The time for speeches has come to an end. Netanyahu was reelected on security and strength, and both of these must be promises fulfilled before even more blood runs red on Israeli soil. – Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, “Status quo vadis?” The Jerusalem Post, October 10
It has become abundantly clear that our political class has no plan of reaction in this regard – and thus no ability–to guide the country toward a more internally secure future... Neither the Right nor the Left has any answers. – Charles Bybelezer, “End the terror now!” The Jerusalem Post, October 11
These excerpts from recent articles by two ardent young Israel advocates reflect the growing disillusionment with the political establishment, which has adopted “muddling through” (aka “managing the conflict”) as its preferred – indeed, only, strategy in dealing with Arab enmity toward the Jewish state.
Continued adherence to this pattern of behavior will end badly – very badly. Indeed, it will inevitably precipitate the very spirals of escalating violence its adoption was supposed to avert.
Déjà vu all over again
With every passing day, the bloody events across the country this month are increasingly reminiscent of those in an earlier October, a decade and a half ago – October 2000.
With each Judeocidal attack by hate-crazed Arabs, an eerie sense of déjà vu grows stronger – as if the country were being catapulted back 15 years in time, to the violence that ignited the second intifada, which cost the lives of over a thousand Israelis.
It is as if, for the last 15 years, successive governments have lead the country in a full circle, like someone lost in a forest, who after days of wandering, finds himself back at the very spot he started out from.
Because of this, perhaps, more than in the past, there seems to be a perceptible atmosphere of pervasive despondency, something approaching despair.
It is not that the public is displaying signs that it lacks resilience to withstand the current round of Arab violence, but rather that it lacks confidence that this government, indeed any government in any foreseeable configuration, will have any coherent idea as to how to ensure that within another decade or so the country won’t be back at almost precisely the same point it is at now.‘Muddling through’: Predictable – and predicted – limits
There is a depressing sense of inevitability regarding the current outbreak of Arab violence. It is the inexorable consequence – both predictable and predicted – of the government’s policy (or rather lack thereof) of robustly asserting Jewish sovereignty over the Land.
Allow me a moment to vent my frustration: Since the start of this “Into the Fray” series, I have warned – time and time again – of the “ruinous results of restraint,” and that “by adopting a policy of continually trying to avoid confrontations, in which it can prevail, Israel may eventually find itself forced into a confrontation in which it cannot” – see for example “Surrendering sovereignty” (December 2, 2011); “Cry “Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war” (July 3, 2014); “The ruinous results of restraint” (July 10, 2014); “Far too little, much too late,” (July 31, 2014); “On the cusp of carnage?” (November 13, 2014); “Have we all gone completely mad???!!!!” (August14, 2014); and “My saddest column ever: Selling surrender as strategy” (March 5, 2015).
As readers may discern from the titles, I cautioned, with growing alarm and anguish, of the ominous outcomes that Israeli reticence would unavoidably precipitate, since in the eyes of the Arabs, restraint is far more likely to be perceived as weakness, rather than respect, and hence an invitation for more aggression, rather than less.From symbiosis to metastasis
In “On the cusp of carnage?” written almost a year ago, I predicted that the perception of Jewish weakness in its dealing with external challenges was likely to induce internal ones as well. As I pointed out, there is a symbiotic relationship between the attitudes of the Arabs outside the country and those within. Violence inadequately dealt with in the case of the former will fan violence in the case of the latter, and the symbiosis is liable to lead to metastasis – with the “cancer” spreading to Israel’s enfranchised Arab citizens.
I wrote: “Perhaps the gravest threat of all is the prospect of insurrection and revolt by the Arab citizens of Israel – if they sense weakness and vacillation on the part of the Jews.
This threat will materialize unless the Arabs are convinced the Jews will not brook any challenge – from within Israel’s borders or from without – to their national sovereignty....”
Disturbingly, today the rhetoric of many leaders of Israeli Arabs reflect almost seamless convergence with that of rabid Judeophobic preachers in Hamas-controlled Gaza and the evermore hateful incitement of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
All challenge not only the status of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, but in fact the very legitimacy of a Jewish nation-state at all.
Surely few can deny that we are teetering on the brink of such just such a chasm today...The whole point of Israel
With the turmoil and travails of everyday life, it is all too easy to lose sight of the fundamentals.
With all the mainstream media hype about democracy and individual rights, it is easy to forget that Israel was not established to be another multi-ethnic, multi-cultural liberal democracy.
It was established to be the nationstate of the Jewish people, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, to give expression to the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate... in their own sovereign state”; and in the words of the national anthem, to fulfill a “hope two thousand years old, To be a free nation in our land, The land of Zion...”
To make the claim that the Jewish nature of the state and Jewish exclusivity over sovereignty is not the overriding hallmark of Israel – indeed its raison d’etre – is in effect to egregiously defraud, on a historic scale, all those who contributed, toiled and sacrificed to found, develop and defend the State of Israel as envisioned in its founding documents.
It is particularly egregious toward those, who, of their own volition, left other more affluent, comfortable and secure multi-ethnic, multi-cultural democracies, to make Israel their home, and to live under what was alleged to be Jewish sovereignty.
