Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Six-Year Itch - A 2003 Op-ed Of Mine

So Silly of Us

by Yisrael Medad

Much of the criticism, from without and from within, to the nationalist camp ideology centered on the fact that we offered no alternative to what the nations of the world accepted. Basically, they thought that it was all so silly of Israel to campaign and struggle in the arena of world opinion on behalf of such a policy.

Israel is now being requested, gently or less so, to proceed along a path intended to resolve the conflict with the Arabs who term themselves ?Palestinians?. The United States and the United Kingdom have prepared a ?road map? which is to provide directions and a timetable for this path that Israel is to take. After decades of diplomacy, terror and economic boycott, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, formerly the Palestine Liberation Organization, may be forced to face the core issues that have, until now, proved nigh insolvable.

In the almost 39 years since Israel assumed the administration of territories alternatively termed ?disputed? or ?occupied?, but, nevertheless, portions of the Jewish people?s historical homeland, the great debate has raged within Israel what is to be the principled policy on the issue. Of those 39 years, representatives of the nationalist camp have served as prime ministers for 19 of them, just over half. Their basic platform (and Ariel Sharon is still an unknown) could be summarized as no Palestinian state west of the Jordan River and uninhibited Jewish residency in the area. Without analyzing the specific political ramifications of such a position - whether Israeli sovereignty, autonomy or condominium - this approach is now being challenged by the ?road map?.

In addition to Likud prime ministers (Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu and Sharon), Israel?s Foreign Ministry has been in Likud hands. If there is one major failing, it has been in the ability and capability of these Foreign Ministers to adequately present Israel?s case in the information and diplomatic fields. We are now reaping the stunted growth of the inactivity and the lack of influence on the permanent civil service personnel who vigorously opposed the Likud philosophy.

Official spokespersons, from Directors-General to ambassadors, from consuls-general to plenipotentiaries, as well as officially sanctioned academics and researchers, at the UN and over a hundred countries, have done their best to undermine such a philosophy. The subject was avoided at the social talk sessions of conferences and delegations, not enough printed or published and many sought simply to avoid the issue. Israel voluntarily gave up most of the weapons it could have employed in this battle, or, when they were available, the permanent staff belittled the matter and the materials. Residents of the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were stymied in their own efforts, while offers of help and appearances were kept to the barest of minimums.

Much of the criticism, from without and from within, to the nationalist camp ideology centered on the fact that we offered no alternative to what the nations of the world accepted. Basically, they thought that it was all so silly of Israel to campaign and struggle in the arena of world opinion on behalf of such a policy.

Yet, already 80 years ago, it was a British statesman who stood up to local Arabs and their supporters.

That statesman?s message was predicated on the obvious: national rights to a national home in what was called ?Palestine? were viewed as belonging to the Jews from a historical, religious, legal and cultural sense, and to the Jews only. We were the one and only 'national grouping'. The Arabs had national rights in other places. In March 1921, Winston Churchill visited the Palestine Mandate (during which, on his famous "Sunday walk", he created TransJordan and plunked down Abdullah as Emir in Rabat-Ammon). He was presented with a memorandum from various delegations of Arabs. To one from Haifa, which was particularly strongly worded, he replied:

"It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a national home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews and good for the British Empire. But we also think it will be good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine... I would draw your attention to the second part of the Balfour Declaration which solemnly and explicitly promises to the inhabitants of Palestine the fullest protection of their civil and political rights."

This message of Churchill is as relevant today as it was then. Ariel Sharon himself could learn a thing or two about the true importance of Shiloh and Bet-El.

True, this message meets with ridicule. That self-destructive ridicule originates with Zionist groupings on the left, spreads to Jews of the Diaspora, finds a willing audience among non-Jewish radical organizations and becomes the bon mot of the ?liberal? and progressive? camp. Nevertheless, after a decade of the Oslo Process, with its dreams and visions of a ?New Middle East?, of inculcating democracy and its institutions, of defusing religious Islamist fanaticism and halting incitement, is this message any less potent? And if there has been insurmountable difficulty in applying the values behind Churchill?s message, why should the values of peace and security be any more relevant to the Palestinian nationalist agenda?

Too many times, supporters of Israel remaining in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) and retaining the overall responsibility for the region have been charged with failing to understand the realpolitik that is involved in defending such a view. Yet, to many, the Rogers Plan, the Jarring Plan and so on and so forth, through to Oslo and now the Road Map, are themselves victims of incomprehensibility and unrealities.

No one, except the Jewish residents of the Yesha communities, have challenged the conception that the Arabs are willing to compromise, that they are willing to co-exist and that they are multi-culturalists. The experience of the Jews of Yesha, as much as it has been negative in these regards, is also no different from Jews on the western divide of the 1967 ?Green Line?. The Arabs make no distinction between Yesha and elsewhere in Israel, something too many people are willing to ignore.

The Road Map plan will lead nowhere but tragedy. How silly.

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