The conclusion that “peace” in our time is a dangerous illusion is actually quite liberating, as it frees the mind to explore other approaches to governance, diplomacy and security. It recognizes that “peace” is not the goal, but rather Israel’s security, prosperity and development as a truly Jewish state. How can those goals be achieved, mindful of the relentless hostility to Jewish nationalism of the Arabs and much of the “civilized” world ?
I dug out of my archives an article I published in a local newspaper on April 28, 1995 (yes, 1995) entitled “The Alternative.” It pointed out what later became obvious:
“Opponents of the ‘peace process’ maintained from the moment of the infamous handshake that terrorism would increase, Jews would be brutally murdered and the terrorists would have at their disposal more sophisticated and deadly weapons; that Gaza and Jericho would become Lebanons, armed tinderboxes and terrorist sanctuaries; that it was the height of criminal insanity to depend on the Palestine Liberation Organization (!) to protect Jews; that the PLO would renege on its commitment to renounce and rescind its covenant to destroy Israel; that the PLO would renege on its commitment to combat terror, and hand over wanted terrorists for Israeli prosecution; that the Rabin government would not let violations of the agreement affect its future implementation; that the Rabin government would stifle dissent by trampling on the civil liberties of Israeli citizen-protesters; that so-called liberals would be advocating a Kahanist-style transfer and resettlement – of Jews; that the agreement would tear apart the delicate fabric of Israeli society, pit Jew against Jew and exacerbate secular-religious tensions [update: the latter three typified the Sharon government]; and that Israel would be weakened, demoralized, divided and dispirited, and Israelis devoid of even a semblance of personal security – anywhere in the country.”
I could have added that the anticipated acclaim that Israel would receive from the international community for all their concessions would never materialize or would be short-lived. Indeed, it was. The world has forgotten Oslo, lynching, terror, Gaza/Jericho, the surrenders, the war of 2001-2003, the Expulsion from Gaza, etc., like a person who consumed a delicious meal one evening but is hungry again the next day. What can I have to eat, and now ?
The strongest argument in support of Oslo was the lament “there is no alternative,” what the columnist Charles Krauthammer called – back then – “a message of fanatical despair.” But there is an alternative, and I outlined it in 1995.
“ ‘There is no alternative’ is not rational discourse but inane sloganeering; surely there is an alternative to national suicide…
One prefatory note: the goal is not ‘peace.’ Peace, say classical Jewish sources, is a divine gift – a state of harmony between man, his world and God. It is unattainable in the present context, and we should stop looking for it…There are simply far too many armed and dangerous Arabs who are unreconciled and irreconcilable to Israel’s existence, and always will be – our delusions to the contrary notwithstanding. More to the point, there are far too few Arabs (if any) who would weep at Israel’s demise, God forbid. So peace, whether abstract or political, is not a realistic goal. The goal should be an absence of war, and that depends primarily on a strong Israel.
The priority of a strong Israel is the preservation of Jewish life and the development of a uniquely Jewish society. A strong Israel exercises sovereign authority over the entire land of Israel, defined halachically as the biblical borders and politically (in Napoleon’s phrase) by where its soldiers’ graves are located. It is unafraid to employ the maximum military power necessary to secure its border and cities and subdue those who challenge its sovereignty. This is moral, ethical, just and common sense, and serves as an effective deterrent.
A strong Israel annexes all the territory under its control, and announces to the world that there will be only a Jewish sovereign presence in the land of Israel from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Annexation does not mean citizenship for all inhabitants – not every resident of the United States is a citizen. To preserve the Jewish character of the state, Arabs are welcome to live in Israel as legal aliens with full civil, cultural, economic and religious rights – even municipal autonomy – but without any national rights, a police force, an army or any entity that threatens the body politic of Israel. And they may dwell in Israel only on condition that they accept, freely and unequivocally, Israeli sovereignty over the land of Israel.
