Israel’s Anguish

by Hugh Fitzgerald (Oct. 2008)

One of the staples of coverage of Israeli leaders over the past several decades has been to consistently rely on a Homeric epithet, or at least to imply such an epithet, in describing them. That epithet is “tough-minded.” And the epithet appears most often not when they are in fact being “tough-minded” but when they engage in policies that the both the man from Mars, and the man on the Clapham omnibus, would undoubtedly describe as weak, short-sighted, disastrous for the long-term security of Israel, however temporarily expedient or seemingly crowd-pleasing they may so fleetingly appear to be.

For, in the things that Israel’s leaders assume they cannot do, and in the things they assume that they are limited to doing, they have steadily chipped away at Israel’s case, at the strong and indeed overwhelming case, based on legal and historic and moral claims that need to be insistently repeated. And what is still worse, by their careless or despairing acceptance of the careful Arab re-packaging of the war being waged on Israel, a war that is a classic Jihad against an Infidel nation-state in the midst of Dar al-Islam (and not, as it has been presented for Western audiences, a limited “struggle for the legitimate rights of the ‘Palestinian’ people”). These rulers, having become demoralized themselves, help to demoralize those to whom they have a duty to instruct and protect.

The most egregious, sickening example has been that of Ehud Olmert, who in his own tormented inability to think things through and calmly, as he walked out the door threw a match backwards, when he so cruelly accepted every single argument by the propagandists for Fatah and the Slow Jihad, and said that Israel would, in order to “make peace,” have to give up everything: give up “the West Bank,” give up part of Jerusalem, give up the Golan Heights, though these are the minimal areas that Israel needs to possess, and to control, if it is to physically, and morally, survive.  With his words, Olmert perfectly summed up so many members of Israel’s political and media elite, who have allowed themselves to accept so much of the Arab and Muslim narrative – beginning with the recently-invented “Palestinian people” and including, of course, the notion that Israel must remain morally purer than Caesar’s wife, morally purer than any other nation on earth, because it must give up its own claims, and agree, volunteer, to permanently live in a state of imperilment beyond anything any other country or people has ever agreed to, because – as the olmerts of this world have it, Israel cannot “remain both Jewish and democratic” if it holds onto “the West Bank,” and it cannot “have peace” if it does not yield to Arab – Fatah – demands. He is wrong that he will get peace, and he is wrong that the Arabs of the “West Bank” necessarily have to become citizens of Israel if they insist upon continuing to live there, and he is wrong that the highest duty of the government of Israel is to keep the country morally pure. The highest duty is to keep the country secure, permanently secure, and its citizens alive. What Olmert did not do, in all of his years of politicking, and entertaining the talanskys he has known,  and raising children who left Israel for Paris without serving in the military, is to study Islam. Not a word, not a bit.

Olmert is confused and demoralized, a classic schlemiel who takes his own inability to handle Israel’s situation properly as meaning that no one could do so, that any other course is “unrealistic and “impossible.” He gives up because he can’t think of what else to do. He has not grasped the problem, and he has no idea how to instruct, slowly, carefully, methodically, both his own population, and the leaders of other countries, in the nature of the war being waged on Israel, a war to which there is no “solution” but that can be handled through deterrence, a war that certainly will be made worse, and likely more violent, by any further concessions by Israel which will always – necessarily – whet rather than sate Arab and Muslim appetites. This is all proven beyond him. Olmert lacks the mental stamina to stand back, to learn about Islam, and to apply what he might learn to the Matter At Hand. This would involve such an effort, and such a rethinking of so many things, that he simply can’t do it. Just can’t.

And Olmert is hardly the only problem. Other Israeli leaders or political figures before him have said or done things that have only made more, not less likely, the further undermining of Israel’s legal, historic, and moral claims. What Israel needs is for many people, inside Israel, and outside Israel, convincingly restating those claims, in order that Israelis themselves will recover the will to retain land that constitutes about 2-3% of the total land area won in the Six-Day War, and that is essential for Israel’s survival. The world needs to be reminded that more than 90% of the territory won in the Six-Day War – that is, the entire Sinai – was yielded to Egypt, in return for some smiles and Egyptian promises to encourage friendly relations and attitudes, which promises were never honored and were never intended to be honored. Another tranche of territory was given away when Jewish villages were destroyed, and Jewish villagers uprooted, in order to turn all of Gaza over to the local Arabs who, having had the Israeli government push Jews out, and though still dependent on Israel for food and electricity and water, nonetheless continued on the UNRWA dole, now supplemented by billions from European and North American Infidels, continued not only to multiply in order to swamp the Jews demographically, but continued to make open war on Israel, with thousands of rockets having been rained on Sderot and other towns.

