Peace or capitulation?
By Obadiah Shoher
Even people who are fond of Israel know that she is implicitly guilty of the Sabra and Shatila massacres because IDF guarded the camps’ perimeter. During the massacre, soldiers repeatedly asked their commanders for permission to intervene; they were carelessly rebuffed by Sharon. After the event, Israeli society was full of soul-searching even though our own involvement was negligible by any standard, and there is no humanitarian onus upon us to save the PLO’s Muslim constituency from the equally barbarous Arab Christians. A single Jew, Ariel Sharon, was complicit in the massacre, but all of Israel was blamed.
And this is a lesson: whatever are Israel’s intentions, they will always be interpreted in the worst possible light.
In early 1970s, Rabin and other leftist leaders (with the notable exception of Shimon Peres) consistently treated the West Bank as a bargaining chip for a future peace agreement with the Arabs. They proclaim not to want to annex the territory, to harbor no settler designs on it, and only hold it for the exchange. Illegal as their position was under the international law, it was sensible and possibly effective.
Begin’s government proclaimed a Jewish right to the territories, though many of his contemporaries heard him recognize the eventual need to cede them. Like Kissinger, Begin only hoped that he wouldn’t be around by the time that unwelcome deal became necessary. Without much thought and amid great fanfare, he created a new reality hugely detrimental to Israel.
For Begin’s proclamations to be useful, he should have annexed Judea and Samaria in an attempt to end the discussion. As we can see today, annexation is not a panacea, and Israel has given away the annexed Jerusalem and Golan Heights. But at least there was an honest attempt by Jews to treat the matter as done. Begin’s position on Judea and Samaria was inherently dishonest: he called them non-negotiable while insisting on Jordanian citizenship and autonomy for Arab residents.
In Rabin’s scheme, Israel was giving the land away from a position of strength. In Begin’s scheme, which is unfolding today—from a position of weakness. Rabin was abandoning something that we allegedly do not want; Begin was abandoning the land that we want dearly and consider ours by the strongest of all standards, the religious. Of course, our best option is to annex the land and expel the Arabs. Short of that, Rabin’s way was a political victory, while Begin’s was an utter defeat.
And this is how Arabs will see the eventual peace deal. Israel abandoning the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, dismantling dozens of Jewish villages, IDF troops evicting Jews from their homes, Arab mobs dancing on the ruins of synagogues—there will be a tremendous victory for the Arabs. For many years, images of Israel’s defeat in the West Bank will energize young Arabs to continue the struggle to liberate the last areas of what they consider their land from the Jews.
And the Arabs would not be that wrong. The Jews, who vacated their historical homes in Judea and Samaria and settled into the beachfront occupied previously by the detested Philistines and Graeco-Roman pagans, hardly deserve even that ten-mile-wide state.