If Menachem Begin wore swim trunks, he'd never have withdrawn from Sinai
(Just one more repost - this one from 2 years ago, but thought about for years and mentioned in "The Stupidity of Sinai" piece just posted with not a little interest last week. Again, the writer begs the reader's indulgence - those who have already read or remember the post <it also appeared with slight differences in The Huffington Post>, can just pass on. For others who are seeing it for the first time or re-reading it, it might help flesh out the issues as virtually nothing has changed since except the date and the rise of an Islamic 'Republic' in Egypt)
If Menachem Begin had worn swim trunks, he would never have completely withdrawn from Sinai and kept Gaza. Actually everything was pretty clear when Begin - with Ariel Sharon's help and approval - basically unilaterally withdrew from Sinai, bulldozed Yamit, and kept Gaza. This was in response to “the mouse that roared,” Jimmy Carter, who won a Nobel Peace with him and Sadat because of it, but would soon be thrown out of office by the Americans themselves.
So who said, “the Jews were so smart” and not stupid or, to put the proposition as an American might: “A fool and his money are soon parted”. In any event, it has been a slow, downhill slide politically-speaking - and sometimes not so slow - ever since. It was in response to this slide that I began to characterize this episode from the 80's onwards “If Begin wore swim trunks, he would never have withdrawn from Sinai”. Rather, he would have drawn a line halfway down the middle or, as the old adage would have it, “You keep half and we'll keep half” (can you picture Menachem Begin in swim trunks?).
Neither Golda Meir or Levi Eshkol - swimsuits or no swimsuits - would have ever done this. They were more careful, thoughtful, and practical than this. It was their legacy to apportion as they saw fit, since it was they who led these two crucial wars that created Sinai and they never admired the D’Annunzio-style “grande geste” of the Dayan, Begin, or Sharon-types.
Nor has there has been any real peace since. Not only did Israel lose all the resources and recreational paradises of Sinai (as I covered in the previous piece), but once Begin and the Israelis had withdrawn from Sinai, all attention was focused on the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, as that problem too had been left unresolved - “the Trojan Horse” left behind, very cleverly 'on the table' as it were, by Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak - and it was crystal clear that no one would settle for anything less than Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak settled for; and no one ever has or ever will. But the young Israelis celebrated their withdrawal - or, as some would put it as I did last week, ‘their discomfiture’ - and released “peace doves,” unmindful of the downhill slide, even towards illegitimacy, that had commenced and has not let up even to this day. How “au courant,” yet how humiliating!
So what has been achieved since? Almost nothing; and now, some 35 years on, everything is on the table once again, as it has been really all along, even with sympathetic presidents. Nor is there any point to retreating to “the Green Lines” people like to speak about while "forgetting" - ever so conveniently - that there was never anything “official” about these. They was just where the 1948 fighting stopped, c. 1949. If one were going to go that far back, why not go further, to older “Partitions” or, better still, all the way back? One could go back to 1919 or, even perhaps before that and World War I - but 1919-1922 will do.
What is so important about then? Well, 1st of all, there was the Versailles Peace Conference establishing "Mandates" and, in particular, "The Mandate for Palestine" with the “Balfour Declaration” subjoined. Then in 1922, there was the Palestine Order-in-Council promulgated by the British Authorities and fixing the Government. But “Palestine” at that time consisted of both sides of the Jordan River, an area in which there was enough space to solve the national problems of the two Peoples, “the Arabs” and “the Jews,” as the situation was then seen (“Jews” at that time even calling themselves “Palestinians boys” as some might still remember). But no one ever imagined or said that “The Mandate for Palestine” was supposed to end up setting up three states - two Arab and one Jewish (or maybe even four)!
Any realistic person would have, either at that time or this, realized that there was not room for three or four Independent States in the cramped territory between the desert and the sea - there was hardly enough room for two. The whole point of the now-seemingly futile exercise was the supposed setting up a “Homeland for the Jews” - “the Arabs,” presumably, not needing another, already having so many - a purpose which failed since half of the Jews were wiped out in the ensuing 20-25 years; but in “The Mandate” and in the 1922 Order-in-Council, there were no borders set forth - and certainly no “Green Lines”.
So who were the biggest war “profiteers” of the whole process - why the “Jordanians” of course, never even mentioned from the beginning! No one ever questions their existence or their right to exist as a State, which is why they always remain so silent, just in case anyone should. They “swallowed the canary” as it were. This was another bit of British map-drawing, just like the disastrous one creating modern “Iraq” - a country which also never existed before, except in the imagination of extravagant British map-makers like Gertrude Bell, T. E. Lawrence, and their Foreign Office sponsors.