As these leaders, each more disastrous than the next, added his mite to the mounting folly, the Western press always managed to find something about them that seemed to make their surrenders less obvious and more palatable, and had the effect of calming those who might otherwise be made anxious. The glad word went out that because of their background, these leaders would never ever do anything that might harm Israel’s security. But of course they would, and of course they did, but so painful was this to contemplate that many convinced themselves that surely, this or that Israeli leader – Rabin or Sharon or Olmert –knew what he was doing, knew what was what. But as we can see in other countries – see, for example, in the near-economic collapse in Washington, or in the Iraq war folly-and-squandering, many people, our “leaders” or those “taking a leadership role,” do not know what they are doing, are consistently surprised, and no doubt will be surprised as the ice melts, and the sea level rises, and the temperature goes up ten degrees, and most of the world’s species simply disappear.

The assuaging of outside, “pro-Israel circles” has been made possible through the misleading, and hypertrophied, attention paid to the background of these Israeli leaders. This may be part of a more general hypertrophied attention to “background” which connects to the notion of “authenticity” (a black person can write about blacks, in any way he feels, but a white person may not). In high school and college literature classes, it is now de rigueur to attend to the background (racial, ethnic, religious, sexual) of writers, often at the expense of the very qualities in their books that made those books worthy of study and attention in the first place.

When did all this talk about “tough-minded” Israelis begin? Possibly with Begin, whose inability to withstand Carter and Brzezinski at Camp David was disastrous, and should have been obvious, though in the general peace-hysteria and rose-garden excitement, only a few clear-minded people, most notably Samuel Katz, who had known Begin for many decades, understood that all the worst features of Begin were being manipulated and exploited. There was Begin’s great desire to be liked (“they like me, they really like me” he said of Carter the Pious and of Saint Sadat, though in neither case was this remotely true), there was his sentimentalism, and they both caused him to forget that Israel was in the right, and he lost the ability to make the case. His own unmediagenic homeliness, caught by the cameras and conniving klieg lights, did not help. And so desperate was the general Israeli desire for “peace,” so cruelly relentless the efforts by Carter and Brzezinski to build up Saint Sadat and undercut, at every turn, Begin that he gave away the store, and then some. He signed an agreement with Egypt that ignored the fact that the Sinai had been separate from Egypt until the early 1920s, and made no attempt to claim that parts of the Sinai could certainly, under the rules of warfare and according to the wording of U. N. Resolution 242, be retained by Israel. In any case, Begin made no attempt even to draw out the return of the Sinai, not over three years, but over twenty years so that Egypt’s good intentions could be tested, and if found wanting, the treaty abrogated and at least part of the Sinai retained. This never occurred to the Israelis, so ready was Begin to succumb to the pressure, and to his own fatal weaknesses. 

But all this while, as Begin made mistake after mistake, the newspapers, and especially the so-called “pro-Israel” American columnists (such as William Safire, formerly a columnist in The Times), kept writing about Begin’s background in the Irgun, and then his time in the wilderness because, you see, he was a tough-minded resolute non-compromiser. Having lost their heads at the spectacle of Sadat arriving on the tarmac in Tel Aviv (where the nation of Israel stood at respectful attention to greet him), few were willing to question, many were willing to parrot, such phrases as “Begin knows what he’s doing” or, in the rhetorical-question version, “do you think someone as tough as Begin doesn’t know what he’s doing?”

The same formula, or same way of reassuring those who, especially abroad, complacently describe themselves as “pro-Israel” without having any notion of what that word, rightly understood, would entail, has been used to describe other Israelis engaged in similar policies of appeasement.

