November/December 2000
An Israeli tank advances near Beit Jala

There Is a Jewish Alternative

by Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio
Broadcast Nov. 20, 2000 / Cheshvan 22, 5760

In This Article:

1. First, Some Definitions
2. Political Implications
3. An Unhealthy Dependency
4. The Difference
5. Translating Our Views Into Action
6. Proposals for Action


Given the current situation in the Land of Israel, it is important to clarify for ourselves the fundamental disagreement between the Israeli left and the religious right-wing. By understanding the approach of the secular left, we will be able to discover the means by which to confront it successfully.

The secular political left is convinced that the Jewish People is not "special," and that we do not have a sacred claim on the Land of Israel. It is this camp's belief that the Jewish nation is no more special than other nations, and that the Jewish People has no specific mission. Furthermore, it is claimed, Eretz Yisrael has no unique qualities that link it specifically to the Jewish people. It therefore follows that, for the secular left, Jews have no unique intrinsic claim to the Land of Israel.

This approach has far-reaching ramifications: It strips away all meaning from our struggle for sovereignty over the Land, and it empties us as a people of any motivation to fight for the Land of Israel. In fact, for the secular left, the Arabs are right! Obviously, without any moral justification for being here, and without any motivation to remain here, it is impossible for us to wage a war and to win.

Moreover, the blurring of the uniqueness and mission of the People of Israel dashes any hope for unity and mutual responsibility - since it is our national mission that really forges us into one nation and fosters an appreciation of our mutual responsibility. The Arabs, on the other hand, stand united as one - at least in their determination to wage war against us.


From the secular-leftist perspective, there is no way of solving our conflict with the Arabs militarily, because military power has its limits, and we don't have the capability of forcibly imposing our rule over the Arabs - nor is there any moral justification for employing force! It follows, therefore, that the only way to bring the conflict to an end is via a deal in which Israel offers the Arabs major territorial concessions. There is just no choice, we are told, and the forfeiture of land is the "proper moral choice" under the circumstances.

The Arabs take advantage of this, knowing that this is the position of the secular left, feel free to force more and more concessions upon us - and the left will agree, since it feels we "have no choice." The secular left, a group of people estranged from Jewish faith and divorced of nationalistic values, looks at the conflict with secular eyes, and sees a political, diplomatic conflict, and not a religious-nationalistic one. For a political conflict, of course, there are political solutions. From secular eyes, it is still possible to consider the notion that the Arabs desire peace, and that if we accept their demands, the conflict will end!

But this is simply wrong. The Arab-Jewish conflict on both sides of the "Green Line" is fundamentally a national and religious struggle, and thus it will be perpetuated even after any agreement is signed. Diplomatic deals will not lessen the latent hatred, and even if such hatred lies dormant for a while, it will eventually re-surface. Only the fulfillment of the vision of our Biblical prophets in the form of "Tikkun Olam" - the rectification of the world - will bring about a true, lasting peace.


The blurring of the parameters of Jewish identity and national unity has brought the secular left to establish a political alliance with the Arab minority that now lives within the borders of the State. In fact, the left has become politically dependent on this minority, without which the left could not rule over the country. Since Israeli-Arabs are part of a broader Arab nation, the secular left has become dependent on the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, who personally determines the positions of the Arab Members of Knesset. Thus, the hands of the left are tied; it cannot effectively overcome the terrorists, who hold the keys to the continued rule of the secular left itself.


Our perspective is fundamentally different. We believe that the Nation of Israel is God's Chosen People, a unique community with a giant, unique, eternal mission. The Land of Israel also has its special qualities. This is our land, and only here can we truly fulfill our Divine charge. We therefore have a complete right over the entirety of the Land; it is our homeland, the Land of God; we are thus motivated to fight for and defend it.

The special character and mission of Israel is that which unites us and energizes us with a national, spiritual zeal to fight and defeat our enemies in the battle over the Land of Israel.

We believe that there is no political solution to the conflict. What prevents the Arabs from going to war with us is our deterrent capability. No agreement signed on the White House lawn will prevent them from waging war with us. The approach must therefore be to improve our deterrent capability, by acting wisely and firmly against any attempt to strike us via terrorism or war. The enemy must know that it will pay a high price for trying to harm us. Thus, in stark contrast to the defensive and withdrawal-oriented posture the country has taken in recent years, we believe that we must stand strong and constantly move towards discouraging the Arabs from trying to harm us.


The knowledge that the conflict has deep roots, and that it is currently impossible to fully solve it, gives rise to a fundamentally different approach to the problem than that of the left-wing. Just as any nation considers how to control organized crime and does not think for a moment of the possibility of capitulating to the criminals, so too, we must struggle with terrorism and not give in to it. We live with other problems such as illness and traffic accidents; we are not overwhelmed by them, however, and we have learned to live with them. We can do the same when it comes to terrorism, which claims fewer lives than sickness and car crashes. Our attitude towards terrorism will be nurtured in great measure by our deep commitment to our cause.

Since the political and security perspective rests on weak conceptual foundations, the great military wizardry of the IDF in its battle with the Arabs has not brought results, because, as architects know well, even an otherwise well-built structure cannot stand long if it rests on weak foundations. This is why, despite its great efforts and self-sacrifice, the army receives criticism for the basis on which it acts. Furthermore, the security establishment should not be absolved of responsibility for government policy, since the government would not have the gall to employ a security policy completely in opposition to the views of the top army brass. Since the army's evaluations are based on faulty premises, its leaders bear the heavy responsibility for the grave security situation no less than the government.

The General Staff officers and other security leaders are cut from the same cloth; they do not represent a variety of worldviews and outlooks. Their point of departure is that Arab threats to "liberate all of Palestine" and the like are interpreted as just so much rhetoric - when in fact their threats and actions would more accurately be understood as expressions of their deep nationalistic feelings and hatred of Jews by those with a more correct, more Jewish, outlook. We have already seen, in the Yom Kippur War, how wrong interpretations by the ruling elite can lead to catastrophe.


1) Regarding the left: Given our evaluation of this group, we can conclude that we will not succeed in changing their views without drawing them back to the warm embrace of the Jewish faith. This is a long process, but it seems that the Arabs have begun the work, and are in a sense teaching those on the secular left how wrong they have really been all along. To our sorrow, this lesson has proven painful for all of us.

2) For the population as a whole: Our main goal should be to unite the hareidi, religious, nationalist and traditional public into one large group, whose joint interest is to preserve Jewish identity. To this end, we must explain to these communities the grave danger for the Jewish character of the state, as well as the security dangers, entailed in further agreements that stem from the secular left's incorrect worldview.

3) The struggle in Yesha: We must adamantly defend each community, and stand strong against the trials and tribulations facing us. We must view this period as a test period and as a challenge. The Creator of the World is testing us to see the extent of our cleaving to Him and to His Torah and to the Land of Israel.

We must pass this test as children of the Patriarch Abraham, who also withstood numerous trials. Each successful struggle moves us one step closer to our redemption. We must stand firmly against Arab terror and the internal weakness of the left, until both of these groups prove that their efforts to weaken and harm us have backfired in the face of our perseverance.

We shall continue to settle the Land of Israel, despite all of the difficulties. We will continue to call out the name of Hashem, the Creator of the world, the G-d of Israel - in all places, at all times. With confidence, faith, and dedication, and with God's help, we will triumph - because G-d is with us.

Rabbi Melamed is the founding Rabbi of Beit El, the Dean of Beit El Yeshiva Center Institutions, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arutz Sheva.
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