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Eyes Upon the Land - Part 2

Eyes Upon the Land - Part 2

Phases In The Israel - Arab Conflict: Israeli Approaches & Suggested Alternatives

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If only the above arguments were mere abstractions to be bartered about in a political science class or philosophical discussions to be politely shared over the dinner table! Unfortunately, however, they are facts of life, truths have been largely ignored by Israeli governments over the past 30 years. As a result, a recurring pattern has been established. Concession after concession has been made to the Arabs without anything substantial being received in return. Time and again, victories won with blood and Divine miracles on the battlefield have backfired into defeats at the negotiating table. Thousands of Jewish and for that matter Arab lives have been lost. The term “peace process” has become virtually synonymous with demands for Israeli concessions.

Throughout this period, against this background of concessions, a different voice was heard. For decades, until 1994, the Lubavitcher Rebbe served as a rockbed of strength and confidence, radiating guidance and vision for the future of our land and its people.

This is not mere history. At present as well, the Rebbe’s insights remain current and foresighted. His insights and advice shed light on how to deal with the problems we face today.

In the pages to follow, we will present a brief historical overview of several phases in the Arab-Israeli controversy and the directives and perception the Rebbe shared at the time. The intent is not merely to recount the past, but rather to point towards the future. If mistakes and adverse factors are highlighted, it is not to thrive on negativity, but to spell out problematic approaches that continue to undermine Israeli policy until the present day. Reviewing the past may prevent us from living it.

And, through rethinking the past, we can chart a path of action for the future, one that will lead to security, growth, and hopefully peace within the Land of Israel.

The Six-Day War and its Aftermath

Today, it is hard to recapture the feelings that existed before the Six-Day War. At that time, people everywhere including most of the Jewish community inside and outside Israel sincerely believed the Arab threats to push Israel into the sea. They felt that it was only a matter of time before those threats would be carried out. As the war drew nearer and nearer, their premonitions of dread continued to increase.

The Rebbe, in contrast, radiated strength and confidence. Before the war, he made both public and private statements, stating that this was a period of unique Divine favor for the Jewish people, and promising that they would soon be rewarded by wondrous miracles. When American students in Israel were streaming to the airport by the thousands, the Rebbe told his followers to stay in the Holy Land, assuring them that they did not face any danger.

Immediately after the war was concluded, the Rebbe began to speak out against the return of the territories Israel had conquered. At that point, no one could appreciate what the Rebbe meant. Never in world history had any one ever thought of returning land won in a defensive war.

And yet, shortly after the war, a state delegation from Jerusalem arrived in Washington and told the Americans to advise the Arabs that Israel was prepared to give back the land she had conquered in exchange for peace.

At first the Americans were amazed; they did not believe what they were hearing. But when the Israelis repeated their promises, they communicated the message. The Arabs, flabbergasted, had not dreamed that Israel would ever consider giving away these territories. The Americans, however, assured them that the Israelis meant what they said.

Why didn’t the Arabs agree? Because at that time, they could not contemplate giving even lip service to the concept of peace. So powerful was their hatred that they could not publicly state that they would end their aggression against Israel.

And yet, the fact that they digested the Israeli message was harmful. From that moment, they launched a diplomatic campaign calling for the return of the land that Israel had conquered. Had Israel not made these offers, the Arabs would never have contemplated making such demands.

A similar pattern could be seen with regard to the Arabs living in the West Bank. Directly after the war, the majority of the Arabs wanted to flee to the other Arab countries. Many others would have gladly done so had they been offered some financial recompense. At that point in time, the other Arab countries would have accepted them. They would have had no choice. And yet Israel’s leaders closed the borders and prevented these Arabs from leaving.

At that time, Israel’s government explained that they were encouraging the Arabs to stay because they wanted to show the world a shining example of coexistence between nations. What shortsightedness! Had they left, the Intifada, the demographic problem, and all the sensitive issues that a large Arab population in the West Bank creates would never have arisen. And any significant reduction in the Arab population would have diminished the magnitude of these problems.

Nor is shortsightedness the only difficulty. The greater reason for having the Arabs stay was that Israel’s self-image was not strong enough to see herself settling the entire land and maintaining possession. Although from a security perspective this is vital for the country’s future, the Israeli government lacked the inner resolve to make this commitment to the country’s tomorrow.

