The obstacle of world opinion
World opinion should not deter Israel from enhancing Jewish roots and national security, expanding the Jewish presence in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, and pre-empting Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorism.
Adverse world opinion and global pressure have always been an integral part of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The aim of this global campaign has been to eliminate the unique national, religious, cultural and territorial features of the Jewish people, including Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel.
The bolstering of Jewish sovereignty generates negative world opinion (except in the U.S. and a few other countries), but enhances respect toward a conviction-driven Jewish state. On the other hand, when Jewish sovereignty retreats and Israel submits to world opinion, it just reflects weakness. Israel will never satisfy world opinion, and such action only further fuels global pressure, which erodes respect toward the Jewish state.
World opinion toward the Jewish state was not improved by Israel’s 1957 and 1982 mega-retreats from the Sinai Peninsula (almost three times as large as Israel), the transfer of 100% of Gaza and 45% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority, and the 1993 Israeli importation of PLO terrorists to the doorsteps of their intended victims.
However, going against the grain has been a prerequisite for game-changing human endeavors in general, and Jewish initiatives in particular.
Going against the grain has been a Jewish trait since the introduction of Abraham’s monotheism. Moreover, a defiant Jewish people has preserved and advanced the Jewish vision and strategic Jewish goals – while contributing uniquely to humanity – in the face of devastation, decimation, exiles, pogroms, expulsions, public burning, discrimination, forceful conversion and the Holocaust. If they had allowed themselves to be intimidated by world opinion, the Jewish people would have been doomed to oblivion.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern-day political Zionism, was considered a messianic wishful thinker at the end of the 19th century. He was initially resented by most Jews, ridiculed by demographers and dismissed by world opinion.
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s 1948 decision to declare the independence of the Jewish state was opposed by most of his party members, as well as by the U.S. Secretary of State Gen. George Marshall, who was then the most charismatic U.S. leader; the State Department's bureaucracy; U.S. Defense Secretary James Forestall; the CIA and The New York Times. Israel’s founding father had to overcome a U.S. military embargo while the British supplied arms to the Arabs. Following the War of Independence, he ignored global bullying, refused to consider a return to the pre-war lines and the internationalization of Jerusalem, declared the Israel-controlled parts of Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state and did not end the “occupation of the Negev.”
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol pre-empted Egypt and Syria, in 1967, in spite of adverse world opinion and specific warnings from the U.S. administration. Eshkol also defied Washington, and the world, by reuniting Jerusalem and launching construction projects in Jerusalem across the 1949 cease-fire (Green) line.
Prime Minister Golda Meir dared to provoke world opinion, laying the foundations for four major neighborhoods in Jerusalem across the Green Line which today house some 150,000 residents.
Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were criticized and condemned by the world for their claim that Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and the whole of Jerusalem were indivisble parts of the Jewish state. However, their slackened global popularity was matched by deep respect for their principle-driven policies, which made them worthy allies in the face of mutual threats, triggering a significant enhancement of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation. Begin’s 1981 destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor – which spared the U.S. a nuclear confrontation in 1991 – was carried out despite U.S.-led global condemnation, depicting Israel as a lawless entity.
Contemporary Israeli leaders benefit from dramatically improved circumstances, compared with the meager resources at the disposal of their predecessors, demographically (more than 6 million Jews live in Israel), economically (the best ever economic indicators), technologically (the site of 400 high-tech global giants), industrially (unprecedented trade relations), militarily (expanded cooperation with Western military forces) and scientifically (a leading space power). Moreover, the world is increasingly exposed to the anti-Western explosive Arab and Palestinian street, the deeply and violently fragmented Arab world, the rising threat of Islamic terrorism in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, the intensifying demographic Islamic threat in Europe, and Iran’s nuclearization. Recent polls document bolstered support of Israel in the U.S. (71% favorability according to Gallup, compared with 19% support of the Palestinians).
History and current global reality reaffirm that Israel is facing a unique window of opportunity to enhance its strategic posture. Israeli leaders should not sacrifice such an opportunity upon the altar of world opinion. Leaders who fluctuate policy in order to appease world opinion are leaders exercise followership and not leadership. Such moves jeopardize the survival of their own people.