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.