An Interactive Possession

Our Sages teach1 that every Jew possesses a portion of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. The converse is also true. The land possesses a portion of every Jew.

For this is2 “a land which G‑d… seeks out; the eyes of G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” And just as G‑d seeks out the land, so do we. We gobble up all the news about it. Barely a day passes without the land being in the headlines. And, because the land possesses a portion of every Jew, day after day you and I look in the small print to seek out what’s happening.

There is certainly a lot happening. Unfortunately, however, not all of it is positive. Much of our concern for Israel is motivated by apprehension over the fate of the Jews there. Ever since independence and even before, there has been a climate of worry and fear caused by the threats and attacks of its Arab neighbors.

There Is No Magic Formula

In recent years, it has become common to think of the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of the formula, “land for peace.” Phrasing the question in that manner produces a ready answer, for regardless of our love for the Land of Israel, there is no question that all sacrifices necessary should be made to achieve peace.

But phrasing the question in that manner is not only an oversimplification; it distorts the issues at hand. Why should conceding land be considered a step toward peace? Let us take a look at the history of the last three years. Israel transferred land both to the Palestinians and the Jordanians, and was very near to returning land to the Syrians. Did this bring her any closer to peace?

The tally of deaths stemming from Palestinian terrorism hit record highs. Arafat is still calling for jihad (Arabic for a holy war). Relations with Jordan are far less warm than before the peace treaty was signed. And Syria is demanding outright surrender of the Golan as a pre condition to talks, or threatening war.

Maybe something was wrong with the premise?

Israelis definitely thought change was necessary. At the recent elections, more than 60% of the country’s Jewish inhabitants decided to choose a new prime minister and this despite the fact that the news media in the country staunchly supported the Labor government, and President Clinton publicly endorsed Shimon Peres.

But changing the faces at the helm is not enough. That became obvious when the prime minister chosen because of a rightist platform went on to follow with only slight changes the policies initiated by the previous government.

The difficulties in Israeli-Arab relations stem from problems lying at the core of the issue. Therefore, surface changes in approach will do no more than bring about superficial variations. Only by changing the paradigm as a whole can we hope for lasting improvement.

A Focus on Life

In the pages that follow, we will present a different approach to the issues, one rooted in the principles of our Jewish heritage, yet starkly realistic in its appreciation of what is happening on the ground in and around Israel today.

At its core is concern for life and security. After the Oslo and Hebron agreements, people have eulogized the old dream of a greater Israel. They have heralded these treaties as signs of Israel’s willingness to bypass its concern for land and focus on making peace. As we will explain, however, the very reason for our concern for the land is the security it grants us. And it is because basic civilian safety and security are being jeopardized that these recent agreements are so painful to bear.

Any candid observer can see that these agreements are merely buying time and at an unaffordable price. Concession after concession is being made because “otherwise the Arabs will riot.” And this is called “peace.”

Before and after the Hebron agreements, the right wing camp inside and outside Israel has been forced to defend itself ideologically time and time again. Hence, in the heat of pressure and oft-repeated arguments, the debater himself can lose sight of his original intent.

For this reason, we have sought to present fundamental principles that lie at the very heart of the issue. Our exposition is based on the public statements of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, beginning from the period directly after the Six-Day War until 1992, when he suffered a stroke that prevented him from speaking. Although the Rebbe’s talks and letters date from years ago, their immediate relevance is uncanny. At times, they appear to have been delivered and written just yesterday. The clarity of the Rebbe’s words and his penetrating insight enable us to see the situation as it is and recognize our priorities. Moreover, his words inspire, motivating us to translate them from the abstract into the actual.

Basing Policy on Principle

Our exposition is divided into two sections:

Part I, which is theoretical, outlines the fundamental principles which the Rebbe saw as lying at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Part II, which is historical, outlines several phases in the Israeli-Arab conflict; the approach taken by the Israeli government; and the suggestions which the Rebbe made at those times. In this section, we have also highlighted the almost prophetic vision which the Rebbe demonstrated with regard to Israel’s struggles. For this emphasizes that his approach is not one of theoretical idealism, but one which is in touch with both what can be seen and what is on the horizon \endash in Israel today.

To underscore the fundamental principles that motivate the Rebbe’s approach we have not quoted his words verbatim, but instead telescoped them, synthesizing points from many different addresses into an organic whole.

We have tried to maintain the integrity of the Rebbe’s words by not expanding them beyond the contexts in which they were originally spoken. Thus, although many of the concepts we have outlined obviously relate to the contemporary situation in Israel, we have generally left it to our readers to make the connections.

This approach also serves another purpose. Our intent is not to support any particular party in Israel, but rather to motivate people to take a new and different look at the situation in its entirety. Were we to focus on the immediate issues, our statements might be viewed as rhetoric coming from one side of the political spectrum.

Instead, we appeal to responsible people on every side of that spectrum. Our fundamental point: the importance of the preservation of Jewish life is one that all identify with. We are asking that this principle be given the primacy it deserves, and that it serve as a guiding light to determine the priorities Israel must set for itself.

May the principles we outline lead to peace and security in Israel today, and may they lead to the age when3 “nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more.”

In Appreciation

This publication is sponsored by Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, a champion of the security and the integrity of our holy land. He has invested both effort and resources to ensure the fulfillment of the Divine promise:4 “You will dwell securely in your land; I will provide peace in the land; you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.”

Sichos In English

25 Adar I, 5757
[March 4, 1997]