Instead, the government restricted Jewish settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem1 and throughout the West Bank. Rather than create a situation which would have made the unity of the holy city and the continued possession of the West Bank a logical necessity, the Israeli government always treated the land as “occupied territory.” Indeed, this conception was continually reinforced by government communiqués and the official government news media, which always referred to the West Bank as hashtachim (“the territories”), instead of the Hebrew names for Judea (Yehudah) and Samaria (Shomron). Moreover, the government always treated the Arabs as the rightful owners of the land, clearly indicating that a just settlement of the issue would involve an Israeli withdrawal.

From the outset, the Rebbe called for settlement of the entire land, emphasizing that not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a security perspective, the Land of Israel is a single, indivisible entity. He did not see the government’s program of partial settlement as a solution, for it placed the settlers in danger, and never reflected a sincere commitment to command authority over the land in its entirety.

The War of Attrition

After the Six-Day War, the Arab hostilities against Israel continued. Across the entire stretch of the Suez Canal, bloody artillery battles were fought between Israeli and Egyptian troops.

At that time, the Nixon administration expended considerable effort to broker a cease-fire between the two sides. During the lengthy negotiations the Rebbe warned Israel against entering into any agreement, explaining that Egypt wanted a cease-fire only to begin preparing for the next war. “Before the ink is dry on the agreement,” the Rebbe warned, “the Egyptians will violate it. And who knows how many lives will be lost in the next war because of these violations.”

The Israelis had the upper hand. Their armies were at the banks of the Suez Canal and by preventing its use put a stranglehold on the Egyptian economy. Nevertheless, in the negotiations, the Egyptians made demands with bravado. At first the Israelis hesitated, but as the negotiations continued, the Israel acceded to every one of the Egyptian demands.

What was the agreement’s saving grace for the Israelis? There was to be a cease fire: although the Israelis would pull back, the Egyptians solemnly promised not to move any heavy guns across the Suez.

What actually happened? The day after the treaty was signed the Egyptians violated it, moving their artillery and anti-aircraft batteries across the Suez and entrenching them in the Sinai Peninsula. The transfer of equipment was photographed and publicized by news media throughout the world.

What did the Israelis do? They lodged a few feeblehearted protests and then carried on as if nothing had happened. They could have launched an artillery attack that would have destroyed the Egyptian guns before they could be positioned. No one in the world could have protested, for the Egyptians had flagrantly violated the agreement before its ink had dried. But Israel’s army was silent, and even her diplomats did not voice constant and outspoken protests.

What was the rationale motivating the Israelis? First of all, the hope that the agreement would be a first step toward peace, and second, the perception that signing this treaty would win American favor and enable Israel to receive American arms.

Neither of these perceptions had any basis in reality. To imagine that Nasser could have been at all prepared for peace with Israel, one would have had to be an incorrigible dreamer. Yet when the parents of the soldiers who had been killed in the three previous years asked the government why the concessions to the Arabs were being made, this is the answer that was given them.

Nor was it necessary to make these concessions to receive American arms. America did not desire Israel’s position to be weakened. Just as she expected the Arabs to make demands she expected Israel to reject them, because they were harmful to her security. How was she to know that Israel would capitulate to every single Arab demand?

What happened as a result of the Israeli redeployment mandated by the treaty? The Egyptians were able to cross the Suez without difficulty in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and their anti-aircraft batteries in the Sinai inflicted losses on Israeli planes. Although the treaty did give the Israelis a temporary respite from battle, in the long run it cost many more lives.

And most importantly, had Egypt not been given these strategic positions, it is very possible that the Yom Kippur War would never have been waged. It was only because Egypt had been granted a foothold in the Sinai that she had the position and the confidence to launch an attack.

The Yom Kippur War

In the months leading to Yom Kippur, 1973, Israeli intelligence had gathered reports of an Arab troop build-up and the possibility of war. To combat such forces, they warned, Israel was not able rely on her standing army, and had to call up her reserves. Nevertheless, each time the Prime Minister and the cabinet were alerted, the warnings were rejected. “There is no need,” explained Golda Meir, “to sow panic among the populace.”

In the days before the war, and even on the day the war broke out, the cabinet met, and the nation’s military leaders demanded that the reserves be called up, for the Arabs were obviously preparing for war. They explained that the call-up itself might prevent the war. For if the Arabs saw that Israel was ready, they might hesitate before launching an attack. At the very least, the call-up would place the Israelis in a position to repulse the attack, and launch an immediate counterattack.

