by Boris Shusteff - August 18, 2001
Today, when the overheated boiler of the Arab-Israeli "peace process" is ready to explode and transform the slow war of attrition into a full scale regional war, suggestions about how to resolve the conflict are in abundance. Every major newspaper or influential columnist feels that it is their duty to come up with a recipe. The only problem is that all of them are trying to square a circle, providing solutions based on incorrect assumptions, and unable to re-evaluate the axioms of the conflict which they consider to be cast in stone. The solution that everybody sees always has the same general form: the Palestinian Arab terror miraculously subsides, Israel comes to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, a second Palestinian state is created in the land acquired by Israel in 1967, and Israel builds high fences and lives in this self-imposed ghetto.
This common misconception is based on a patronizing approach to the problem. The world community treats Israel and the Palestinian Arabs like three-year-old children in kindergarten. Nobody truly pays any attention to their desires, assuming that the "grownups" know better what the "kids" want and must have in order to be happy. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the assumption is that the Palestinian Arabs will be appeased with a sovereign state that will occupy approximately 6% of mandated Palestine - the territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha), which came under Israel's control in 1967, after the Six-Day War.
The world community never considers whether the Arab world and the Palestinian Arabs will truly be satisfied with this arrangement. The tendency is not to ask this sort of question, as well as not to think about how to resolve the eternal question of Jerusalem's sovereignty and the fate of the so-called "Palestinian refugees." It is assumed that these issues will somehow be resolved to mutual Arab and Jewish satisfaction. The Israeli architects of the Oslo agreements originally also had in mind a simple transfer of the lands of Yesha to the Arabs, believing that this transaction would solve all Israeli problems. Reality, however, is different. On August 17 Ali Shatrein, a member of the Islamic Jihad, said in an interview with the France Press Agency that"there was no Israel before 1948. She was created in 5 minutes. Now in her place we have to establish a Palestinian state. It is a job for several generations."To disregard this Arab viewpoint, dismissing it as "extremist" or "marginal," is completely wrong. On the contrary, this is the absolutely predominant view of the Arab world. The overwhelming majority of Arabs with their mother's milk learn of an abhorrent Jewish state, artificially created in the heart of the Arab world by the West.
Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, and Shlomo Ben-Ami, along with other Israeli "peace-dreamers" and the majority of the liberals in the western world are unable to understand why a year ago Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's generous offer for the creation of a Palestinian state on 95% of Yesha. Arafat's apologists urgently invented a theory that the Israeli offers where not good enough for the Arabs. Shimon Peres recently stated that Arafat simply made a mistake, and if he is given another chance he will definitely accept all that Israel gives him. As a matter of fact, Peres is right. Arafat will accept everything given to him, provided that the clause calling for "the end of the conflict" is not included in the agreement.
If the world community really wants to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict it must think outside the box. The creation of a Palestinian state on the lands of Yesha will not end the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. It will simply bring another piece of land under Arab control. For the Arabs the Jews will remain "occupiers." Let us get into Arab shoes and assume for the sake of argument that Yesha is transformed into a Palestinian state. For the Arabs this event will mean only one thing - since they were able to retrieve a little land from the Jews they will be able to get even more. A perfect example of this attitude, which only serves to prove the point, is Hizballah's demand for the Shebaa farms after Israel's retreat from Lebanon.
Why in the world should the Arabs take a different approach if they consider the whole of Palestine to be their land? Will America voluntarily agree to give California or Texas to anybody? Maybe France will abandon the French Riviera to Italy? How about Germany giving a piece of its land to Poland? It is extremely doubtful, even if the United Nations decided this was necessary for world peace, that these arrangements would ever take place. So why then this paternalistic approach to the Palestinian Arabs? Or maybe it is assumed that since they have nothing they will be satiated with something? This is definitely wishful thinking. It is more than naïve to think that the Arabs will stop, even if a Palestinian Arab state is established in Yesha, since they see Israel as "a knife in the heart of the Arab land." The formation of such a state will only exacerbate the problem, creating the impression among the Arabs that the Jews are losing their grip on the land.
