Israel’s Greatest Mistake, Repeated Six Times, Will It Act Differently This Time?
Israel is, thank G-d, a strong country, with an exceptional military that combines courage, skills and profound moral standards. Israel will fight back in the latest round of attacks until Hamas accept a cease fire, at least for the time being.
Yet that is exactly what we must fear.
Israel has begun the “surgery” to cleanse its environment of the noxious diseases of terror. But when the blood caused by the surgery begins to gush forth, the UN may condemn, the State Department may criticize and the Israeli left will become self loathing. The Jewish State might then be compelled to “sew” up the wound before the infection has been eliminated. If that happens, the infection of terror will be allowed to simmer beneath the surface until the next explosion occurs in a year or two or 10. The Arabs, it must be said, have lots of patience.
This has been the tragic Israeli error all along: It has never professed the courage to go all the way, to establish untouchable truths and maintain them with unwavering resolve and determination. Six examples are noteworthy.
First, in the Six-Day War, when seven armies vowed to obliterate Israel, the Jewish State fought back and won, and tripled its original size. In the aftermath, instead of demonstrating strength, clarity and determination, Israel immediately sent a delegation to Washington to express its readiness to return all of the newly occupied territories to the Arab nations. (As usual, the Arabs refused the offer; they wanted more.)
Israel was attempting to demonstrate its passion for peace, but it misunderstood the psychology of the enemy. The move demonstrated to the Arab world that Israel was, in the final analysis, unsure and vulnerable, and capable of being defeated through long-term resolve.
In the second example, in June 1982, Israel entered Lebanon to eliminate Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been terrorizing Israel’s northern cities and towns. Just as the army stood on the verge of total victory, the military’s hands were tied. The Israeli army waited futilely on the outskirts of Beirut instead of swiftly completing its objectives. The casualties grew from day to day, the results were catastrophic for Israelis and for Arabs, and the PLO survived and thrived. (A little more than a decade later, Arafat would win the Noble “Peace” Prize.)
And third, in probably the greatest political mistake of a modern country, Israel resurrected the PLO in 1993, negotiated the Oslo peace agreements, withdrew from most of the West Bank and much of Gaza, supplied weapons and money to its foes for a police force, and allowed a mighty terror infrastructure to be built in its own back yard. When the first Israeli bus exploded in 1994, and the PLO did nothing to stop it, Israel had the opportunity to liberate itself from the deadly illusion that peace was on the horizon and completely cut down the terror foundations in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, Israel showed restraint. During the next 10 years, rivers of blood flowed in the Holy Land. Thousands of innocent Jews and Arabs lost their lives or have been maimed forever.
Then, in a fourth example, Israel evacuated Gaza in August of 2005, leaving it ‘yudenrein.’ Ten thousands Jews were expelled from their homes, with their communities demolished by the Israel Defense Forces under the leadership of the hawkish Ariel Sharon who in a single instant has reversed his philosophy of sixty years. Not a single Jew or soldier was left in Gaza. Israel gave its neighbors the opportunity to create an independent state with a flourishing society. Instead, in the following days rockets came pouring down on Israeli cities, targeting civilians in homes, schools and streets. Instead of waking up to the deadly consequences of the Gaza withdrawal and re-entering Gaza, Israel showed restraint. The results? Hamas has built a powerful terror war machine, 12,000 rockets have terrorized Israel’s south for years, and now all of Israel stands in great danger. In this past week alone, Hamas has fired some 450 rockets at Israel, murdering and maiming innocent Jewish women, men and children.
A fifth example: In July 2006, Hezbollah attacked Israel on the north, shooting rockets at Israeli towns, and thus diverting its attention as it murdered eight soldiers and kidnapped two. The subsequent war ended with Israel not fulfilling even one of its objectives. Hezbollah remains stronger than ever, waiting for the right opportunity to attack. The two kidnapped soldiers were not freed. (They were later returned in coffins in exchange for Israel freeing a number of terrorists.)
Finally, in January 2009, Israel was forced to reenter Gaza to stop the incessant rocket attacks. But once again, Israel chose to allow the terror-cancer cells to remain whole. They left Gaza with Hamas intact.
Time and time again, the State of Israel has proven the truth of the ancient saying, that when a Jew finally makes a fist, he bangs it on his heart to confess his wrongdoings. Israel has failed to recognize that when you leave part of the cancer tumor intact so that you can complete the surgery as fast as possible, it will resurface, to attack the organism. Terror is a cancer; it must be completely eliminated.
So now we’re back at the drawing board. Hamas is as strong as ever and its capabilities are impressive. Rockets have reached Tel Aviv, 50 miles from the Gaza strip. Will Israel once again fear its own strength and compromise its moral responsibility to ensure the safety of every single person in Israel? Will it buckle and agree to some type of nebulous cease fire, giving its enemies the time and space to reorganize and plan their next opportunity to attack?
There are many questions about the future. What is the long-term solution? What about the demographic problem of a minority of Jews in a sea of Arabs? How can Israel continue to “occupy Palestinian territory?”
The great mistake of Israel has been to ask—and answer—questions of peace in times of war. Israel, for more than 15 years now, is in a state of war, though it never acknowledged it as such. For 15 years, there have been Arab attempts on an almost daily basis to murder Jewish men, women and children throughout the country. Many have succeeded; most have failed, only because of the diligence of the IDF and the help of G-d. In a time of war, you talk not about demographics or occupation. You make sure that your citizens are not being murdered and kidnapped.
When Israel’s neighbors embrace the path of peace, then we all will have the luxury of confronting the demographic problem, as well as any others. In the meantime, Israel must complete the job it began years ago but never saw through till the end.