Despite the army’s urgent insistence, the cabinet remained unwilling. In her autobiography, Golda Meir admits that she and her advisors had intelligence reports of an impending attack. Nevertheless, they refrained from calling up the reserves so that the world would see that Israel was not an aggressor. Allowing herself to be attacked would clearly demonstrate Israel’s peaceful intent to the Americans and encourage them to support her with arms.

The argument is so absurd that it is difficult to write it down in a manner which makes any sense at all, but that is what happened. Because of the government’s desire that Israel appear as a peace-loving nation, a fierce war which cost over two-and-a-half thousand Jewish lives ensued. A large proportion of those casualties took place in the first days, when Israel’s lack of preparation left her open to Arab attack. And because of the Arab advances during those first days, Israel was forced to fight from compromised positions later on.

Nor was this the end of the Israeli willingness to sacrifice her security because of what a few politicians imagined international opinion to be. When the Israeli army succeeded in turning the tables and launching a counterattack against Syria and Egypt, they met immediate success. They reconquered large portions of the Golan and proceeded toward Damascus. Although they were only short miles away from the Syrian capital, and there was no substantial opposition in front of them, they suddenly halted their advance. Instead of conquering the Syrian capital, the Israeli army simply sat still.

Because they did not advance, the Syrians had time to regroup their artillery, and inflict losses on the Israelis. But that was not the most severe loss the Israelis suffered. The war ended shortly afterwards. Had Damascus been conquered, Syria would have been defused as a power for decades. Instead, after the war, she emerged as Israeli’s most belligerent foe.

Why didn’t Israel seize this opportunity? Because her diplomats overruled her generals. The diplomats were afraid of world opinion. But whose opinion? Not that of the Communist bloc. They had sided with the Arabs and could never be won to the Israeli side. The Americans? They would have been overjoyed if Syria was conquered. Syria had openly identified with the Russians, and America wanted nothing more than to have her power restricted.

True, at the outset, America would have protested. In order to appease the Arabs, it would have had to make a gesture. But everyone would have realized that it was merely a gesture. Israel could have gone about dealing with her own security needs without any interference.

True, such a campaign would have caused losses. But there have been Israeli losses on the Syrian front ever since. And the danger of greater losses still persists. When a person has a malignant disease he does what is necessary to deal with the problem. An operation may be painful, but it is preferable to allowing the malignancy to spread. The faster action is taken the better.

A similar mistake was made on the Egyptian front. Egypt’s Third Army had penetrated the Sinai Desert, but there they were surrounded by Israeli troops. Their supply line was cut and they were without food and water. The vanguard of the Israeli troops had already crossed the Suez, and were threatening the Egyptian capital. Not surprisingly, the Egyptians began to sue for a cease fire. Although they had started the war, they now wanted to end it as soon as possible.

Did Israel demand the surrender of the Third Army? No. They allowed the Egyptians to receive humanitarian aid from relief organizations. As a result, because they had not surrendered, it was recognized in the cease-fire agreement that this army had recaptured portions of the Sinai. A brilliant turnover on the battleground was again soured into a defeat by the diplomats at the negotiating table.

Why? Because they were unwilling to stand firm, and wait for the pressure to be placed on Egypt. At that point, the Egyptians needed the cease fire more than the Israelis, and yet in their desire to appear as peace-loving, Israel made concession after concession.

In New York, the months preceding the war were also charged by intense activity. Although he was not privy to the intelligence information coming out of Israel, the Rebbe began a campaign to strengthen Jewish education for children. Citing the verse,2 “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have established the strength… to destroy an enemy and an avenger,” the Rebbe explained that the Torah study of young children generates protective spiritual influences for the Jewish people. For months, the Rebbe repeated and expounded this verse at public gathering after public gathering, in letters, and in personal meetings. He later stated that he had felt impelled from above to take this step.

After the war broke out, at public gatherings and at private meetings with Israeli leaders, the Rebbe spoke out fiercely against Israel’s unwillingness to conquer Damascus. “When I asked army commanders why they didn’t conquer Damascus,” the Rebbe said, “they told me that it is surrounded by rocky terrain which makes an advance difficult. Had I not heard this myself, I would not have believed that such an excuse could be given.”

Over and over again, the Rebbe urged Israelis to recognize that they had been saved by a Divine miracle: instead of proceeding further after breaking through the Bar-Lev line in the Sinai and Israel’s initial defenses on the Golan, the Egyptian and Syrian troops had halted their advance. That halt had given Israel the time to mobilize her reserves. With thankful acknowledgement, the Rebbe continued, Israelis should have wisely used the advantage provided to them by the new territories they had conquered and not sacrificed them because of the whims of several diplomats.