Think, for example, of Yitzhak Rabin. Even though many could see at once – it took some, such as Bernard Lewis, a little longer —  that there was something terribly wrong with the Oslo Accords, many were so invested in the idea of “peace” that they did not wish to hear any of the arguments against it. And there was quite a market in peddling the line –  again see William Safire,– that because Rabin was, you see, a “tough old general,” that “tough old general” could not possibly be making a mistake. And exactly the same thing happened when Ariel Sharon, famous Israeli soldier, who had fought as a teenager in the 1948 war, who had founded Unit 101 and engaged in acts of derring-do, who had fought well in the 1967 war, and then again in the 1973 war, where he managed to turn the tide and surround the Egyptian Third Army (which was saved from destruction by Kissinger’s threats). And so, if Ariel Sharon was such a great warrior, surely this “tough old soldier” would never do something that might endanger Israel. So he was given a pass, as he made it possible for the Israeli government to give up its claims – well-founded under both the Mandate and under Resolution 242 – to Gaza, and proceeded himself to order the uprooting of Jewish villagers, and the destruction of their villages – some of which preceded by a half-century the founding of modern Israel – in order to “unilaterally” get rid of the problem of Gaza. And as we well know, there is no longer a problem of Gaza – thanks to the tough-minded rough-tough old general, Ariel Sharon, who could do no wrong, who could not be mistaken, could he, because let’s not forget, shall we, that he had spent his entire adult life fighting, as a soldier, for Israel.

Now much the same thing is happening with Zipporah “Tzipi” Livni. (Most Israeli politicians apparently are delighted to be known by their nicknames, a practice that subtly demeans, by making grossly informal, the conduct of politics in Israel. It is akin not to “Bill” Clinton but rather to “Billy” Clinton, and Georgie Bush, and Johnny McCain — a deplorable practice, among so many deplorable practices in Israeli politics.) Livni’s claim to toughness begins with biography: this “former Mossad agent” business. Get it? We are made to think of feats of fabulous derring-do, the kind of thing that the very word “Mossad” is supposed to conjure up. And even more important, as “Tzipi” Livni  will be the first to tell you, both her parents were supporters of the Irgun. What more do you want? This, you see, the Irgun and then that “Mossad agent” business, makes her tough, makes her clever, makes her able to see the whole picture, and what changes in that picture, and what doesn’t. 

There’s a lot one could say about Tzipi Livni’s grasp of the situation. She, like Olmert, believes that Israel is weak and must do as others want. She fails to realize that the last five years have begun the sea change in the West, as other countries, too, face the threat of Islam and have had to start to learn what Islam, what Jihad, is all about — not out of sympathy for Israel, but out of a desire to save themselves. She, Zipporah Livni, does not see this. She lives in a bubble, the bubble of power, the bubble of bureaucracy, the bubble that the politics of Israel provides. She has no grasp of what is changing in the West, or how Israel can re-seize the initiative, and declare itself unwilling to deal with Slow Jihadists as with Fast Jihadists — or at least she can start by raising the very issue of Jihad and of the value of negotiations, by demanding a public recognition, by the “Palestinian” Authority, that the example of treaty-making for Muslims at Hudaibiyya, and the breach that quickly followed, is hereby solemnly foresworn.

Any agreement or treaty that Israel reaches with the Gazan Arabs or the “West Bank” Arabs or both, that is, any agreement that a Mahmoud Nobody-Here-But-Us-Accountants Abbas, or someone else (it could be Sari Nuseibeh, it could be Marwan Barghouti, it could be Saeb Erekat — it doesn’t matter for Islam remains the same), will commit the Muslim Arab side to nothing. It has happened again and again, since the Armistice agreements of 1949. No matter what Israel thinks has been settled — say, the status of the Shebaa Farms, or the Golan Heights (Israel annexed them in 1981, and has no business putting them up on the block yet again) — for the Arabs nothing is ever settled. For once the Arab Muslim side receives its tangible gains, sooner or later it will renege on its own promises. There are those Israelis who allow themselves to believe that Egypt, and Jordan, can be said to be honoring a “peace treaty” with Israel. This misses the point. Those countries are not at war, in the battlefield sense, with Israel not because they are honoring a treaty, but because they are keeping the “peace” of their truce-treaty, or hudna, for exactly the same reasons that Syria or Saudi Arabia or any other Arab state does, because they have calculated that Israel is in a position to inflict terrible damage, and even, in the case of Egypt, in seizing the Sinai yet again and this time not likely to again surrender it for the sake of “peace.”

