Israel’s epic chess game

The Palestinians are about to make a fatal error. Israel must not hesitate to declare "checkmate."

Israel is engaged in a war for survival that started even before its declaration of independence and continues to this very day. Its enemies have prosecuted this war militarily, economically, politically, diplomatically, legally and psychologically. Because of the length and complexity of this struggle, an appropriate metaphor is a game of chess – one in which the stakes for Israel are life and death.
Winning a game of chess is no simple matter. It requires strategy, patience, steady nerves, the proper balance between aggression and caution, and the ruthlessness to checkmate one’s opponent when the opportunity presents itself. Impulsiveness and emotionalism usually lead to defeat. When a grandmaster makes a mistake, he must not panic; instead, he must extract himself from danger with care and determination.
Israel’s leaders have not played like grandmasters.
Instead, they have mixed brilliant moves with blunders.
Among the former, the preemptive strike on Egypt of June 5, 1967, that led to Israel’s victory in the Six Day War and Menachem Begin’s decision to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak in June 1981 stand out.
Both moves required boldness and careful preparation, and both were highly successful.
Unfortunately Israel has subsequently made serious strategic errors. It allowed Egypt to strike the first blow in October 1973, and almost lost the Yom Kippur War.
The Oslo Accords of 1993 allowed Yasser Arafat and the PLO to return from exile, and have resulted in the murder or maiming of thousands of Israelis. Israel’s precipitous withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 and its forcible eviction of Jews from Gaza in 2005 compounded the error of Oslo.
THE CAUSE of these errors was emotional exhaustion, best summed up by former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s tragic admission that “we are tired of fighting.
We are tired of being courageous. We are tired of winning.
We are tired of defeating our enemies.” Such a mentality is frankly catastrophic.
Fortunately for Israel, its enemies have made even worse mistakes. Most important have been their serial refusals to accept overly generous offers by prime ministers Ehud Barak and Olmert to sacrifice strategically vital territory in Judea and Samaria for a Palestinian state. More recently, the Palestinians have also shortsightedly insisted on a complete settlement freeze as a condition for negotiating with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, despite his misguided eagerness to make a bargain similar to those offered by his predecessors.
The Palestinians are about to make their worst blunder yet – one that is potentially fatal to their cause.
Specifically, the Palestinian Authority, knowing that its leadership status is failing and that the clock is about to run out, has announced its intention to seek recognition as a state from the United Nations. This desperate gambit flatly abrogates both the Oslo Accords and UN Resolution 242, providing Israel with the legal justification to cancel both agreements and simply annex portions of Judea and Samaria.
TO WIN this chess game, Israel must correct the lifethreatening mistake it made by agreeing to a Palestinian state. The land west of the Jordan River can hold a Jewish state or another Arab state; it can’t hold both.
Israel’s leaders, including Yitzhak Rabin, recognized this truth before weakening in the face of international pressure. It’s time to declare categorically that there will never be a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
The Arabs who live there may continue to be residents of Israel with full civil and religious rights and local autonomy, but any national or political rights must be exercised in affiliation with Jordan – the already existing Palestinian state.
Taking advantage of the Palestinian blunder by terminating all discussions of Palestinian statehood won’t be easy. There will be powerful international pressure against Israel for making such a bold move. Many will implore Israel to just surrender, or to make a reckless, needless sacrifice that will lead to its defeat.
But Israel can’t afford to be checkmated. Now it must play like a grandmaster.
The writer is the national vice chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, and sits on the Executive Board of the World Likud. He is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School, and a tournament chess player.