by Stan Goodenough
As inevitably they must, they will fail.
In anticipation, the Obama administration is preparing to lay the blame at Israel’s door.
What they are already saying, is that the talks disintegrated because Israel insisted on building “Jewish settlements” on “occupied Arab lands.”
For the first time I find myself partially in agreement with Washington.
The issue of construction and growth of communities for Jews in Samaria and Judea HAS repeatedly fouled up the peace process and is, inevitably, leading to its demise.
But it is not the BUILDING of these homes and offices, synagogues, industrial parks and shopping malls (aka “Jewish settlements”) that is the problem – as the world led by Washington maintains.
Israel’s fall down is the fact that this building has been, and is being, done on land successive governments in Jerusalem have increasingly admitted does not belong to the Jews!
What Israel has de facto told the world is: “This land is not ours, but we are going to build on it anyway. … We’ve stolen this land and we’re keeping it, and we’re using it, and we don’t care what anyone says.”
But wait, you protest. When has Israel said anything so outrageous?
And the answer is: Every time Israeli officials and journalists and ordinary citizens refer to these areas as “occupied territories” or “the West Bank.”
There was a time when, for example, even today’s extreme left-wing politicians called the land by its historically accurate name of Samaria and Judea.
It was known as Samaria and Judea in biblical days, and down through post biblical history, even in such publications as the Encyclopedia Britannica in the late 19th century. Google for maps of ancient Palestine and you will find, for example, one by Alexander G Findlay, drawn in 1849, as stored digitally by the University of Texas at Austin. The names Samaria and Judea stand boldly out on the page.
When I moved to Israel in 1991 The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s then right-wing daily newspaper, identified these lands as Samaria and Judea.
Back then, or shortly before, the establishment of a Palestinian state ANYWHERE was seen by so many people as a mortal danger to Israel that should never be allowed.
Believe it or not, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said:
“Palestine will rise on the ruins of the State of Israel. … A Palestinian state will be a time bomb which will draw the Arab world into war.”
President Shimon Peres once said:
“The Arabs foster the separate Palestinian nationalism, and the myth of ‘restoring the rights of the Palestinian nation’ within the territory of the State of Israel and in its stead, in order to destroy Israeli nationalism. The Palestinian national demand is designed to abrogate the existence of the State of Israel and not to coexist with it peacefully.”
And Netanyahu is on record as saying, many times more than once, that a Palestinian state must NEVER be established.
How far they all have fallen.
What about the Arab side? It hasn’t budged an inch. For more than 62 years the Arabs have maintained that this land is theirs. They insist it is all (including so-called Israel-proper) their land. And they vow not to surrender any of it.
The world agrees. It is hard (impossible?) to find one world leader or a single mainstream journalist – electronic or print – who will eschew calling Samaria and Judea the occupied Arab West Bank.
But on this, most crucial of the Middle East battlefield, Israel has retreated, given ground to the enemy.
Take this opening paragraph from today’s The Jerusalem Post website:
As the second round of Israeli-Palestinians peace talks wrapped up in Sharm e-Sheikh on Tuesday, US Mideast envoy George Mitchell offered no evidence of progress on the issue of West Bank settlements.
“West Bank settlements” instead of “Jewish communities in Samaria and Judea.”
It’s as if almost all Israelis have resigned themselves to calling their land “not our land.”
This course has been followed for so long now. And truly, in the world of 21st century international politics, it is hard, some would say impossible, to reverse.
But Israel, your leaders will have to reverse.
They will have to confess; they will have to repent; and they will have to reverse.
It will cost you blood. First of all, it will cost political blood. But then it will cost red, human blood – the life of your people. But you have to regroup and you have to reform and you have to turn around and charge back onto that battle field, waving the Star of David, trumpeting the charge with your shofars, firing fiercely and determined to never again retreat; never again give ground to the enemy; never again take risks for peace that are in fact risks with your existence.
Whose is the land? This is the battle: You have to announce, declare, proclaim, and assert: “Samaria and Judea is our land. It is Jewish land. It is the cradle of our nationhood, the home and the burial place of our founding fathers, the geographical furnace in which our nation was formed and forged. Our roots are irremovably deep in this land.”
And you have to vow: “We will build on this land; we will develop it; we will live in it, we will grow in it, and we will die in it. We will never give one inch of it away.”
The Jewish people are presently in the middle of the 10 Days of Awe that began on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) last week and will end with the start of Yom Kippur this coming Saturday.
Every night, they gather in thousands of synagogues across the country to say slichot – sorry – for the sins of the past year.
This is the perfect time for Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to say “slicha” – sorry – to his nation.
He should confess to his people – loudly enough for Washington, the UN, the EU, the Arab states and all the world to hear:
“We, Israel’s governments, ARE TO BLAME for the failure of the land-for-peace process. We have broadcast a mixed message. In our desperate desire to secure peace for our nation we have compromised on what we all now to be true. But no more.”
Yes, Israel’s government should acknowledge that it has failed its people, and ask the nation’s forgiveness. Then it should take the required, resolute step, stopping the peace process dead, and refusing to participate any further in this farce.
There is fault to be found with many of Israel’s leaders – including Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. Every one of these men has contributed to the collapse of a diplomatic process into which world leaders and the international media poured such massive amounts of political and pecuniary capital.
It goes without saying that if these Israelis are to blame – then the other parties – the PLO and its constituents; the Arab League; the Quartet – all have a great deal more to answer for. And they will. But for now I am not dealing with them.
The elected leaders of the State of Israel cannot escape the responsibility they bear. From the point of view of the Jewish people, and in the context of the millennia of Jewish history, their failing is by far the most serious of all.
Unless this is seen, and unless the current government moves immediately to turn the situation around, the danger hanging over Israel could engulf this little land.