Courage and Fortitude, But Whose?
The Camp David Accords

In 1977, one man captured the attention of the entire world, bringing about a change in the paradigm of Israeli-Arab relations. Anwar Sadat decided to visit Israel.

Until that time, Israeli and Arabs had seen each other face to face only on the battlefield, and now they would talk to each other directly without intermediaries.

Sadat had courage. Realizing that the path of action that he and his predecessors had been following had not brought him success, he was concerned about his country’s future. Something new had to be done. So instead of listening to the worn-out tapes of advice he had received from Egyptian advisors, from other Arab leaders, from Washington and from Moscow, he decided to do something different, something which no one had ever dreamed of. He would go to Israel.

What was his intent? He wanted the return of the territory Egypt had lost in the Sinai; he wanted the time to rebuild his army without the threat of war; and he wanted American financial aid for his country.

Did he genuinely want peace with Israel? We can never know. To the other Arab leaders, he explained that he was not surrendering anything. He would receive what he could without fighting. And then, having improved Egypt’s position, he said, he would leave the challenge of defeating Israel militarily to the next generation.

Was there nothing more? Were all the overtures of peace merely for show? Again, we cannot know. Twenty years later, the reality is that Israel’s sacrifice of its dearly-developed oilfields almost destroyed its economy. There is a very cold peace between Egypt and Israel. There is next to no economic cooperation. At every international diplomatic or commercial event in Egypt, Israel’s representatives are demonstratively snubbed. Egyptian tourists almost never come to Israel. In Egyptian media and schools, Israel is still described as “the enemy.” The Egyptian army is stockpiling arms, and from time to time, Egyptian leaders speak of war against Israel.

But was that Sadat’s intent? Had he have lived, would it have been different? Firstly, that itself is a lesson that when making a treaty with an enemy, one has to take the worst possible scenario in mind, not merely hope for the best. We can never know what will happen in the future, and we cannot make real sacrifices in the mere hope that everything will work out.

Secondly, for peace to have been achieved, the bold ability to step beyond paradigms which Sadat demonstrated would have had to have been countered by a similar approach on the Israeli side, and unfortunately, that was lacking.

Peace can never be achieved when only one side gives and the other merely receives. This does not nurture an attitude of respect for an adversary. On the contrary, weakness encourages an adversary to try to take greater advantage. When both sides have surrendered something, there is a chance that they will consider an agreement worth honoring, but when one side has made all the sacrifices, the other side has nothing binding it. And that is what happened at Camp David.

Before Camp David, Israel controlled strategic mountain passes that would have made an Egyptian troop advance difficult; she had airfields in the Sinai which gave her advantages in both defensive and offensive movement; and she had oilfields which guaranteed her energy supply in time of war and supported her economy in peace. All these she sacrificed. In addition Begin gave the order to bulldoze the beautiful seaside township of Yamit, together with its surrounding cluster of thriving agricultural settlements on the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip.

In return Israel was handed a piece of paper; Sadat gave nothing of substance.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry maintains tha the very fact that he recognized Israel's right to exist was a major breakthrough. But aside from the question of whether he was sincere or not,3 that very concept is worthy of question. Is it proper to sacrifice major military and economic resources in exchange for such a proclamation?

But the fault in the Israeli approach goes deeper. Sadat became a hero in Israel. He was lauded all over the country, and celebrations were held for his arrival. Israelis were overjoyed that an Arab leader had actually acknowledged their existence. So great was the adulation that there were Knesset members who proposed making Arabic a required language in schools.

Now did any such thing ever happen in Egypt? Or, for that matter, did American praise ever wax so eloquent when a Russian leader came to visit? It seemed that Israel was saying, “Well, since Sadat thinks we’re important, I guess we are.” Self-esteem came not from an inner sense of their own mission and purpose, but from the recognition granted by a foe.

Sadat heard that message, and for that reason he made no concession.

Israel spoke to him as if he was the leader of all the Arab countries. In particular, she made commitments to him with regard to the West Bank. It was at Camp David that the term “autonomy” was coined.

The Palestinians had stated publicly that they did not see Sadat as their representative. He had no commitment to them, nor they to him. For sure, to try to upgrade his image in the Arab countries he felt it necessary to raise the Palestinian issue. But once it was raised, Israel could and should have answered the truth: “This is no concern of yours. Peace with the Palestinians has to be made with the Palestinians.” And he would have left it at that, for his interests really lay only in strengthening his own country.

