What has been taken by blood can only be restored by blood. – Arab proverb
Fool’s errand: an attempt to do something that has no chance of success.
Israel is now in its 24th year of a peace process that was never to be. During these 23-plus years almost 1,600 Jews have been slaughtered. Most of the recent stabbing attacks in Israel were perpetrated by teen-aged Arabs, which means that their culture of terror developed after Arafat had confirmed the signing of the peace agreement with Israel called Oslo. Not much has changed after the fanfare on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. While looking through a file on David Bar- Illan z”l, former editor of the Jerusalem Post, I found an interesting op-ed he had written in 1992 titled, “Surprising Statements from Two Well-known Doves.” In it, Bar-Illan references an article by super- dove Meron Benvenisti in the November 13, 1992 Hebrew daily Ha’aretz in which Benvenisti rails against “the blind, mindless hatred for Jews expressed in a book by a Palestinian [Arab] intellectual. Such tirades from the Left against Palestinians have been known to occur when Peace Now’s favorite interlocutors dance on roofs as Scuds rain on Tel Aviv.”
The book that so incensed Benvenisti is titled, The Sealed Room by Raja Shehade, a Ramallah lawyer and a “peace camp” darling. As Benvenisti writes, Shehade accuses Israelis of “every despicable crime, even if it is manifestly imaginary and groundless. … Even the murder of Shehade’s own father, committed by an Arab over a land dispute, is attributed to Israelis. …” Shehade does not mince words. “I want to see your cities besieged, your soldiers crushed and your arrogant noses in the mud.” What Benvenisti overlooked is that these expressions of hatred by so-called “Arab intellectuals” were dominant before the 1967 war and even before the establishment of the State in 1948. “From the Arab viewpoint,” writes Bar-Illan, “Israel’s crime is not the ‘occupation’ of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It is the crime of existing.”
The second revelation appeared in a Boston Globe (November 29, 1992) interview of another well- known leftist, Teddy Kollek, then mayor of Jerusalem (east and west). The Globe’s Ethan Bronner (later, of the New York Times) pressed Kollek as to whether he would be willing to give up East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Arabs for peace. Bronner was surprised by Kollek’s answer (as was I, by his honesty). Kollek said that the Palestinian Arabs don’t really want East Jerusalem. And as Bronner must have been scratching his head, Kollek continued, “They don’t want to get it freely. They want only to get it by blood.” Asked if he really felt that way, Kollek answered, “No question, no question. Deep down in Arab philosophy is the conquest by war, and not a peaceful conquest. [If they were given East Jerusalem], they’d still declare war. I’m convinced of that.” Asked by Bronner if he believed that an important reason to keep Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is because there is a long-term threat, Kollek replied, “We are the only ones who will keep it a civilized city. Nobody else will.” I get a warm, cozy feeling when a Leftist expresses the obvious.
Is it any wonder, 24 years later, that the peace process has been such a colossal failure? Sadly, all the excuses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. It was never meant to be—and it was clear from the very beginning. One of the first steps the newly minted Palestinian Authority (PA) agreed to take was for Arafat to modify the PLO covenant by removing all the hateful wording about Israel. “I am taking this opportunity,” proclaimed Arafat, “to assure you and to assure the great American people that we share your values for freedom, justice and human rights – values for which my people have been striving.” And Clinton, Rabin, Peres and the New York Times believed him! I once publicly questioned Dennis Ross on this point. During a talk he was giving, he tried a bit of spin to make it sound as if Arafat had “sorta” modified the Palestinian National Charter, removing all the nasty stuff about destroying Israel. But as he began his typical litany of misdirectives and head fakes, I reminded him of the “Note for the Record” he authored three and a half years after the White House charade, summarizing what Arafat still needed to do at his January 15, 1997 signing with Netanyahu: “The Palestinian side reaffirms its commitments to the following measures and principles in accordance with the Interim Agreement.”No.1 on Ross’ list: “Complete the process of revising the Palestinian National Charter.” (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 17, 1997 “Note for the Record,” a report prepared by then-ambassador Dennis Ross at the request of Netanyahu and Arafat, summarizing what they agreed upon at their meeting on January 15, 1997). It seemed pretty clear to anyone who was awake—and it became pretty clear to Ross after I asked him publicly if he remembered his old historical “Note for the Record.” He apologized for his “misstatement” and acknowledged that I was correct—while glaring at me with embarrassment.
I was going to ask him about the second item on the three-year-old historical list of commitments reaffirmed by the Palestinian-Arab side (“fighting terror and preventing violence”) since a number of well-known videotapes showed Arafat busy inciting his terrorist thugs – his blessed shahids – to murder Israelis, which had by then claimed the lives of over 200 Israelis. I thought it a great follow-up question, but I could see the rabbinic moderator was already a bit embarrassed and put off by my first question, so he just moved on. After over twenty years of peace-processing, Ross, the reputed “expert on the Israeli- Palestinian peace process,” had nothing to show for it except a string of continuous failures. He did, however, manage to convince Netanyahu to give away 80 percent of Hebron for nothing, which showed just how good a negotiator he wasn’t, while Netanyahu displayed a painful shortsightedness in trying to appease the Clinton administration. In his kinder moments, former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer euphemistically referred to Ross as the proverbial “wishful thinker.”