Any Arab who objects to or resists Israeli sovereignty should (and will) seek his fortunes – and civil, cultural, economic, religious and national rights – in any one of the 22 Arab sovereign paradises that today extend from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans. Not every minority in the world is privileged to have national rights, especially when they dwell in a foreign land – and for Arabs, Israel is a foreign land…
All this is nothing more – and nothing less – than the political framework of the Jewish (Torah) state. The alternative to the sorry spectacle of governance before us – the last gasp of the secular Zionists who built the state and are now tearing it down – necessarily includes the creation of a true Torah state, and a return to the covenant with God. We should proclaim to all Jews before it is too late that our deed to the land of Israel – no matter how strong our armies or powerful our weaponry – is only valid when we live there as a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
The historic, prophetic dream of re-born Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel was not to create a haven for Jews (today, the United States is a safer haven), nor for an Israel that would be a Middle Eastern bastion of Western cultural debauchery, nor even an Israel praised for its export of polished diamonds and oranges. The historic dream of Israel sought to inhabit the land that God gave us on which to create His model society, living according to His law, and exporting to the world Torah, knowledge of God and ethical values – as well as, perhaps, polished diamonds and oranges.
Imagine an Israel that truly rested on Shabbat, feasted on national days of celebration, established homes of purity, observed the commandments and united in service of God. Imagine an Israel that prayed and studied together, obeyed the halacha without dilution or compromise, and lived and breathed the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. Imagine an Israel whose leaders are steeped in Torah knowledge, values and deeds, and whose citizens – all of them – seek to do ‘what is right and good in God’s eyes.’
Such an Israel would be strong internally and externally, proud, secure and content. It would serve as a magnet for Jews throughout the world, and rescue American Jewry from its spiritual self-destruction. Its foes would be vanquished before it, it would be a world leader in the best sense, and it could have untold consequences in terms of Jewish destiny…
…It is the creation of a new State of Israel – a faithful Israel, the unique people of God – that can transform the reality of the Middle East and the world, turn swords into ploughshares, and usher in an era of tolerance, respect, goodwill and – who knows ?- maybe even peace.
Does it seem possible ? It is. And, quite frankly, there is no alternative.”
That was 1995. It is still possible, especially if we acknowledge the current impossibility of peace. Certainly there will be a hue and cry in the Arab world and the diplomatic salons of the world, all of whom have become accustomed to the unilateral concessions of the Israelis.
In the short term, this approach engenders two policy prescriptions that need not require a public renunciation of the prospects for “peace.” First, Israel should stop the tired dance of negotiating building settlements, building in settlements, attending to the natural growth of settlements, or other such semantic games. Rather, it should state politely and clearly that since Israel will insist on retaining this land in any future “accord,” it is unjust and immoral for Israel to restrain its own citizens from building on their own land. This insanity is most acute in areas of Judea and Samaria that were purchased by Jews from Arab landowners, and is not at all “state” or unallocated land. By what moral standard should Jews – in the land of Israel, for Heaven’s sake – be denied the right to build a house on privately owned land ? Any self-imposed restriction – or an externally imposed restriction that is accepted – sends a message of weakness that invites further demands.
The second point rectifies a thirty-year old blunder. In the 1978 Camp David Accords, Menachem Begin – in probably the greatest error of his life – was compelled to recognize “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” That became the basis for all subsequent negotiations – but the “legitimate rights of the Jewish people” were not similarly recognized. Well, that time has come, and in advance of any future negotiations – an unequivocal, unambiguous, undeniable statement by the Arab world that the Jewish people have “legitimate rights” in the land of Israel. Let them chew on that one, for a decade or three.
Indeed, PM Netanyahu has moved in the direction of both these prescriptions – so far resisting any encroachments on the “natural growth” of settlements and also seeking the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” something that is clearly anathema to the Arabs. My formula – recognizing “the legitimate rights of the Jewish people” – has the added charm of linguistic and moral symmetry, and without which the sinister objectives of the Arab world are patently clear.
And if Israel’s Prime Minister concedes the impossibility of peace in the current and foreseeable climate – even to himself and his advisors – Israeli diplomacy will be on the correct course, the world will gradually adjust to this new reality, and – despite the sound and fury that will emanate from certain quarters, and the occasional terror disruption – an era without war and with a measure of stability will commence.