While Israel has never been militarily, technologically or economically stronger, it is suffering from a crisis of conviction.
Our ancestors were Jews in the Diaspora who excelled and achieved great things in their host countries, yet they sought in vain the approval of their non-benign gentile neighbors. Just like them, Israel’s current leaders are chasing the not-to-be-had support and affinity of leading Western countries.
In the name of that unrequited love search, they have been willing to send highly dangerous signals to our Palestinian enemies that Israel is willing to relent, to look the other way and to accommodate Palestinian aspirations and inclinations. Our leaders will cloak all of this in the guise of a quest for accommodation and reasonableness. The goal is to show the Palestinians that Israel is prepared to respect Palestinian sensibilities by neither provoking nor providing the grounds for insult and resentment.
All of this sounds appropriate and wise, except that it is all completely misplaced and dangerously counterproductive.
In one of the great historical misreads of the goals and intentions of the opposing side, Israel’s leaders have made the great mistake of Western geopolitics, which is to assume that the other guys basically want the same thing as they themselves do. We all want peace, prosperity, good relations with neighbors, and ideally economic cross-pollination among us. Right?
Well, what if the other folks simply want to keep going the way things are, with one big caveat: you, Israel, are not part of the picture. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is not a ditty; it is a political manifesto of secessionism and elimination. Period, end of story.
We constantly misread the goals and aspirations of the Palestinians. We ignore their surveys which consistently show little interest in making peace with us. We ignore their curricula in schools and their popular media, which are replete with Jew hatred and a desire to see us all banished from our country. We delude ourselves into thinking that this is all an act, a posture designed to secure, what? A better peace treaty, more Palestinian controlled areas in Judea and Samaria?
Of course not. The Palestinians are playing a long game, with a bright and clear goal: the elimination of Israel.
That is the picture and that is the goal. All the policies, the jihad, the payments to the families of terrorists, the rallying cries to defend al-Aqsa, all of it must be seen in the context of working toward that fixed, never changing, never obfuscated goal.
Because that is their playbook. When we denigrate ourselves by saying that Jews on the Temple Mount, or Jews carrying flags in Jerusalem, or Jews singing the “Hatikvah” at a university ceremony are being provocative, we are giving aid and comfort to the Palestinian cause. We are showing them that their efforts are working, that our resolve is weakening and that, with just a few more pushes, demands, riots and appeals for universal condemnation of Israel, the goal will get that much closer and more achievable.
ONE OF Israel’s greatest self-inflicted wounds has been on display recently with the craven behavior toward Palestinian mayhem on the Temple Mount. When the Israeli reaction to cynical, manipulative and preplanned Palestinian riots is to prevent Jews from ascending the Temple Mount at all, then you know we are in trouble.
Palestinians know that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. They know that their ability to deprive us of that crucial connection represents not only an enormous religious victory in its own right, but also augurs well for the eventual Israeli willingness to let go of less important connections and associations. Denying a Jewish presence, severing a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount thus becomes the proof text for the eventual Palestinian victory. As the old song says, “If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere.”
Why can’t we see this? Why must we be so willfully obtuse about the reality of what we are confronting and dealing with?
Here is a current example of how misguided our policies are. In a vain effort to placate the Palestinians through non-provocation, the police refused to countenance a flag march through the Old City during the intermediate days of Passover. In response, Hamas tweeted that having defeated the flag march, it was looking for new and additional symbols of its growing control of what happens in Jerusalem.
Did Hamas “defeat” the flag march? On one level, of course not. They didn’t lobby, or threaten repercussions were it to happen. But on a deeper and truer level, of course they succeeded in defeating it. How? By sustaining violence, rioting, lawlessness and the massive semblance of civic madness, the Palestinians/Hamas succeeded in intimidating Israeli authorities and triggering the Pavlovian disapproval of Western and Arab leaders.
The result was a deprivation and a punishment for Jews, not any kind of remonstration with the Palestinians. Having decided that the appropriate policy was to open the floodgate for massive Palestinian pilgrimage to al-Aqsa, our authorities were not about to reverse course.
Here is a suggestion. Next year, I would have our government say, with plenty of notice, that given the violence of the previous year, no visitation will be allowed this year to al-Aqsa. Period. And there will be rioting, undoubtedly. But the rioting will be on the Palestinians’ home turf and not ours.
Only conduct like this can start to change the mindset of eventual Palestinian victory to inevitable Palestinian defeat, meaning the denial of eliminationist victory. Israel’s leaders must not let what they would like to see happen substitute for what they must know is going to happen. We cannot delude ourselves.
Our very sovereignty is at stake. If we are unwilling to assert it, to project and to protect it, we are sending a clear signal that it, our sovereignty, is in play.
And then, no amount of economic nor even military prowess will protect us.
The writer is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]