Nevertheless, the Israelis made commitments to him, acknowledging a limitation of their rights to the West Bank.

For him, making the requests was almost a caprice. He had nothing to lose, so why not ask? But the Israelis had everything to lose, and nothing to gain by speaking to him about the issue. And yet they spoke and made concessions.

In general, there was no reason for Israeli concessions. Sadat needed American support and money and could not get that without signing a peace treaty with Israel. He had already burned his bridges with the other Arab countries, and would not restore his image by breaking off negotiations with Israel and coming back emptyhanded. Carter was deeply involved in a reelection campaign and needed an agreement to improve his prestige among the voters.

Begin, by contrast, needed nothing. There was nothing substantial that Sadat was prepared to give, and within Israel, the fact that he was the prime minister who had brought Sadat to Jerusalem had bolstered his position immensely. Unquestionably, Sadat was going to make demands, and the Americans may have supported him initially, but Begin held all these cards in his hand; there was no reason for him to give in. And yet he made concession after concession, giving away (and even volunteering) security and economic assets without getting anything in return. This was unnecessary. He could have come away with a treaty without making any substantial concessions.

Is this mere conjecture? Not at all, because on one of the most sensitive points of all the negotiations, Begin stood his ground, and Sadat conceded. Sadat had demanded that Begin make concessions with regard to Jerusalem. On this point Begin stood firm and said, “No.”

Now Jerusalem has sentimental value to the Arabs. A pledge from Begin on an altered status for Jerusalem would have been very flattering to Sadat’s image. But when Begin stood firm, the matter was erased from the agenda.

The same motif could have been followed with regard to other matters. Sadat could have made demands, but Begin could have said “no.” If he had said “no” firmly, the American pressure that had been placed on him would have shifted to Sadat. And Sadat would have had to concede, for he had more to lose. Indeed, from the time of Sadat’s visit onward significantly, many of the points mentioned above were made by the Rebbe in a public address delivered on the very night Sadat landed in Israel the Rebbe argued that fortitude and patience were the only path to true peace.

Throughout the entire time, the Rebbe raised a cry of protest against the Israeli approach. Indeed, Camp David marks the beginning of the fifteen years during which the Rebbe repeatedly warned that the proposed autonomy would quickly grow into an armed and belligerent Palestinian state which would displace Israel and destroy the basic security of her Jewish inhabitants.

When Egypt violated the agreements, putting far more military men in the Sinai than the treaty allowed, the Rebbe called for a halt to the Israeli implementation of the remaining clauses. “Why continue withdrawing from land when the Egyptians are not maintaining their commitments?” he repeatedly asked. “Why the stubbornness on the part of the Israelis to observe every minor detail of the agreement, when the Arabs, those who have benefited most from it, violate the few restrictions which they undertook to honor?”

Lebanon

In 1982, after the residents of the Upper Galilee had been forced to spend night after night in bomb shelters out of fear of Katyusha rockets, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon with the intent of rooting out the PLO terrorist bases there.

At the outset, the campaign met with almost miraculous success. One enemy position after another fell until the Israelis had surrounded the PLO headquarters in East Beirut. The majority of the leaders of the terrorist groups who had attacked Israel for years could have been captured and the backbone of the terrorist organizations broken.

And then Israel stopped. They could have cut off food, water, and electricity; they could have reduced the city to rubble. But they didn’t. Instead of demanding unconditional surrender, they let the terrorists leave taking their weapons with them.

No war is desirable. But if an unavoidable war has been undertaken, if casualties have been suffered, and total victory is in sight, it is ludicrous not to seize it.

What prevented Israel from seeking total victory? First of all, criticism at home. Lebanon was Israel’s Vietnam. Israel was forced to fight with one hand tied behind her back because of cries for peace from its own populace.

Had they not entered into a war, one might have debated whether it was justified. But they had entered a war; they had already suffered casualties, and the enemies they were fighting were not humanitarians, but terrorists who had killed women and children.

Our Sages teach:4 “Whoever is merciful to the cruel, will ultimately be cruel to the merciful.” The misplaced mercy during the time of the war in Lebanon has been responsible for the death of hundreds of Israelis in the years that followed.

The second reason for holding back was fear of US pressure. Once again Israel repeated the errors of the Yom Kippur War. It seems almost too simple to say: No nation sacrifices its soldiers and its critical objectives because of possible censure from other nations. Surgeons do not stop operations in the middle.

