The right to keep on fighting

By the time I was born, Israel was already a fully-fledged country.

June 9, 2013 21:20
A soldier prays at the Western Wall. ‘

soldier praying at Western Wall 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

When I was a boy, I was terribly jealous of the underground Etzel and Lehi fighters who fought to oust the British, and of the IDF soldiers who were personally involved in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. By the time I was born, Israel was already a fully-fledged country.

As I grew up in the divided and humiliated city of Jerusalem, I used to peek through the cracks in the walls at the occupied part of the city and swear that when it was my turn, I would fight to free Jerusalem. But when I was 17 and still in high school, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel were liberated in six magnificent days. And once again I was left behind to envy those who had the privilege of fighting for our homeland. Once more I lamented that fact that I had been born too late.

I could not have imagined then that the fight for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel would continue for decades, and that I would be the one to carry on fighting for Israel’s right to exist and to unify Jerusalem.

Israel entered the Six Day War for the wrong reasons. We did not initiate the war in an effort to liberate Jerusalem and the rest of our homeland that had been conquered by our enemies, but “only” to protect ourselves and to rid ourselves of the threat from Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The 1967 borders were called “The Auschwitz borders” by foreign minister Abba Eban, one of Israel’s most leftist leaders. If Israel were to return to its pre-1967 borders, it would be eternally tempted to return to war. But we have repeated the mantra that the war was forced upon us thousands of times.

This is the difference between the Zionism that called for the creation of a Jewish state as a reaction to the threat of extinction in Europe or because there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in Europe after the Holocaust.

In other words, To some, Zionism meant Israel’s raison d’etre was to be a safe refuge for the Jewish people.

To others, such as Avraham (Yair) Stern and my late father, Prof.

Yisrael Eldad, it meant we should fight to liberate the Land of Israel because it is our homeland and it is occupied by strangers. In the same way, a Frenchman would fight to liberate his homeland even if the occupier was not cruel. The Land of Israel for them was an end in itself, not just a means.

This approach views Zionism as the liberation movement of the Jewish people and not as a philanthropic organization whose next goal is to help Jews in distress. This is the also the reason why the Six Day War never ended. It was not enough to liberate the land from the Arabs; we have yet to liberate our Jewish souls from the mentality of persecuted refugees who want nothing more than not to be pursued and killed.

This is also why some of us are willing to discuss “returning” Judea and Samaria to the Arabs and about creating a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with or without insignificant border adjustments. For these people, the Land of Israel is valuable only as a “safe haven” for the Jewish people.

As a tool. And if it’s only a tool, it can be a big one or a small one. If it’s a safe haven, it doesn’t matter if it’s narrow or wide. We can always just dig down deeper underground.

(How is it nobody has yet come up with the suggestion of giving the Arabs all the land above ground, while we will settle for everything below ground? Just as former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami did with the Temple Mount.) This functional approach to the Land of Israel denies the people of Israel’s natural, historical, traditional and religious right to the Land. It purports that the Six Day War was “forced on us,” instead of affirming that it was a just war of liberation which we initiated.

When the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg heard that Moshe Dayan had ordered that the Israeli flag be removed from the Temple Mount and the keys handed over to the Muslim Wakf, he said, “They will withdraw from every inch.” He understood that if the Israeli government is willing to relinquish the holiest place on earth to the Jewish people to its enemies of its own free will and without its hand being forced – this is a bad sign that we are not treating the Land of Israel as a homeland that should never be given up.

Part of Greenberg’s prophecy came true when Menachem Begin (who was a minister in the national unity government and did not oppose the removing of the Israeli flag from the Temple Mount) gave the entire Sinai desert to Egypt in exchange for 40 years of quiet. But unfortunately, we must now prepare our army for a war with Egypt. Not all of his prophecy has come true, however – at least we are still in control of Judea and Samaria, which are the key to the future of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

People around the world demand two things from us: end the occupation and support the founding of a Palestinian state. We have the power to do both. Let’s put an end to the occupation – the Muslim occupation of the Land of Israel, which can be seen most prominently in the Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Let’s go today and take back the keys and declare our full sovereignty and right to pray as Jews on the Temple Mount.

And “two states for two peoples” is also a great idea. The State of Israel will stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea with Jerusalem as its capital, and the Palestinian state will be in Jordan with Amman as its capital. The Arabs currently living in Judea and Samaria will be Israeli residents, but their nationality will be Jordanian.

Unfortunately, this really will happen (as it did during the Six Day War) – not because we understand that this is the only viable solution, but because once again it will be imposed on us when the Palestinians expel the Hashemite king and create a state for themselves.

Any other solution would mean that we will carry on fighting this war for hundreds of years to come.

The writer was a Brigadier-General in the Medical Corps, professor of Plastic Surgery at the Hebrew University School of Medicine, and a Member of the Knesset.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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