Israel-US relations: Putting the issues on the table

Obama and the EU must make demands of the Arabs, not of us. We will make our contribution in due time. And evidence may well show that the “occupation” was in many ways forced upon us.

February 2, 2015 21:48
King David Hotel

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)


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The constant talk of a political horizon, the demand to take political initiative, and the development of feelings of guilt that we haven’t done enough are all Western ailments that have no place in our part of the world. If Islam can bide its time, then we too can bide our time.

The problematic relationship between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is derived first and foremost from the US misunderstanding and misreading the reality in the Middle East. America is acting in a manner that may be appropriate for countries like France, England and Sweden but which does not befit a superpower.

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The personal relationship between the two leaders is important, but it is not the heart of the matter.

It all started when Barack Obama visited Egypt at the beginning of his tenure. In a speech he made at the University of Cairo, he asked for forgiveness from the Egyptian people and the entire Arab-Muslim world for the period of American and Western colonialism in the region. He deliberately skipped Israel during his visit.

Rather than calling on the Arab leaders, whose countries are large, spacious, blessed with many resources and no longer controlled by anybody but them, to take responsibility for their nations’ development and constructive integration into the modern era, and offering American assistance with these important efforts, Obama chose to bend his back and apologize to these leaders.

The US is acting in a shockingly amateurish and simplistic manner, and in doing so, is strengthening negative trends in our region. We have been absorbing this mud in increasing volume ever since Obama became president. The US failed with Egypt, with Erdogan and Turkey, with Iraq and Afghanistan, in Syria, Libya and everywhere else, and it is failing with Israel as well.

At the heart of the great breakdown in relations between us and the US lies the perception of “two states for two peoples” as the only good solution to the Palestinian question. Nobody in the American government has bothered to reexamine or refresh this dated and universally held concept, and neither have many of us. In light of the cold and cruel Arab winter ruling our region, and in light of this past war in Gaza, it would be folly to continue to support expired and irrelevant stances.

One need not be a famous scholar of Islam and Arab history to be familiar with and understand the great historic conflict that has existed between Jews and Islam since the birth of Islam. Like Christians before them, Muslims see themselves as the chosen people, replacing the Jews.

To them, the Jews have failed and therefore should no longer be the chosen people. The Jewish people have paid the price of this historic narrative through the intense list of pogroms, murders, the Inquisition, and finally mass extermination in the incinerators of Auschwitz. It will suffice to read about this topic in Dr.

Avi Beker’s excellent book, Who is The Chosen People: The Biggest Struggle of Ideas in History.

When the swirling storm surrounds us, and the principle of political sovereignty has worn thin, and Islamic State fighters dump the Charter of Human Rights down dry desert wells, and nobody knows what the region will look like just a year from now – this is not the time to establish a dwarf Palestinian state that will grasp Israel by the throat.

We pulled out of Lebanon and got Hezbollah. We pulled out of Gaza and got Hamas. Who would predict that it will be any different when we pull out of Judea and Samaria? I wouldn’t make such a gamble with history.

Israel is not an experiment that can be reversed. It is a fact on the ground.

In the Second World War there were more than 50 million refugees in Europe, who were all absorbed by their new countries. Only in our region do 650,000 Palestinian refugees, who fled and were expelled from Israeli territory during the War of Independence, suddenly qualify as a nation. Everyone knows the picture: the Arabs used the Palestinian refugees as leverage with the intent of waving us out of the region. That’s the whole story. Every feasible solution to the Palestinian problem must begin with the Arab countries’ readiness to absorb the Palestinians. We can therefore deduce that so long as the Palestinians stand with their backs toward Jordan and Egypt and their faces toward Israel, there will not be peace here.

The establishment of a Palestinian state is not our responsibility, nor is it the responsibility of our friends in the West. If the Arabs want a Palestinian state, they should establish one on their territory. In due course we will contribute our part, once conditions stabilize and are clarified, and this will end the “occupation.” One possible realistic solution is for Palestinians to be integrated in the state of Jordan, as was the case before the Six Day War. We can then turn over large portions of Judea and Samaria to the framework that will be established, though under no circumstances would we surrender all of Judea and Samaria. And all of that can occur only once territories have been demilitarized and our safety ensured.

A Palestinian dwarf state on the ’67 borders with Jerusalem as its capital is a formula for suicide, not a sustainable solution. From the point of view of the Arabs and the Palestinians, it would be another step on the path toward expelling Israel from the region. The thought of a port in Gaza with Iranian and Turkish warships permanently anchored there arouses horror. And Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state would mean all-encompassing, never-ending regional turmoil. And Jerusalem is the ultimate symbol of Islam’s victory over the Jews in its war to replace the Jews as the chosen people.

We must take care not to subject our internal public dialogue about the Palestinian question to the existing political, ideological and moral frameworks, and must strive to conduct it in the most practical and professional manner possible. This is the only way to reach a broad national consensus about a more appropriate path. The extreme messianic Right in Israel is just as much of an existential threat as the redemptive Left, which believes it holds a magic wand named “universal values” that can cure all the world’s illnesses.

Neither of these approaches is right. Two states for two peoples is a redemptive stance from the workshop of the Left, and annexing all of Judea and Samaria, building the Temple and leaving the consequences in God’s hands is a stance from the study house of the messianic Right.

Our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is right to disapprove of the idea of two states as it is defined today. And if Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the European Union with him only knew that the establishment of a Palestinian state as it is conceived of today poses a direct threat to the existence of the State of Israel, I am sure they would not want their names to appear in history as having lent a hand in another tragedy of the Jewish people.

We must understand that not everything depends only on us and our actions. The Arabs are also responsible for this situation. Any solution that releases them from their responsibility toward the Palestinian question is illegitimate and cannot be considered. We must also be careful not to get carried away with destructive human impulses to control and rule over reality. (Professor Rivka Schechter writes on this topic in her wonderful book on the philosophy of language, A World Inside a World). These impulses are behind the constant talk of a political horizon, the demand to take political initiative, and the development of feelings of guilt that we haven’t done enough. This worldview is a Western illness that has no place in our region.

If Islam can bide its time, then we too can bide our time. Modern Zionism began more than 120 years ago.

Despite all the challenges along the way, we are growing and thriving, and nobody can frighten us.

Obama and the EU must make demands of the Arabs, not of us. We will make our contribution in due time. And evidence may well show that the “occupation” was in many ways forced upon us.

The writer is author of the new book about the Israeli political system, Towards a New Paradigm.

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