President Barack Obama offered Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a deal that he apparently thought was a good one in a speech this week: “Let’s you give back all the land you won in the 1967 Middle East war, then that’ll be a good starting point for peace talks with the Palestinians.”
Say what?! You’re joking, right, Mr. President? Oh, you’re not? Then maybe there IS something to those allegations that you’re a closet Muslim.
Netanyahu, no fool he, of course wasted no time in saying, “You gotta be kidding, Barack!” In the 1967 war, in which Israel struck first at six Arab neighbors, but only to prevent an attack by them that it believed was imminent, the Israelis seized control of the West Bank of the Jordan River, as well as the Golan Heights in southern Syria and the Gaza Strip.
The Golan Heights offered a commanding position for Palestinian guerrillas — and Syrian troops — to lob mortar shells or, in more recent years, missiles, down onto Israeli towns and settlements in the north of the Jewish state. The West Bank intruded itself deep into the heart of Israel, leaving a width of only nine miles at its narrowest point.
A plebe at West Point could tell you that borders like that are militarily indefensible. Arab radicals have as their prime goal in life, the total destruction of Israel — which they refuse to call by its official name, referring to it hatefully as “the Zionist entity.” In Arab lands, “Zionist” bears the same insult value as “racist” does in the U.S.
Of course, when the UN voted to establish the State of Israel in 1947, the borders given the Jews for their new country were ludicrous in the extreme. You can see by looking at the accompanying map that they were in several different chunks, barely even touching, surrounded on all sides by hostile Arab territory.
The Jews who were about to re-establish their own state, 2,000 years after the Roman Empire had expelled them from it, didn’t want hostile Arabs living cheek by jowl with them in Israeli territory. So they offered to buy out the Arab properties on the condition that the Arabs would move to one or the other of the various Arab lands nearby. But the Arabs refused by huge margins. When the State of Israel was officially declared on May 15, 1948, the Arab rulers urged the Arabs on Israeli territory to move — temporarily — to Arab territory until Arab armies had finished “driving the Jews into the sea.” Then, they said, the Arabs could come back and help themselves not only to their own land, but to the Israelis’, too.
There was one problem with that scenario: the Israelis didn’t “drive” worth a damn. They took on Arab armies from Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and others and hurled them all back. And of course, when an armistice was signed in 1949, the Palestinian Arabs having vacated their land, the Israelis simply appropriated it. And I don’t blame them one bit. Who owes “fairness” to people who are trying to “drive you into the sea” and destroy your country?
The Jews, by expanding the amount of territory they had been officially allotted by the UN, made their country more secure than it would have been otherwise. Then in the 1967 conflict they expanded that security.
And — here’s one big mistake that the Israelis made, and they don’t make many — they left the embittered, hating Palestinian Arabs who lived in the West Bank, in place, to reside in the newly reconfigured Israel, their grudge festering like a canker sore. Needless to say, these Arabs have periodically been a thorn in the side of the Israelis, and have never given up their dreams of killing all the Jews and destroying the “Zionist entity.”
Here’s something I have believed ever since the 1967 war: The Israelis had all the Arab armies down for the count — temporarily — and the world cheering for their courage and skill in defeating all their enemies. They should have wasted no time in ethnically cleansing the West Bank of all Arabs. No, I’m not talking about murder or “genocide.” I mean they should have ordered the Arabs to load up all their possessions and be escorted — or driven, if necessary — across the Jordan River into the kingdom of Jordan. It should have been “Israel for the Israelis” and “Jordan for the Palestinians.”
Sounds harsh and “racist,” doesn’t it? Maybe; but when enemies are threatening, year after year, to kill you and all your people, and destroy your country, then you deal with it however you have to. If it means expelling all the hostile people from your territory, then so be it.
The Palestinians love to insist that the Jews “stole our land.” Well, folks, I’ve got some news for you: That’s the way of the world. The Children of Israel took the land from some earlier people 2,500 years ago; the Romans took it from the Jews; you took it from somebody else several hundred years later. The European-Americans took the Indians’ land; that’s true. But the Indians most likely took it from some other people, many hundreds of years before. There’s no warranty deed filed in the courthouse anywhere saying that the Palestinian people own the area of Palestine. In terms of nations and ethnic groups, land belongs to him who can take it and hold it. After World War II the Allies arbitrarily carved off a huge hunk of eastern Germany and gave it to Poland — and expelled over two million Germans in the process. And I don’t hear anyone saying that Poland “stole the Germans’ land” and must give it back.
The Jews themselves were expelled from nation after nation for hundreds of years — partly due to prejudices of the host peoples, partly due to certain cultural traits of their own and the fact that they would not assimilate. Of course I’m sure they didn’t want to go; they didn’t call down any praise on the Gentiles who had booted them out. But, with almost no exceptions, their attitude when all was said and done was, “We’ll have to wait for the Messiah, somewhere else.”
In other words, they were eminently practical. They made the best of a bad situation and moved on — and usually prospered again within a couple of generations.
The Arabs have done precisely the opposite. When many thousands of Palestinians absented themselves from their land in 1948 so the Jews could be “driven into the sea,” then never got their land back, the various Arab governments plopped them down into refugee camps, there to wallow in their rage and hatred, and breed many more little Arabs to kill the Jews. For 63 years they have carried this grudge, and bolstered by the Muslim religion, which in my opinion is harsh, rigid, and unforgiving, they are still determined to get revenge.
I’m not saying they never will. But it won’t be because the Israelis voluntarily handed back the West Bank. No one ever accused the Jews, as a group, of being stupid.
I think the Arabs resent most the fact that, not only do the Israelis now have “their” land, but they have made it bloom, in a way the Arabs could not or would not do. Nothing is more resented and hated by those who are failures, than success on the part of someone else.
So I suspect the Israelis will harden their hearts, as they’ve had to before. Their very survival is at stake.
As the late prime minister Golda Meir once said, “The State of Israel was established to solve the Jewish problem — not the Arab problem.”