Not only is Israel surviving, it is thriving. Despite Israel’s many stupendous accomplishments in the fields of technology, business and science, one area in which it continues to struggle is the creation of a sustaining peace with its neighbors and even with its own Arab population. It seems that no matter what Israel has tried to do, no matter how many concessions it has made, real peace has always been elusive.
Interestingly the Torah, in the weeks’ portion, seems to address directly this issue. In dealing with all types of Tzara’at (leprosy) including Tzara’at that inflicts buildings, the Torah relates, “God spoke to Moses and Aaron saying: when you arrive to the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place Tzara’at affliction upon a house in the land of your possession…. the Cohen shall command, and they shall remove the stones that contain affliction, and they shall cast them outside the city in a contaminated place,” (Leviticus 14).
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba) tells us that Joshua sent three letters to the Canaanites offering them the option to make peace, all of which were rejected. The Canaanites knew that the Israelites would come to wage war. In response they hid their valuables in the walls of their property. After the Jews settled in the land, God caused the walls of the house to become inflicted with a plague of Tzara’at so that the Jewish owner would demolish the house and find the hidden treasure.
Peace an anathema
This seems somewhat odd. If the Canaanites felt confident about defending their country why did they hide their valuables in the walls? If they weren't confident about winning, however, shouldn’t they have accepted Joshua’s peace proposals?
The simple answer is that they did not want to make peace with the Israelites under any circumstances; peace with the Israelites was an anathema to them. They took a long-term view of the struggle. They were convinced that even if they lost the war, after a protracted insurgency they would be able to remove the Israelites and return to their homes and reclaim their valuables hidden in the walls. Any suffering that they had to endure in the interim would be worth it, as long as they did not have to share their land in peace with the Israelites.
Israel has failed to realize that the reason it has been unable to make a sustainable peace with its Arab neighbors is the very same reason that they rejected Israel's very founding sixty four years ago. Simply stated, most Arabs do not want to live in peace with Israel under any circumstances. They have a long term view of the conflict. They hope that a protracted insurgency will lead to Israel’s demise so that they can reclaim the land.
When this happened in Biblical times, the Torah tells us that God guided the Israelites to find Canaanites’ valuables so they would loose everything from their stubborn refusal to make peace.
The concept here is instructive. The Canaanites needed to realize that they would have nothing at all to gain from continuing their insurgency--even the valuables they hid in the walls were gone. Now they became incentivized to make peace.
The crucial mistake Israel has made over the last sixty years is to allow their enemies to think that a lack of peace would allow them to wear Israel down and eventually win the land back for themselves. Israel reinforced this illusion by repeatedly rewarding bad behavior. Violent Intifadas resulted in phony peace talks that ended in autonomous Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza, but not even one day of real peace ensued.
To use the Biblical metaphor, Israel must remove its enemies illusion that it can reclaim its valuables through acts of war and aggression. Israel must do all that it can to ensure that its neighbors realize that continuation of the conflict will gain them nothing. Real peace will be possible only when the Arabs realize true acceptance of Israel is the only way that they can regain the things that they hold dear.