A grain of truth, a silo of wishful thinking

I am going to repeat a comment made by Shalom Freedman on my previous post (“Sarkozy almost gets it“), because I think it raises a question that deserves a post of its own. Freedman said,

It may be that the ascent of ‘Hamas’ means in effect there will be no real negotiations for years to come. How to convince the Americans and Europeans of this is another question.

But what we also have to understand (I do not say that we have to accept it) is that there is absolutely no one in the world who agrees with the position that Judea and Samaria are Eretz Yisrael and should and must belong to the State of Israel. The ‘occupation’ mantra is not simply accepted by our haters but rather by every government, meaning the United States, we are strongly allied with.

So we those people who truly care about Israel and the land of Israel, and who at the same time want peace — must understand the contradiction and difficulty of our own position. I find something deeply objectionable when I am pleased that once again ‘Hamas’ or ‘Fatah’ have revealed themselves to be incorrigible terrorists.

It is almost as if I am frightened by the idea that there may be Palestinians (I am not sure there really are any) who want a true peace with Israel. I see something at fault in my, and in may I say ‘our attitude’ here.

While I find dangerous the attempt by some of our leaders to make the Palestinians, Fatah, for instance ‘kasher’ for real peace negotiations when they are not — I also am not at ease with my own attitude.

That is, what if the Palestinians agreed to a demilitarized state in the great part of Judea and Samaria and Gaza — agreed truly to an end of the conflict — agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and not to try to undermine it demographically or otherwise — what if the Palestinians said that they truly wanted to focus on building their own society and care for the well-being of their own people?

I wonder if I would change my own traditional view about our need to keep almost all of Judea and Samaria and say — we’ll keep the large Jewish population centers, the areas vital to security and that’s all.

There is something essentially Jewish about this statement, the attitude that one always has to examine oneself, one’s behavior and one’s beliefs. Can you imagine an Arab writing something like this?

Freedman, who is what they call in Israel ‘religious’, feels a very strong connection to the entire Land of Israel. After all, Abraham  is buried in Hevron, not Dizengoff Center. God did not mention the Green Line to Moses.

What I think he is saying is that he understands the grain of truth that the Left has fixated upon, which is that real peace would justify real sacrifice. And there is a tremendous tension between this and Freedman’s desire as a Jew for the Land of Israel to be in Jewish hands (or even accessible to Jews — which it was not from 1948-1967).

Someone who thinks that the Torah is just a story doesn’t feel the same tension. Although such a person may want to hold on to the territories for security reasons, he will not really understand the sacrifice that the ‘peace process’ calls for. So the secular Left, while prepared to make concessions in the area of security, thinks that they are manageable. What a religious person gives up is much greater, something that many secular Israelis have absolutely no grasp of. When someone says “yes, it’s improbable that the Palestinians are serious, but we have to try” he is asking someone else to make a huge sacrifice toward his dubious experiment.

But in any event, although even a religious person may come to think that it would be worth sacrificing the territories for real peace, the stubborn, brute, undeniable fact is that there are no Palestinians that both want to and are capable of making this bargain. And there are not likely to be any in the near future.

There are many reasons for this: Palestinian society is dominated by gangs with guns, Palestinians universally believe that all of Israel belongs to them, Palestinian culture sees honor and ‘justice’ as more important than economic development (especially when the ones saying this have guns and can take what they want), Palestinians see any compromise as emasculation, Islamists among them believe that a Jewish state in Palestine is forbidden by Islam, etc. Palestinian educational, religious and media institutions, supported by outside rejectionist forces, have nutured and encouraged these tendencies in their most radical forms and continue to do so.

So although the major premise that says that ‘real peace would justify great sacrifices’ may be true, the minor one that ‘real peace is achievable’ is not only not true, it’s not even imaginable with today’s Palestinians. This is where the Left mixes its grain of truth with a whole silo full of wishful thinking.

Hamas does do us a service when it makes explicit the almost universal Palestinian position that there can be no permanent peace with Israel, only temporary utilitarian truces. If this will help convince the US and the Europeans that continued pressure on Israel for concessions will have the effect of destabilizing the region, so much the better.

To return to the tension between his desire for peace and his connection to Eretz Yisrael that Freedman feels, I can only say that there is in no sense a real choice that he needs to make.  And I am not sure how hard we are required to struggle with questions whose chances of becoming relevant are close to zero.

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2 Responses to “A grain of truth, a silo of wishful thinking”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    It is difficult to disagree with Vic Rosenthal’s analysis of Palestinian attitudes and prospects for peace. I also deeply appreciate his understanding of the special difficulty ‘land for peace’ has for most religious Jews.
    But there is another element of our situation which I do not think is addressed fully in the post. It is the very uneasy situation Israel will continue to be in , so long as those in the West believe that Judea and Samaria are occupied territories. The belief is that Israel’s remaining in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle and for most the obstacle to Peace.
    I am troubled at our having lost this ‘hasbara war’ decisively. For what it means in a sense is that we not only continue to face the hostility and violence of those who would destroy us , we face continual pressure from our ‘friends’. We are thus always being forced to negotiate even when there is no sensible or realistic possibility for true agreement.
    In other words what disturbs is not only the prospect of no real peace with the Palestinian Arabs, but that our friends will not understand this and will continue to disturb and pressure us, giving us a lack of peace in another way.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    We need to do our best to explain this to our ‘allies’. Unfortunately, I think they are not entirely honest about their reasons for insisting on a Palestinian state at this time. I think that both the US and Europeans are influenced by their relationship with Saudi Arabia, and I think that the US sees leverage connected with the situation in Iraq to be gained here.

    The media and academic world have explained the pro-Arab tilt differently, by emphasizing the suffering of the Palestinians and how it’s Israel’s fault.

    I think the policy comes from both directions.