Let us now look at the situation from the Jewish perspective. The world's patronizing toward the Jews is even more obvious. For two millennia the Jews viewed Eretz Yisrael as their homeland and dreamt of a return to Zion. Yet, throughout the twentieth century, time and again, the world community condescendingly told the Jews exactly what they were allowed to have. First they were promised the whole of mandated Palestine, then they were permitted to settle only on 22% of the mandated land, then their resettlement was curtailed by the White paper, then they were offered 4% of Palestine, then it was suggested that a Jewish state be established in 11% of Palestine. Finally, in 1948, the Jews ended up having a tiny state on 17% of mandated Palestine along with the unending enmity of their neighbors, which on five occasions has boiled over into full-scale war. Even during each of these defensive wars the Jews were forbidden by the superpowers to achieve true victory over their enemies.
Today, the world community continues to patronizingly tell Israel what is best for her, assuming that the Jews will be overjoyed at a solution in which their already minuscule country will be pared away to create yet another state bent on her destruction. This is, of course, absurd, since no country in the world would ever allow such a situation to take place - why should the Jewish state be any different?
Perhaps the world's attitude comes from the inaccurate belief that Israel came into being thanks to the efforts of the international community, as represented by the United Nations. This is purely a misconception, since Israel proclaimed her own independence after all efforts by the UN ended in failure (each of its proposals shrinking the size of Jewish-state-to-be). Indeed, let's remember that the United Nations was established in order to preserve peace in the world and not to create sovereign countries. There is nothing in the UN Charter that gives it the role of a midwife. Israel exists not because of the UN's diligence, but in spite of its anti-Semitic policies.
The world community and the UN cannot act like a "benevolent" parent. The only constructive approach to this conflict must take into account the TRUE positions of both sides and their inherent incompatibility that is at the very root of the conflict, instead of treating them like misbehaving, capriciously squabbling children, who must be taught to share their toys.
Thus, the most important fact today is that a sovereign Jewish state with more than six million citizens exists in a tiny part of mandated Palestine. It is a reality that nobody in the world has a right to challenge. It is this reality that must define any approach to a solution of the conflict.
The surrounding Arab countries detest Israel and want to destroy her. They have failed thus far only because of the military might of the Jewish state and because the God of Israel watches over it. The logic of the situation dictates only one approach - the increase of the military and economic might of Israel. The stronger Israel is, the fewer hopes her enemies will have of destroying her, and the less they will be tempted to go to a full-fledged war against her.
The Talmud tells a story about two men who are crossing a desert. One of them has a small container with water enough for only one person to survive. Another man has no water whatsoever. The one with the water has a dilemma. What shall he do? Shall he share the water with the other man, in which case they will both die from dehydration, or shall he drink it by himself and thus make it through the desert? Our sages tell us that in this cruel situation the one with the water has an obligation to save his own life. They say that the one with the water should likewise not give all of it to the other man in order to save him and forfeit his own life. Since both their lives are precious and equal it is not up to the first man to decide that his own life is less important.
Yesha is the small container of water that can save Israel. It can give her sufficient strategic depth and defensible borders. It must become an inseparable part of Israel. However, our situation is much better than the one in the Talmud parable. The Palestinian Arabs are not destined to perish if they do not get the lands of Yesha. If the world community thinks that the Palestinian Arabs need another state in addition to Jordan they can make it happen at the expense of the Arabs. If it is possible to create a Jewish state in the midst of Arab hatred it is definitely possible to create an Arab state for Arabs amongst other Arabs. A piece of the Sinai wold be a good location for it. The world community must therefore think outside the box. The situation must be solved from an unorthodox (thus far) standpoint: an Arab state should not be created on the lands of Yesha. They should become an integral part of the Jewish state. The question is not whether the Jews or the Arabs "deserve" the lands of Yesha more. The point is that Israel cannot survive without them.
The Arabs do not want to admit that Israel is an established fact. It is the duty of the international community to force them to accept this fact. This must be done not through the empty words of international guarantees but by making Yesha an integral part of the Jewish state. By encouraging Israel to annex Yesha the world community will make it clear to the Arabs that the Jewish state is here to stay forever. Israel's survival must take precedence over the creation of another Palestinian state. It is immoral and unethical to place an existing state in mortal danger for the sake of a prospective state. There is only enough water to save one man.Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.