But where “Jordan” was concerned, it was courtesy of Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence, et. al. again, who cut away two-thirds of the Palestine Mandate and gave it, for services rendered in the 1st World War, to the Hashemite Family of Mecca (later to be given “Iraq” too for a time), after they had been unceremoniously expelled by the House of Saud. This has always made a tenable solution to the Jewish-Palestinian problem impossible - as, once again, one goes back to the question of land or space and any clear-eyed person would be able to see that there was not enough space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea to accommodate the needs of two Peoples - one of whom not even “a People” at all as observers are so fond of characterising it. Nor has any of this anything to do with so-called ”Green Lines”, so many so enjoy talking about.
So what then is the solution? The solution is to keep driving this point home until it begins to be understood; and no one has put it better than, of all people, former Cuban President Fidel Castro in September, 2010 (the original impetus for this piece). This was one of the greatest Rosh Ha-Shanah present the Jewish People could ever have imagined or received - and from such a source - no left-wing terrorist State will ever be able to raise its voice with impunity again (sorry for this little bit of over-optimism here). Even Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez started talking for a few moments about being concerned about “Anti-Semitism”!
But certainly Castro knew what he was doing and chose his words very carefully. He, of all people, realized the problem had to do with “Christianity”, putting it in terms of what he had heard as a six-year old boy: “The Jews”, whom he had never heard of before except as “Jew-birds,” “had killed God” - a proposition inherited to some extent in the Koran and, therefore, by Islam in the constantly-reiterated assertion, “the Jews killed all the Prophets” (originally given voice by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:15).
In fact, when I ask my students or any Muslim, who says such things, to name one because not a single, truly-identifiable and namable Old Testament “Prophet” had ever been killed by “Jews” - not Moses, not Aaron, not Eli, not Deborah, not Samuel, not Nathan, not Elijah, not Elisha, not Amos, not Hosea, not Isaiah, not Jeremiah, not Ezekiel, etc. (if they have heard of any of these) - the only ones they can ever come up with are "John the Baptist" and "Jesus". But both of these, in so far as they existed, were patently killed by foreigners - "Herodians" or their Roman Overlords and Governors - not "Jews", despite the deliberate libelous intent and incitement of the documents involved which have not ceased doing their damage and having their affect even up to the present day, as Castro - of all people - observed.
No one has ever put it as succinctly or tellingly as Castro - no friend previously of the Jews. He even put it in religious terms because, being an intellectual, he recognized truth and even specifically told the Muslims that no people, group, or religious community had ever suffered as much and that, besides the suffering of the Jews over two thousand years - who publically ever said such a thing? - the Muslim Peoples had suffered virtually nothing. The Holocaust incontestably occurred and, as such, was an incomparable historical event. In fact, the Muslims had really not suffered at all.
So to go back to my original point, which Castro put even more eloquently - it is the "Jewish People" whose existence has been both decimated and is threatened. It is they who need “a Homeland” - not the 22 or so "Arab" States whose right-to-exist, no one questions. Nor does anyone even seem to question just about any other country on earth, including even such far-away places as Fiji, Ecuador, Oman, or Chad.
So why is it always the Jewish People's right-to-exist which is questioned? The answer goes back to the documents in the West, I have just cited above - particularly the New Testament and, following it, the Koran; and the accusations contained in the “blood libels”, I (along with Fidel) have just implicitly described - in “the East”, these exist only so far as they have “bled in” from the West - and which Castro admits were the only things he and most others had ever heard of regarding “Jews” when he was a boy.
I have alluded to these things in previous articles but, for the present, suffice it to say, “if Menachem Begin had worn swim trunks, there would have been no outright withdrawal from Sinai” and, therefore, no “Palestinian problem” on "the front burner" - which Sadat and Mubarak had deftly left behind 'on the table' unresolved, as it were, when they went home.
Nor would there have been any issue of withdrawal from Gaza, nor any armed Palestinian militias both there and on the West Bank. Nor would there have been any First Lebanon Campaign by Sharon - to show how tough he was after bulldozing Yamit - the first Jewish “settlement” to go. Nor would there have been a Second in Lebanon by his successors - while he lay comatose - to make up for the weakness of his subsequent unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
These things would have been present, as they always were, but “on the back burner” as it were, “not the front”. “On the front burner’”, there would have been the issue of how to fairly divide Sinai - and this should have been, as already signaled, in half - right down the middle, as any objective observer at the time would have realized. Anwar Sadat was a political genius. He realized that all he had to do was kiss Menachem Begin on the cheek and everything, he wanted, would be forthcoming - and so it was.