likely the US plan to establish a PLO-led Palestinian state that includes Gaza as well as the land east of the Green Line and parts of Jerusalem would go forward despite Israel’s opposition.

We cannot avoid this outcome if we continue to accept our role as an American satellite. We must aggressively move Jewish settlement forward in both Gaza and Judea/Samaria (not to mention the Negev, Galilee, Golan, and Jordan Valley), even if it means a break with the US. In order to do this and survive, Israel has to become a true “nonaligned nation,” maintaining friendly contact with China and Russia as well as the US. This is a difficult balancing act, but the current situation is not sustainable: as it stands, Israel is a punching bag for America’s enemies while receiving bear-hug “support” from the administration in the US that is detrimental to her long-term survival.

Despite her dysfunctional political system and the elements within the country that are cooperating with truly antisemitic forces in the international arena to destabilize the nation, Israel nevertheless maintains a relatively high degree of social cohesion. The Jewish birthrate remains high and her young people still compete to join the elite units in the IDF. The IDF is the strongest force in the region when it is allowed to fight.

7 October was a terrible blow, perhaps the single worst event in the history of the state (far exceeding the Yom Kippur war). In addition to the loss of life and (de facto) territory, it was a humiliation for the IDF and other security agencies. The invasion of homes and the kidnappings and torture of hostages has torn a hole in our heart that will not be easily mended. The attack encouraged all our enemies and triggered a worldwide explosion of Jew-hatred unprecedented since the Nazi era.

In the short term, only a true Middle Eastern response will suffice: a massively disproportional one that leaves everyone who had a part in planning or executing 7 October dead, and which severely punishes the culture that gave rise to it. Only that will restore our deterrence in the region, and the perception outside of it that Jews are natural victims. And in the long term, Jewish settlement and full sovereignty between the river and the sea is absolutely necessary to provide physical and spiritual security to the Jewish people.

Do we have what it takes to live in the Middle East? I believe that the people of Israel do. It’s only their leadership that has me worried.

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2 Responses to Do We Have What it Takes to Live in the Middle East?

  1. sabashimon says:

    I’m sorry to say that we may not have what it takes to live in the neighborhood. We don’t have the political will nor the conviction in the righteousness of our cause to replace Arabs with Jews. We have no leaders. Can you think of one (living) individual you would trust with the reins after Bibi? If we did what was necessary we’d piss the world off…..but in the end they would get over it, much like our destroying of the Iraqi nuke facility.
    We better start proving that we deserve the land Hashem gave us, or the third commonwealth will be very short-lived

  2. NormanF says:

    The US tried to sandbag Israel into accepting a “deal” with Hamas.

    Israel’s response was to proceed with the Rafah operation.

    Israel really had no choice: coexistence with Hamas is impossible.

    No one in Israel wants to return to the world before October 7.

    Its truly a zero sum conflict in which only one side will win.

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