One of the quirks of people on the right side of the political landscape here is
that they tend to avoid answering hypothetical questions.
politicians of all stripes avoid them (veterans – not neophytes like Bayit
Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett) because they know better than to box themselves in. So
I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the rank and file, you and me,
people who need not fear defeat in the next election or the pink slip from a
plum job at the public trough.
People on the Left seem to welcome
hypothetical questions. Maybe it’s their openness to change and new
possibilities. Maybe it’s out of some childish naivete. Or maybe they just like
to dream. But those on the Right? They avoid hypothetical questions like they do
Meretz election stickers.
I’VE OFTEN asked people what they’d do if, for
example, the land on the other side of the Golan frontier were owned and
operated by Monaco or some other non-aggressive wimp of a country. Would they
consider giving up the heights? After all, we’d have nothing to fear beyond the
odd casino chip landing in our humous.
Leftists? They’d probably want to
know if the chip had been manufactured by some nine-year-old in a Chinese
sweatshop. Free-marketers? They’d want to know the chip’s denomination.
Right-wingers? They’d probably want to know whether you had just touched down
from another planet.
Here’s an excerpt from a letter to the editor that
was published in a recent Jerusalem Post letters column: “...What if Hamas, as
the Palestinian Authority has already done, recognized the permanent State of
Israel? What if the Palestinians gave Israel all their weapons? What would
Israel do in return? Would it do anything? What could the Palestinians expect in
return? Do not beg off with, ‘Oh, that will never happen.’ What would Israel’s
response be? It is a fair question.”
Personally, I have my doubts it
would be so smooth.
Still, as the reader said, it’s a fair question. It
certainly would separate the ideologues from those who are merely afraid – and
very justifiably so – that in our reality, any high ground given away (actually
any ground at all, as low-lying Gaza so ably has proved) would introduce much
more than casino chips into our favorite dish.
Witness excerpts from two
replies to the gentleman’s letter: “[D]id he come from Mars?... Even a Martian
who has had some contact with Mother Earth wouldn’t be quite that naive!” and
“When you return from Mars, try to arrange a stopover in Israel. We ought to
have a chat.”
How about that! People believe life exists on Mars yet
refuse to believe the Palestinians could ever change. But the idea – at least
when it’s me asking the hypothetical questions – is to know where deeply held
fears end and deeply entrenched philosophies begin.
It’s like talking gun
control in the US with a member of the National Rifle Association. The
conversation might go something like this: Q. Wouldn’t a clampdown on guns help
prevent more massacres like the one in Newtown? A. Haven’t you heard of the
Second Amendment? Now that would be progress. No wussing around with statistics
or red herrings like mental illness. This person goes straight to his roots, to
the law that chisels in stone a citizen’s right to bear arms. No matter that the
Second Amendment was passed in 1791, well before the advent of semi-automatic
assault rifles and magazines that extend past your knee. It was never repealed.
It’s the law of the land. So there.
I wouldn’t be gratified to hear this,
per se, but I’d be grateful to have identified one more person to remove from
the debate. Like those who come straight out and say they’d refuse to give up
the West Bank because God gave it to their ancestors, to them and their
For the religious, this land represents something far more
personal and ethereal than a mere haven for the Jews. It is where the biblical
figures they revere trod centuries and even millennia ago. It is where entire
communities of sovereign Jews lived and flourished. It is where great leaders
gave mankind an ethical way of life and the notion that it was one deity that
created the universe and that this deity remains all-capable, all-knowing and
all-deserving of our awe and reverence.
How could people who feel this
way give any of this up and still be considered good, devout, believing Jews?
You can split hairs with such individuals, but you cannot argue about what is
perceived to be a truism so great and all-encompassing that people willingly die
for it, the words of the Shema on their trembling lips.
IT WOULD be
wonderful to know just how many of those who say they’re against a two-state
solution say so for this reason. Instead, we just hear that Arabs can’t be
trusted, that they’re murderous thugs, that they respect only force and that if
the price is right they can be convinced to pack up and move
We hear this from pretty much everyone who is against
But what about those who moved to the West Bank for the
quality of life, the large homes, yards and gardens that can be had at prices
considerably lower than in north Tel Aviv or even Ness Ziona? Let’s be honest:
Who, having once tasted this life, would want to go back to a 60-square-meter,
fourth-floor walk-up? Statistically, since the 1980s it’s been said that the
settlers we “see,” the ones with the kippot and the M16s, are really a minority
and that the majority of those living in the West Bank do so solely for the
affordable quality of life. This means that if the government were to get
serious with land reform and in moving some of the infrastructure and industry
away from the pricey center of the country, there might be that much less
resistance to compromise over the West Bank.
This leaves those who are
afraid, who fear that Kalkilya will be the next Beit Hanun and, instead of
Sderot, Ben-Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv will be the next short-range targets.
It’s hard to argue with these people, too. Not because of any absolutisms, but
because they – very justifiably – feel that the Palestinians can’t be
Still, my question remains: What if it were people like Grace
Kelly’s and Prince Rainier’s delightful, decorous family running the place?
Imagine Prince Albert II and all the other Grimaldis with their charity balls
and lazy afternoons poolside. Would it be okay? Don’t tell me that’s ridiculous.
I know it is. Hypothetical questions often are. But do you have the courage to
answer? Because once we know how many of the people who say no or roll out
insurmountable conditions for a two-state solution do so for a reason that has
nothing to do with religion or history, we can gauge what is and what isn’t
possible. At least on our side.
As for the other side, don’t ask me any