Israel needs a plan, but it’s not what some think

Rabbi Eric Yoffie (the outgoing president of the Union for Reform Judaism) writes about a discussion he’s had with his Israeli friend ‘Shmuel’:

Shmuel, echoing Netanyahu, told me again that the Palestinians are responsible for the absence of peace. I responded, as I have before, that he is absolutely right. The leaders of Israel, at different times, have offered terms that any sane Palestinian leader should have enthusiastically embraced. This happened in 2000 and again in 2008. But the Palestinians have never had the courage to do what needs to be done. And, with Hamas in their coalition, it is hard to believe that this will change.

I then asked Shmuel, as I have a thousand times before: What happens now? Yes, I tell him, you are right. The Palestinians are at fault, but so what? A UN resolution will pass at the General Assembly in September, recognizing a Palestinian state. Israel’s international position is deteriorating. Economic sanctions might follow. And worse yet, elements of Palestinian leadership are already proposing a one-state solution—a single Jewish/Arab state in Palestine, with equal rights for all. If the proposal is accepted, Jews will become a minority in the new state; if it is rejected, Israel will be portrayed to the world as an apartheid state.

So, I ask, what is the plan? Even if we are completely right and the Palestinians are completely wrong, what do we do now to head off these very real dangers?

I disagree with some of Yoffie’s formulations — it isn’t “courage” the Palestinians have lacked, it’s desire — but I agree that Israel needs a plan. So what kind of plan will it be? Yoffie doesn’t say precisely:

These conversations always end the same way. Shmuel and I both love Israel and believe that the Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state is the heart of the problem. But he stubbornly refuses to see that current realities in the real world require Israel to make some tough choices, and even though he is not a very religious man, he prefers to leave things in the hands of God. As for me, I believe that the outlook at the moment is rather grim, that continuing on the current course will lead to disaster, and that what Israel needs right now is a plan.

Yoffie is on the left side of the ideological spectrum, so I can guess that the “tough choices” that would comprise his plan would involve further Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in order to preempt the diplomatic attack planned for September.

This is the position we invariably hear from the moderate Left — the situation is unsustainable, Israel has to ‘take risks’ — in other words, make concessions damaging to its security — to change it, otherwise bad things will happen.

Israel does have to make tough choices, but they are not in the direction that Rabbi Yoffie seems to think. Here are some undeniable facts:

  • The Fatah/Hamas Palestinian Authority will not make peace on receipt of even all the post-1967 territories. The most ‘moderate’ elements in the coalition have made it clear that they will not recognize pre-1967 Israel as a Jewish state, they will press for ‘right of return’ and for ‘de-Zionization’ to ensure ‘national rights’ for the Arab population within Israel. So concessions will weaken Israel from a strategic standpoint without ending the conflict.
  • Neither the Palestinians nor the European Union and anti-Israel elements in the Obama Administration will be happy with anything less than a near-complete reversal of the 1967 war. So no practical concessions will satisfy even their immediate demands.
  • No Israeli concessions will have any effect on the plans of Iranian proxy Hizballah to attack Israel in the near term with its massive missile force (built up since 2006 under the nose of the same UN that is demanding Israeli withdrawal).
  • No concessions will cause Hamas, soon to be supported by Egypt, to give up its plan to attack southern Israel with rockets and cross-border terrorism.
  • No concessions will cause Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons.

The Arabs have a guaranteed majority in the UN General Assembly, so they will pass whatever resolutions they want to in September. Since the only concession that could satisfy them would be a massive airlift of Israel’s Jewish population to Poland, the idea of heading off the diplomatic assault by preemptively surrendering is a bad one.

So what is the plan? What are the “tough choices?”

My thought is that they should be changes in the direction of increasing security, not decreasing it. The Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Danny Danon, suggests that the “tough choices” should include annexing parts of the post-1967 territories.

Certainly that would anger the Palestinians, the Obama Administration, and the EU. But they are already doing all they can to weaken Israel.