Israel is still waiting for Arafat to change the PLO covenant, which would be tough for him to do now that he’s dead – but it wouldn’t matter. He was never going to change it, although Ross, Negotiator in Chief, initially tried to put one over on the audience to make them think he did. But no, he didn’t. Presidents at the time, Bill Clinton and Shimon Peres, and all those hawkers for peace after the Kodak moment were played for the willing fools they were. They should have been reminded of Arafat’s interview with Oriana Fallaci in the New Republic: “The question of borders does not interest us. … Our nation is the Arab nation, extending from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and beyond. … There is no difference between Palestinians and Egyptians. We are both part of the Arab nation. … What you call Trans-Jordan is actually Palestine.” (David Bar-Illan, Eye on the Media, pp. 408-9) Leopards don’t change their spots and terrorists don’t beat their swords into plowshares.
Can Jews learn from history? I’m not sure. They have a short attention span. But David Ben-Gurion, testifying before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, explained that “in Arab history there is no such thing as Palestine.” And Bar-Illan notes that applying the term “Palestinian” to Arabs of Palestine probably began in the early 1960s [actually in 1974], but neither Security Council resolution 242 of 1967 nor 338 of 1973 mentions Palestinians at all. It was only in the mid-Seventies that the term became popular. (Eye on the Media, p. 166-7). Palestinians have shown that the historical theory of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ “Big Lie” really works. If you repeat a lie often enough, after a while history will reflect it as reality, especially if you have a gullible, lazy and willing audience. Palestinians were not even mentioned under U.N. resolution 338 in 1973 . . . Let that sink in.
The peace campers and the two-staters have always been on a “fool’s errand.” There was never to be a peaceful settlement. And unless Israel becomes suicidal, there never will be one, no matter how hard the various “peace processors” try. The real question is: Why is there this need for a 23rd Arab state? Not enough room in the existing 22 Arab states? Too many liberal Americanized Jews are obsessed with Israel being both democratic and Jewish—yet unfazed by the creation of an anti-democratic, anti-Semitic state.
It should be remembered that shortly after the 1967 war, the U.S. Congress asked Lt. Gen. (ret.) Thomas Kelly, Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare an analysis of Israel’s minimum defensive land needs. He reported: “I cannot defend this land (Israel) without that terrain (West Bank). … The West Bank mountains, and especially their 5 approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible.” (The Ettinger Report, February 9, 2011) “Any American Jew advising Israel to surrender Judea and Samaria is no friend of Israel; any Israeli who does likewise is simply suicidal.” (U.S. Army Col. (ret.) Irving Kett, Jerusalem Post, April 22, 1990). On October 12, 1988, 100 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times urging Israel not to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, under the headline, “Retain the Israel Asset.” Referring to Gen. Kelly’s above-mentioned report, the ad notes that in 1968, “a then-secret report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff asserted that Israel’s borders were indefensible without the mountain ridges of the West Bank. With the Arab armies at least four times the size they were [in 1968], this assessment is even more valid today .”
It was former president Bill Clinton who lamented, “I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state,” but they rejected it. Arafat would have been given 98 percent of the “West Bank” and compensating land from Israel. He didn’t understand that it cannot be negotiated away.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, based on assurances in a letter by then- president George W. Bush, and got 10,000 Hamas rockets. After Bush left office, the signed letter agreement was off the table. Fooled you once, fooled you twice … I’ll just keep fooling you. Jews don’t learn. And it isn’t because of Netanyahu. The U.S. did the same thing to Barak and Olmert.
Was it Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? But even a liberal might be able to understand the idea, if you talk slowly. To that end, it was the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Major General Giora Eiland, who succinctly articulated the obvious in his paper, “The Future of the Two-State Solution”: “When we talk about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we see a paradox. … While the outlines of a two-state solution are generally known, the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians and still survive politically is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.” He kinda gets it—except that he doesn’t fully appreciate the Arab proverb that Teddy Kollek so insightfully grasped: “What has been taken by blood can only be restored by blood.” That is the ideological reality in an honor-based society.
For the Middle Eastern Arabs, it is about honor and shame. For the Westernized Jewish Israelis it is about negotiations and compromise. In 622 C.E., Mohammed signed a peace treaty with the Jewish tribes, the Qurayza Jews of Medina. Five years later, after growing stronger, he broke the treaty, beheaded all the Jewish men, and took the Jewish women into his harem as sex slaves. Our past has too often been prologue … on a fool’s errand.
Shabbat Shalom, 09/23/2016
Jack “Yehoshua” Berger
* Back issues are archived at The Times of Israel.com