Once it has pocketed the tangible concessions made by Israel, as always, the Muslim side will, sooner or later, breach every single one of its promises. And it will do so not because this or that particular Arab has turned out to be untrustworthy, but because Islam instructs Muslims that they must never reconcile themselves to the permanent existence of Infidel rule anywhere in the world, and above all, or at least first of all, it is crazy to think that Arab Muslims would ever contemplate the continued existence of Israel, an Infidel nation-state, on land once possessed by Muslims (it doesn’t matter whom they seized the land from, nor does it matter that in North Africa and the Middle East Muslim Arabs possess lands that together are a thousand times larger than Israel), and not only that, but land that bestrides the very area that links the Maghreb to the Middle East.

No, Livni will not mention this. She will not raise the issue of Islam not only because like Olmert, she simply will not allow herself to find out what Islam inculcates, and why Israel must not believe that any peace-treaty with Muslims can ever be relied on, and that the difference between Slow Jihadists of Fatah and Fast Jihadists of Hamas is not a difference in ultimate goals, but merely a difference in tactics and timing.

And Livni may stubbornly refuse to learn because of her own private myth, or biography, that “getting-beyond-my-parents” personal narrative, as a child of Likud supporters, who slowly, painfully, finally “saw the light” and became a “realist. ” But what kind of “realist” ignores Islam in attempting to deal with Slow Jihadists and Fast Jihadists? What kind of “realist” thinks that the most important thing is not the physical survival of Israel and the Jews of Israel, but rather whether Israel retains its “Jewish and democratic character” by constantly giving up whatever lands happen to have large numbers of Arabs occupying them, instead of recognizing with grim sobriety that as a matter of national survival — of border defense, of control of aquifers, of control of invasion routes — Israel simply cannot give up, and should not be forced to give up, one inch or dunam of what is called, so comically, the “West Bank.”

She, Livni, is not a “realist” at all. She is, like so many ambitious people, however, enamored of her personal story.
How could someone who has preened herself on her own ability to come so much farther from, to politically distance herself from, her “Likud” or “Irgun” or “Revisionist” (choose one or more) antecedents, dare at this point – having had a little tutorial with the scholars of Islam at, say, Hebrew University — to deny or explode her own personal mythology, and come back to recognizing just how right, in the end, her parents were, even if they did not know enough about Islam to buttress or support their Revisionist views with the most telling arguments of all.

No, if having given up the “West Bank,” Israel would simply find itself in the same position, but now much reduced in size, and in this dimidiated state much more vulnerable. For the Arabs, who outbreed the Jews, would increase their numbers, and the next place that might have an Arab majority would be the Galilee (where already the Arabs have been attacking Jews with impunity), and along will come Livni, or a later Livni, to say, yet again, that Israel cannot “remain Jewish and democratic” and that, of course, in order to retain its moral purity — yes, we all know how important that is, don’t we?  — it must now give up the Galilee, too. And so on.

For some, for many, for too many, in Israel, there is no understanding of the larger picture, and no attempt to take a longer view. And Islam, the most important force in the Middle East, and the reason why Jews for centuries were treated as dhimmis, or why the Jewish state of Israel will never, ever be truly accepted, is deliberately ignored. No amount of supposed intertwining of economic interests of Jews and Arabs, in, say, Jenin or some other “West Bank” town, disproves this, but merely shows that Arabs are perfectly happy to pocket whatever they can get from those hated Jews, but that does not change their deeply-held views, and does not change the texts, and tenets of Islam that no collaborative efforts in exporting fruit or even computers will undo.

Livni is not informed about Islam. She is naive, and confused, beyond belief. And perhaps the quintessence of this naiveté, this confusion, this false “realism,” is best expressed in the remark she made a few months ago, and that was quoted in the Jerusalem Post: 

“The demand of the Palestinians for a home of their own is the very thing which causes our demand for a Jewish homeland to be legitimate.”