Moreover, the Israelis misjudged the intent of the Americans. The US had no love for the PLO. Particularly, at that time, Cold War tensions were high and the PLO were identified with Russia. Moreover, they were terrorists who had attacked Americans. If one looked at America’s genuine interest, it was clearly to back Israel.

It is true that America may have made some protests to Israel. But they were not accompanied by threats. Indeed, President Reagan undertook a diplomatic mission to Europe for nine days, granting Israel time to complete unfinished business. While on the road he would have had ample reasons to explain why he had done nothing to restrain the Israelis. And shortly afterwards, Secretary of State Haig resigned, giving Israel more time to use while the State Department changed hands. Nothing would have happened if Israel had gone about taking care of her own priorities, and made her explanations afterwards.

Not only was this not done. As mentioned above, Israel was her own worst enemy, taking blame for atrocities when there was no need or justification for her to do so. And for her pathetic attempts at proving her humanitarian intent, she was rewarded with censure after censure.

The most painful aspect of the war was the months and years of limbo when Israel had halted its actions against the terrorists, but kept its army in Lebanon. Why did the soldiers remain? Because the government realized that the objectives of the war had not been achieved. And yet, too afraid to actually achieve those objectives, they left their soldiers in enemy territory, sitting ducks for terrorist attacks. Life after life was sacrificed on the altar of indecision as a government hamstrung by fear of what the world would say ruminated about the steps it should take.

Months before the war the Rebbe called in several of Israel’s leading chassidim and directed them to begin writing a Torah scroll, each letter of which would be inscribed for a particular Israeli soldier who had sponsored it. This the Rebbe did as a means to promote the safety and security of the Israeli army in general and of every participating soldier in particular.

Throughout the war the Rebbe was outspoken in his criticism of the Israeli government for its vacillation and hesitation, for its willingness to sacrifice the lives of its soldiers and citizens in order to humor the whims of world opinion. Above all, the Rebbe pointed his finger at the root of the problem: the unwillingness of Israelis to look in the mirror and identify their own security as their foremost concern.

Autonomy and Intifada

In 1989, there began a series of riots and strikes in Arab villages and cities in the West Bank. The Israeli government responded with equivocation. Instead of using controlled and directed force to stop the protests, it allowed the Arabs to continue violent and provocative activity. Cars of Jewish motorists passing through the West Bank were stoned by the thousand. The government’s response: Buy shatterproof windshields.

As the unrest in the West Bank was allowed to fester, there was an increase in international demands that Palestinian rights be respected. At this time, a cycle began which has continued until the present day. Unrest and violent activity on the West Bank is used to create international pressure on Israel to make concessions; these concessions, in turn, spur greater unrest and violent activity, which evoke even greater concessions.

Matters reached the point at which, in an attempt to save face, the Israelis would simply not report terrorist activities, unless and until they were forced to do so by the prior publicity of Western media. To this day, nowhere in the Western media or for that matter in the Israeli media is the danger that exists for Israeli cars traveling in Judea and Samaria properly documented.

The same is true of the precarious security predicament of Jewish settlers even now, when the autonomy extends to only a limited number of regions in the West bank. As the autonomy expands, the Jewish settlements within its territory are becoming vulnerable islands surrounded on all sides by hostile armed forces. In a sudden mass attack (which in Eastern Europe used to be called a pogrom) just before Purim, 1996, in the yeshivah building at the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus), fifteen soldiers were killed and sixty other Jews were wounded by arms which Israel had handed to the Palestinian Autonomy’s “police force” as part of the “peace process”….

Several times during the Intifada, the Rebbe made public and private statements citing the counter-productive effects of the Israeli policy. Speaking with obvious pain, the Rebbe stated clearly that concessions would increase terrorist activity, rather than discourage it. “The concessions convince the Arabs of Israeli weakness,” he emphasized. “They make it clear that terrorism is effective in achieving results. Even mere talk of possible concessions is harmful because it encourages terrorist activity.”

“You understand Arabic,” the Rebbe told one of the Israeli cabinet ministers who visited him. “Ask the Arab in the street. See what he thinks will be the end result of the peace process.”

On the same occasion, im 1992, after the Rebbe had exerted the full weight of his influence to bring about the election of Shamir, he declared that he would oppose Shamir’s regime with equal vigor because in the meantime Shamir had changed his tune, resuming where Begin had left off.