For Israel to eschew policies – however harsh – that ensure the principles of its founding, is, in effect for it to lose the very point of its existence.
Collective rights vs individual rights
Significantly, the word “right/s” appears 10 times in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Of these, the first nine refer explicitly or implicitly, to the collective right of the Jewish people as a national entity.
The tenth reference is to the individual rights of the citizens (including non-Jews) of the Jewish state.
These relate to individual equality in the civil realm – social, cultural religious matters – including the right to vote, but not to the collective national level, which is reserved for the Jewish people as the exclusive source of political sovereignty.
Perhaps, equally significantly, the word “democracy”/“democratic” does not appear once in the Declaration of Independence. This should not be construed as indicating that there is any inherent clash between Israel being Jewish and being democratic. Indeed, quite the opposite is true (see for example ‘Israel’s imperative: Jewish and democratic March 14, 2013; & ‘The New York Times versus the Jews’ March 21, 2013).
Indeed, as should be crystal clear to any fair-minded individual, given events in the region, nothing could prevent Israel from descending into a Muslim-majority tyranny, if it were not Jewish.
Moreover, as I have argued elsewhere (for example ‘Post-Zionism’s fatal flaw’, August 11, 2008), Israel will not remain Jewish, if it does not remain Zionist (i.e. retain its status as the nation-state of Jews with the exclusive source of sovereignty being the Jewish people).
Thus, the first step in formulating an effective policy to contend with emerging realities is to realize that the current clash is not about individual rights but collective rights.
The Jews’ collective rights to national sovereignty is under assault by a rival collective – the Arabs.
If the Jews do not prevail in that struggle, not only will they lose their rights to self-determination as a collective, but the individual rights of all the inhabitants of Israel (Jews and non-Jews alike) will be gravely jeopardized.
When collectives clash
Thus, when collectives clash – particularly when the legitimacy of one collective is challenged by another collective with a totally incompatible value system (as in the case of the Jewish and Arab collectives) – it must defend itself as a collective.
In such clashes, for the collective to survive, certain individual liberties may have to be temporarily curtailed, to prevent them being permanently extinguished in the case of defeat.
This is not only morally justified but morally imperative! Indeed, whenever democracies have been under threat, they have reined in certain freedoms that might have been exercised in less threatening times, even when their position has been far less precarious than Israel’s and the array of threats confronting them, far less daunting.
Israel must follow suit. For the last two-and-a-half decades, it has shown extravagant largesse and excessive leniency toward adversaries who not only strive to undermine the physical existence of the Jewish state, but deny the conceptual legitimacy of its right to exist.
This can no longer persist. The Israeli leadership has a moral duty both to the collective as a whole and to its individual members, whose allegiance it enjoys, to adopt a more robust attitude to those who would undermine the security of the collective and safety of its members.Imposing a choice
Accordingly, Israel must impose a choice on its Arab citizens: to decide whether they wish to be part of a developed, post-industrial society in which they enjoy the civic freedoms and benefits it bestows on them, or whether they wish to give expression to a national identity, inherently inimical to their country of residence. They cannot do both.
It must be clear that they cannot make demands to replace the founding ethos of the state with a competing ethos of its enemies; they cannot supplant the existing edifice of national symbolism and ceremony with one that conforms to that of states that strive to eliminate their own; they cannot continue to exploit the democratic freedoms the Jewish state extends them, to demolish the Jewish state. Arab MKs do not have a “democratic” right to fraternize with the enemy, much less to call for their kinfolk to rise against their state or it citizens.
Israeli Arabs must either throw their lot in with their county of residence or seek residence elsewhere.
If they feel the fabric of life in Israel is incompatible with their national identity, they can do exactly what many Jewish citizens of Israel did when they decided to make this country their home because they felt stronger affiliation to it than to their countries of residence/birth.
In an age in which millions of people migrate voluntarily each year, there is nothing remarkable in this proposal. Moreover, there is nothing “racist” or “fascist” in it. It merely reflects the eminently reasonable notion that the Jews too have a right to self-determination.Root of all evil
The origin of much, if not all of Israel’s woes can be traced to the bitter fruits of the Oslo process, when Israel accepted the legitimacy of Palestinian statehood, until then considered an almost treasonous anathema by virtually all Zionist factions.
Acquiescence to Palestinian Arab demands for recognition as an authentic national entity, with valid claims for a sovereign state of their own, west of the Jordan, has put Israel in an untenable position.
For the only way to prevent the strategically crucial territory of Judea-Samaria, earmarked for such a state, falling to radical jihadists, is for Israel to maintain control over it, thus precluding the establishment of the state that Israel has committed itself to.
Thus, by endorsing the bogus Palestinian narrative, Israel has by its own hand sown the foundation for both the myth of occupation and the seeds of insurrection by Arab Israelis, and for international opprobrium and the ensuing campaign of delegitimization.
What must be done first is to mount a massive assault on the legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative.
For unless that narrative is delegitimized, even if the current flames are lowered for a while, they will erupt again and again and again.
More on what to do, and how and why in Part 2 next week.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategicisrael.org).