Think about that statement. Think about what it means. It means that Tzipi Livni does not think the Jews, who never stopped wherever they were remembering “Jerusalem and Zion,” somehow owe their claim to a single tiny state, and that state owes its legitimacy not to the moral and historic claim of Jews, with over 3000 years of continuous habitation under first their own, then Roman, then Byzantine, then Arab, then Turkish rule, in the Land of Israel, but to the phony claims, of local Arabs (Gazan Arabs and “West Bank” Arabs), who claim to be “a people” apart from the other Arabs who must of course be given part of the Land of Israel, so that eventually, their appetites whetted rather than sated, they are better positioned to go in for the kill.

The effort, since the Six-Day War, of the Arabs and Muslims, with their vast oil wealth, and their well-funded malignant campaigns to tear Israel down and to depict its quite mild efforts to defend its own citizens as the acts of Nazis, and above all the re-packaging of the Jihad against the Infidel nation-state of Israel — which has no “solution” and has no end, but can be permanently contained while Islam itself is weakened — as merely a “national liberation” struggle by the deliberately-invented “Palestinian people.” has succeeded. Zipporah “Tzipi” Livni is the living proof.

Apparently Livni is one more of those Israelis who accepts this propagandistic nonsense, without thinking through how it came to be, what a danger it represents, and what really are the teachings, the texts, the tenets, of Islam. To exist in a Muslim sea, to exist with enemies who wish to destroy you because of Islam, and to never inquire — not from any Israeli scholar of Islam — as to what Islam teaches, and what Israel, therefore, in making policy must assume to represent the desires of the large primitive masses, if not always the smylers with the knyf under their clokes who present themselves as men of sweet reason and limited goals – is to fail to fulfill your responsibilities and should disqualify you for higher office.

For now, the people of Israel have, it seems, been saved by the bell. Olmert is a crook, and is being hauled off-stage. But what if he had not been a crook? What if he had not had to leave the stage? Think then what permanent and terrible damage he might have done? But now enter Livni. What permanent and terrible damage might she now do?

Supporters of Israel like to take consolation in that famous phrase from silver-tonqued Abba Eban. What is that phrase? Oh, it’s about how “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” But what consolation is that? This means that again and again the Israelis have offered grotesquely generous and dangerous concessions, and the Arabs, again and again, have saved the Israelis — just as the people of Israel have been granted a most temporary reprieve thanks to Olmert’s petty greed (those expensive cigars, for example, and some stays in five-star hotels) and the loose tongue of Morris Talansky.

But the complacent reliance on Abba Eban’s lapidary remark — “the Arabs have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” – shows a terrifying misunderstanding of what it really, if unintentionally, means. It means that eventually the Arabs will be given yet another opportunity, and at some point they won’t miss that opportunity, and Israel, having agreed foolishly to yield so much, will no longer be saved by the bell – – the bell of corrupt leaders, caught by the police, or the bell rung by those Arabs who will sometimes but not forever (as it is fondly believed by “pro-Israel” people in the West), “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Indeed, it seems clear already that the Arabs have not always “failed to miss an opportunity.” They took the “opportunity” of Israel’s victory in a war of self-defense and turned it into the most successful re-branding campaign in history, repackaging the Jihad against Israel as merely a “struggle for the legitimate rights of the ‘Palestinian’ people” who were created out of the shock troops of the Jihad against Israel, the local Arabs.

Enough nonsense about those supposedly “tough-minded” Israeli figures – whether military men, such as Rabin and Sharon, who both were willing to offer disastrous surrenders, of rights and of tangible assets, or of those civilian politicians, Olmert and now Livni. Zipporah “Tzipi” Livni, as I have suggested above, is a playwright, the star of her own play, as a child-of-Irgun-supporters who, because she has “matured” and “developed” and become so much more of a “realist” than her poor benighted mother and father, way back in the 1940s could ever have been. What exactly she now understands about Islam that they did not understand is entirely unclear. And the theatre has been rented on a long-term lease, and the claque hired for many seasons to come, both paid for in the coin of Israel’s security.

Unless common sense breaks in, unless Israel’s ruling elite recognizes the permanent threat, the threat that can only be understood if you allow yourself to understand the meaning, and menace, of Islam, some day Israel will not be saved by any bell.

And that will be that.



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