The Gulf War

In 1990, almost six months before the Hebrew year 5751 began, the Rebbe declared that the Hebrew letters indicating the numerical equivalent of the coming year also formed an acronym for the Hebrew phrase meaning, “This will be a year when I [G‑d] will show them [the Jewish people] wonders.”5

Before the previous year, the Rebbe had foretold that it would be “a year of miracles,” and indeed that year was marked by the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to our Holy Land. And yet, the Rebbe assured his listeners, the wonders of 5751 would surpass those of 5750.

While the Rebbe was delivering this message, preparing the Jewish people and the world at large for these developments, urgent preparations of a different kind were being made in a distant corner of the world. In August of 1990, Saddam Hussein marched the armies of Iraq into Kuwait, plunging the entire world into panic. As heads of government, opinion- makers in the media, and ordinary men and women in the street reacted in fear, the Rebbe spread a message of quiet optimism.

In Israel, gas masks were handed out in fear of chemical warfare and thousands fled from the land in dread of Iraqi missiles. So complete was the fright that when Yasser Arafat stood together with Saddam Hussein and offered an Iraqi pullback in return for a Palestinian state, there were Israelis who urged acquiescence.

The Rebbe, by contrast, reassured the world that chemical weapons would not be used in Israel. He publicly referred to Israel as “the safest place in the world,” and urged Americans to travel there. When Major J. Goldstein, a chaplain dispatched by the US army to the war zone, asked about the projected length of the hostilities, the Rebbe assured him that the war would be over by the festival of Purim (which, as is widely known, is exactly when hostilities ceased).

There is no need to recount the entire saga of how the Rebbe’s vision was vindicated. It is sufficient to point to the repeated expressions of thanks given by Prime Minister Shamir for the strength and confidence which the Rebbe imparted to people throughout Israel.

What the Future Has in Store

Israel is at a turning point in its history. If the path of previous governments is to be followed, it will find itself making concession after concession until the Arabs will have established themselves confidently enough to wage war.

There is an alternative: to stop, to retrench; to realize that Israel has the potential to develop a creative society, one which is strong internally, and which has the vitality to endure the challenges posed by its neighbors; to look to the guidelines of the Rebbe outlined above.

Are we condemned to perpetual war? First of all, we must look ourselves squarely in the face and say, “Perhaps.” For the answer to that question does not depend on ourselves alone. We did not start any of the previous wars. They were all started by belligerent foes who surround us and are still bent on our destruction. This is a reality which we must honestly face rather than blindly hope for peace.

Moreover, accepting that reality makes peace a more practical option. When the Arabs know that Israel will not continue to concede, and that she will not fight wars with her hands tied behind her back, they will begin to genuinely understand how serious the option of war is. And this will hopefully lead to peace.

Take a look at the Cold War: Militarily, it was a standoff. Each side had enough arms to deter the other from attack. The lines were drawn, and fear protected one side from the other. Then one day it was over. The totalitarian backwardness that characterized Russian society could not stand up to the challenge of the times, and the Kremlin collapsed. America, by contrast, had a strong and vital society which was able to adjust.

Similarly, in the case at hand, when the Arabs realize that Israel is strong, and is not making further concessions, they will have to come to terms with the situation. If they choose war, at least Israel will be able to defend itself from a position of strength.

Most likely, however, that position of strength will make war less of an option. Unless Israel continues to compromise its security, no Arab country will dare to attack it. Consider: Why didn’t Jordan enter the Yom Kippur War? Why didn’t Syria open up a second front on the Golan in the Lebanon War? This choice did not stem from any great love for Israel. It was a practical decision. Their capitals were too close to the front to take the risk.

And when there is a military détente, there is a chance that the socio-economics of a world economy that is pressing toward the ideal of a global village will make the Arabs consider peace as an option. Today, all the world’s leading countries are turning towards peace, not because they have become more refined and peaceloving, but simply because it is in their self-interest. The benefits of peace and the costs of war outweigh any possible gains that could be achieved on the battlefields. As Israel and the Arab countries become involved in this motif, it will affect them as well.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians are tired of losing their sons and their daughters; they are frustrated by the fact that they haven’t been able to work freely and advance themselves financially for the last decade. When they recognize Israel’s firmness, and understand the limits of what they can possibly achieve through the Intifada, they will focus their attention on their own lives and the options that are open to them.

