The Israeli election is upon us. The results affect all Israelis, but those of us in the diaspora are also touched. We may not have a vote, but Israel is our home, too. My hope is that all Israelis with the right to vote will exercise that right.
Israel is always under existential threat. And the leaders of the world always have advice. Since the failure of the Oslo agreement; a failure brought about by the refusal of the Palestinians to sign on the dotted line, world leaders have pushed the famous line “Land for Peace.” So Israel tried that with Gaza.
Again we are hearing the drumbeat of “Land for Peace.” As if the Middle East will be the Garden of Eden if Israel shrivels in size. These leaders seem to be oblivious to the one constant that the Jewish people have learned living in the Middle East for millennia: that compromise is seen as a weakness-something to be exploited.
I take you to Libya, 1951- sixty-four years ago. To Mordecai’s story as told to Joan Peters and recorded in her book “From Time Immemorial.” Ms. Peters’s book is the seminal work on relations between Arabs and Jews. Her research debunked the narrative that Arabs and Jews were best of friends until the partition of 1948.
Mordecai told of his fears living in Libya. Although his family had assured him in early 1950 that Jews in Libya were safe because Libyan leaders were sympathetic to the Jewish people, he still felt threatened. Rightly so. In 1945, the Jews had been the recipients of a pogrom. One hundred and fifty Jews murdered in Tripoli. Families brutally massacred by Libyans. In 1948, Libyans tried again to attack the Jews.
Libya became an independent state in 1951-the British left. Keep in mind that the British had been in control during the attacks. Qadaffi began to strangle Jewish life. And the Jews felt helpless. An almost instinctual response to attack. For millennia our ancestors ducked, hid and prayed.
Mordecai related this story to Ms. Peters:
“Since the Jews felt helpless to do anything, they did nothing, and because they were seen to be weak by the Arabs, the Arabs kept creating new laws which restricted us further…From 1956, we were no longer free, and at the same time, we were no longer free to leave the country…In 1967, after the Six-Day War, Jews were killed wantonly, thrown from balconies into the street-it was horrible-riots, burning the synagogue…”
What exactly has changed since Mordecai’s experiences? Have we not yet learned that Arab leaders look for weakness, any sign of weakness, in order to attack the Jewish people? Have we not learned that Arab leaders take advantage of any sign of weakness from the West. Remember Obama’s red line in Syria? And now his discussions with Iran.
Why is this year any different than all the other years? Why are we expected to believe that offering “Land for Peace” will lead to peace when in the past it has led to intifada and war?
I cannot imagine the tension in Israel. I can only pray that our people in Israel will make the right decision for the times.