Keep in mind the virtual certainty of war with at least Hizballah and possibly Hamas as well within the next year. Strategic depth will be critical. The last thing Israel needs is an additional front a few miles from Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Yoffie is a Zionist, but he appears to be locked into the the ancient mode of Diaspora thinking: the Jews can get the antisemites to stop trying to kill them if they, the Jews, will just give them what they want. But what they want is no more Jews, so it really isn’t possible to solve the problem this way.

By the way, even the liberal Rabbi Yoffie is apparently too pro-Israel for the leadership of the Reform movement. They propose to replace him with someone from the other side.

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4 Responses to “Israel needs a plan, but it’s not what some think”

  1. NormanF says:

    If Israeli concessions could end the conflict and bring peace, they would be worth it.

    They won’t. Israel should annex most of Yesha and give the Palestinians the rest as a state and transfer to them the Little Triangle.

    Two things will happen: Israel will be freed of the occupation and of its Arab minority problem. It will gain strategic territorial depth.

    Of course this is not going to bring about peace. But it will defuse the Palestinian issue as propaganda for the Arab World and the West.

    Those who hate Israel will continue to do so. But the issue will no longer be about Palestinian statehood but about Israel’s existence and here Israel has the moral high ground.

    Israel and its friends need to transform the debate. And it needs to be done in a way that relieves Israel of looking out for the Arabs and give it defensible borders. Israel won’t have peace but it will be able to deter terrorism and wars. This is the situation that now exists with Syria and Lebanon and it will exist with the Palestinian Arabs.

    Taking such unilateral measures won’t make the world happy. But they will ensure Israel’s future.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    I do not know how you can know for certain that there will be war in the year ahead. And I certainly hope you are wrong about this. ‘War’ it seems to me which will bring massive destruction within Israel and will not put an end to Arab and Islamic hostility and violence seems to me not at all in our interest. Israel is doing so well in so many ways now. Of course this does not mean there might not be a war. And it does not mean that we should not fight it with the intention of totally defeating and destroying our enemies. But I believe it a truly horrible possibility.

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:


    Of course war is horrible and not in Israel’s interest. I hope I’m wrong about this too.

    A lot of people predicted war with Hizballah last summer, and it didn’t happen. So we could be wrong again. There are lots of factors that are unknown, like what will happen in Syria and Egypt.

  4. Robman says:

    All (but especially Shalom):

    For my own part, I’ve been “crying wolf” for some time now. For three of the past four years up to now, I thought war was imminent: in 2007, 2008, and 2010. I took a break in 2009….

    I agree with Vic that was is imminent. I’m more sure than ever now, because unlike the past years I mentioned, with the exception of 2010, not so many were saying this. Today – even more than last year – I find an awful lot of commentary supporting this.

    I absolutely hope I’m wrong…unless the alternative is for Israel to be coerced into surrendering even more land to the PA from which to launch still more terrorism against Israel. I hope Netanyahu can “hold the line” until we have a more pro-Israel administration who in turn, acting in a manner approximating a genuine ally, will discourage Israel’s enemies from believing they can attack a cornered, friendless Israel.

    I believe Bibi is doing the best he can to do just that. But the bad guys likely realize by now that a) Obama is a one-term president, and b) they won’t have someone more sympathetic to their program and less sympathetic to Israel ever again, sitting in the Oval Office. So, I think they are going to try to “go for broke” and try to pin Israel to the wall while the “getting is good”.

    Israel, left to her own devices per the status quo today, is only getting stronger. In a few years, the energy finds off her coast and in shale oil within her borders will make her energy independent. If she can get through the next three years, she’ll be in pretty good shape, practically unstoppable.

    So, with the Moslem-Butt-Kisser-In-Chief in the White House today, for the PA and their backers, it is “now or never” time.

    Short summary: I expect Israel to suffer more than she has in any previous war, particularly with respect to civilian casualties from large numbers of innacurate rockets, kind of like the Nazi V-1/V-2 attacks on the UK during WW2.

    Some could even have chemical warheads. This is going to be bad.

    But Israel is also very strong militarily. She has capabilities and technology no on else has. I’ve only heard blurbs here and there, but unleashed, gloves off, in a “bare-knuckle” fight, she will astound the world. When the dust settles, the deck will have been thoroughly reshuffled.

    All of this was so unnecessary. What a huge difference one election here can make….