These are real possibilities. When Israel decides to take its future in its hands, and with faith and trust in G‑d, focuses on strengthening its security and building a strong and viable society, it will be able to face the future confidently. The miraculous half-century of growth that has followed the Holocaust can be followed by even greater advances. And hopefully, these advances will include the dawning of the age in which “nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more.”6

Footnotes
1.
While it is true that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was resettled, restrictions were placed on settlements in other areas of the Old City and in Eastern Jerusalem. In fact, the very name, "the Jewish Quarter" clearly communicates that the government did nothing to give the entire old city a Jewish identity.
2.
Psalms 8:3.
3.
In that vain, concider the dozens of tank-sized tunnels that begin in Egypt and end in Gaza that have been discovered by Israeli intelligence units.
4.
Yalkut Shimoni on Samuel, sec. 121.
5.
Cf. Micah 7:15.
6.
Isaiah 2:4.
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Juan Victor Laurilla Manila, Philippines May 9, 2008

Eyes Upon the Land A G-d given right is always right! It is for this reason that after reading this well writen article, I feel compelled to post my comment and a prayer for Israel's deliverance from her enemies, both within and without. My strong belief in the G-d of Israel has given me more understanding of why Israel deserves every support from every well-meaning and peace-loving person. I still hope to see the day when this country shall finally enjoy the leadership of G-d and not trust the leading of men who hardly knows G-d nor His Word. Among so many lessons learned, why was there a Diaspora and the 'German experience', in the first place, if not to remind us that apart from G-d, nothing good can be expected of a leadership whose heart is more atuned to the opinion of the world than the One who chose Israel? This article just makes me feel sorry I wasn't born Jewish! Reply

daniela lowinger panama November 28, 2007

Excellent article! It's a shame that Israel's political leadership does not understand that, and we are again in the same position with the Annapolis conference. May the wisdom of the Rebbe fall upon our political leaders and may they open their eyes Reply

Chaz, a Goy Fan of Jews November 3, 2007

The Rebbe's Path Must Guide Israel This Rebbe was dead on with his take on Israel's blunders. Events in Israel have alway proved one obvious fact: TERRORISM against Israel WORKS!

The more horrific, the faster the calls for concessions. Think about it: It would be logical if Israel's policy was, Every new terrorist attack against us means a 6 month delay in Peace Talks. Yet, it's the illgical thing that happens, attacks speed UP the concession process.

RIGHT to Exist is a FICTION!!! Every nation has a right to exist as long as it can maintain itself!!! STOP with this odd fascination in getting others to acknowledge a "RIGHT" that only guns can maintain for any nation.

Since 9-11 any American "interest", sympathy or "curiosity" in the Arab Side of the Mid-East struggle is dead. European opinion is meaningless. Israel must internalize the basic ideals of this wise and straight-talking Rebbe and stop repeating the same mistakes.

PS: WHY are there Israeli Arab citizens at all? What's the POINT ? Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem, Israel April 16, 2007

Eyes upon the land I totally agree with your article. The Rebbe had great insight.

I also agree with the comment that states that if people want a say they should move to Israel! If you love it live it!

I have not made aliyah, but do not pretend to have the right to tell those who have or live here how to live. However, for their own survival and good, I do believe that the stance advocated in your article is the wise way of dealing with the Arab mindframe. Reply

Helga Hudspeth February 21, 2006

Thank you, Rabbi Tauger, for this adaptation. Reply

avramzev new york, ny October 31, 2005

right to vote To Greg:
Go and tell the parents of those who lost their children defending the land of Israel that you are entitled to vote and impose your will on those who face mortal danger every day without the slightest willingess to risk *your* life.
And to the rabbis who are so sure that you know Hashem's will with regard to Gaza, etc:
1)There are equally great rabbis who have ruled to the contrary on grounds of pekuach nefesh. Are you sure that you are greater rabbis and better Jews than they are?
2)The Rebbe himself stated that military experts (like doctors in cases of medical decisions) should ultimately be responsible for deciding policy. Sharon has been following the advice of military and intelligence experts - against his own original instincts.
2)The gemara repeatedly warns us not to expose ourselves to danger and hope for a miracle. Are you sure that's not what you want to do in Gaza.
Don't change your mind, be a little more modest... Reply

Greg Atlanta, GA August 18, 2005

right to vote I am a Jew first and foremost.
I also hold a Swiss passport from birth.
Switzlerand has a policy called the fifth Swizterland. Which basically allows all Swiss citizens outside Swizterland to vote and take part in the politics of the country.

I've always wondered if the same could not happen in Israel?
Is there any halachic basis for this?
All Jews are affected by what goes on there.
Its time we had a voice in what happened in our Holy land as well.

That way mismanagement and chilul Hashem would nto take place like it is today with the expulsion of Settlers from Gaza! Reply