The greatest danger facing Israel in her fiftieth year comes from the obsession of Israelis with blaming themselves for anti-Zionism.
Israel's premise in the Oslo accords was that the rejection of Israel's existence was due to anger over Israeli rule in Judea and Samaria, and that once the "occupation" ended, peace would ensue. Israel's opinion-shapers refuse to recognize Palestinian Arab hostility as systemic--witness the recent Israeli documentary "T'kuma," covering the history of the state, which views the Arab-Israel conflict as a product of the Palestinians' frustration over failing to achieve an independent state. This view has blinded many Israelis to the fact that territorial concessions are a stepping stone to the "phased" destruction of the Jewish state.
Ironically, Menachem Begin withdrew from
the Sinai in 1977 specifically in order to prevent
withdrawal from Judea and Samaria; in reality, of course, his
policies made future "land for peace" deals more likely.
Likewise the withdrawals of Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu
will make it harder to retain Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, the Golan and the Galilee.
Integrally related to the Israeli passion for self-blame is the obsession with obtaining international approval. This explains the Israeli proclivity for making endless "confidence building measures," often timed on the eve of a visit by an American diplomat. Releasing convicted terrorists, ending border closures, or transferring funds to Arafat in the aftermath of a terrorist attack is meant to teach the world the exemplary benevolence of the Jewish state, making it undeserving of hatred. The underlying assumption of these counterproductive and dangerous gestures is that psychologically, Israelis do not feel themselves in control of their own destiny. Psychologically, they are still in "exile."
Another factor impeding Israel's ability to accept psychologically her own independence is the belief of many Israelis that the international community, not Israel's victory in the War of Independence is responsible for the state's existence. According to Abba Eban (speaking to writer Masha Leon in 1989), "Israel was established as a very utopian ideal...we had to seize the ear of the world...and I had to deploy a very utopian rhetoric. And I remember the speech that I made in getting ourselves recognized by the world community...In other words we obtained our statehood by saying that we should share [the land]."
Since 1948, successive governments have placed a disproportionate emphasis on
international opinion. Indeed, Israel's obsession with this, as a sign
that her exilic rejection has ended, has led the state to undermine and sacrifice her own defense by withdrawing from strategic territory many times in her short history in order to win a short-lived international pat on the back.
Within Israel, much of the hostility of the secularists toward traditional Judaism is rooted in the belief that abandonment of Israel's particularistic Jewish identity will pave the way for her integration into the community of nations. Prominent officials in the Labor government of Rabin and Peres proposed changing the national anthem and flag, ceasing to insist that foreign dignitaries visit Yad Vashem and the Kotel (the Western Wall), removing all reference to Judaism from the IDF loyalty oath, and calling for Israel's admission into the Arab League. Shulamit Aloni, Minister of Education under Rabin, went so far as to propose that the Book of Joshua be removed from the Israeli secular school curriculum, on the grounds that it inculcated Israeli youth with pride regarding achievement of territorial sovereignty. The hatred toward the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria manifested by many secularists also reflects their sense that these settlements are a major obstacle to international acceptance.
Unfortunately, despite the high hopes that Netanyahu's government would change the self-destructive behavior of his predecessors, the promise has been unfulfilled. According to Netanyahu spokesman David Bar Illan, "The chest-beating and wallowing in mea culpas are an extension of the need to atone to a degree that may prove destructive. Fortunately, I feel this is manifested almost exclusively among leftist intellectuals...who resent Netanyahu...and are loaded with guilt over our success." But while Netanyahu preaches toughness and reciprocity one day, the next he agrees to continue Israel's participation in the accords despite the absence of reciprocity. He complains that the PA refuses to extradite terrorists to Israel as the accords stipulate and then himself proceeds to declare an amnesty for terrorists not eligible for release under the terms of Oslo. After initially refusing to meet with Arafat until he implemented the accords, Netanyahu began negotiating with him soon after the Israeli elections. And Netanyahu agreed to withdraw from Hebron only three months after the September 1996 attacks following the opening of the Hasmonean tunnel, in which 16 Israeli soldiers were killed--this, after claiming he would not reward terrorism and violence.
One explanation for Netanyahu's behavior may be found in his book, A Place Among the Nations. Conceding that the Arab campaign against Israel is not based on grievances susceptible to negotiation, but based on opposition to the very existence of Jewish sovereignty, Netanyahu nonetheless observes that "without a campaign to secure international approval even the most formidable accumulation of military or economic power is simply insufficient to assure enduring support." In other words, Netanyahu, too, finds international approval the sine qua non of Israeli diplomacy.
(Continued on p.9)
Outpost - 8 - July-August 1998