“…An increasingly intolerant and hostile world…thinks sacrificing Israel’s vital interests or even the state itself would be a small price to pay for ending the global confrontation between the West and Islamic fundamentalism.” (Prof. Eytan Gilboa, October 2006)
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? … And if not now, when? (Hillel the Elder, Tracts Aboth 1:14)
These two quotes- one contemporary the other Biblical - must define the mindset with which Benjamin Netanyahu approaches his upcoming visit to Washington later this month.
It is extremely seldom that leaders of nations are given second chance by history to redeem themselves – and to redress failures incurred during a previous incumbency. Netanyahu is one the fortunate few who have been afforded such a rare opportunity.
Whether he will rise to the occasion and demonstrate that he is equal to the historic challenge for which destiny seems to have selected him, will very shortly become apparent. For his mettle will soon be tested.
His forthcoming Washington visit will take place in the sinister shadow cast by the recent AIPAC meeting where several senior officials in the Obama team - notably White House Chief of Staff Emanuel and National Security Adviser Jones - abrasively put Israel on notice that they intend to manhandle it into making far-reaching concessions on the Palestinian issue.
Particular pressure, it seems, is to be exerted to coerce the Israeli government into accepting the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the "two states for two peoples" formula - despite the fact that even the so-called Palestinian "moderates" have made it abundantly clear that they categorically reject the possibility that the Jews be considered one of those "two peoples."
From the outset Netanyahu must confront both the style and substance of the emerging discourse with the White House. He must make it unequivocally clear that the derogatory nature of the former is inappropriate and unacceptable, and impractical nature of latter is disingenuous and dangerous – and that Israel intends to condone neither.
State of proud JewsWith regard to the disrespectful tenor and the menacing tone of the language used to address Israel, it is imperative that the prime minister convey to the Obama administration that Israel is the sovereign state of proud Jews, determined to chart their own destiny, not some servile shtetl of pliant "Jewboys" who can be bullied into submission.
In response to the administration's arrogant threat that it is about to get "forceful" with Israel, Netanyahu should respond with the same defiance as Menachem Begin, who in 1981, when faced with the threat of US punishment over the Knesset's decision to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights, issued the following stinging rebuke to the US ambassador:
What kind of expression is this - "punishing Israel"? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic?...You have no right to "punish" Israel - and I protest at the very use of this term…You will not frighten us with "punishments." He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments.
More than a quarter of a century has passed since then and Israeli-US relations have continued unimpaired - as has Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.
As for the substance of the US demands for Israeli acceptance of the "two-state" principle, it must be made clear that it is hypocritical and self-contradictory for the administration to profess that it is "committed to Israel's security" and then insist on a policy that severely undermines that security.
In this regard Netanyahu must insist that his American interlocutors demonstrate both intellectual integrity and rational consistency in dealing with Israel. He must remind his hosts that it was none other than the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that produced a map designating the areas vital for Israel's security, which showed that it must retain considerable tracts of land in the "West Bank" that make a two-state solution untenable.
He must point out that is was none other than the US Under-Secretary of State, Eugene Rostow, the most senior American official involved in drafting UN Resolution 242, who pointed out that this map "is useful in interpreting Resolution 242 because it reveals …what the US government had in mind in pushing the resolution through." It was Rostow who as late at 1993 stated that "all the studies of the Israeli security problem reached the same conclusion – from the security point of view, Israel must hold the high points in the West Bank and areas along the Jordan River."
Recall Czech lessonThe administration's attempt to link progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its ability to curtail Iran's nuclear project is equally disingenuous and ludicrous - and must be exposed as such.
No serious authority has ever suggested that Iranian concern for the fate of the Palestinians was among the reasons behind Tehran's nuclear ambitions. These have always been identified as a result of domestic considerations - from national self-perception, to the trauma of the war with Iraq, to aspirations for regional hegemony. It is thus entirely unclear why "progress on the Palestinian issue” will contribute in any way to halting the Iranian nuclear program – since this is driven neither by a sense of solidarity with the Arabs in general nor with the Palestinians in particular.
Indeed, not only do the Arab states have much to fear from the Iranian nuclear ambitions - perhaps more so than Israel- - but so do the Palestinians, many of whom are also in danger of annihilation in any nuclear attack on their immediately adjacent "oppressor."
The emerging American policy today has ominously familiar ring to it. It is strongly reminiscent of Anglo-French pressure on Czechoslovakia to yield to German demands that it cede the strategically important mountainous region of the Sudetenland to accommodate the aspirations, and address the grievances, of ethnic majority resident in the area.
Netanyahu must not allow Washington to forget – or obscure – the fact that by abandoning their ally and forcing it to submit to the dictates of despots, France and England not only brought devastation to Czechs, but carnage and catastrophe to themselves - and to humanity as a whole.