Naphtali Perlberger
Naphtali Perlberger

Ceasefires and treaties: Military strategy tools

After more than 4,000 rockets (including aimed at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv), a ceasefire was declared. Negotiators from various countries seek to convert the short hiatus into a long-term, indefinite status. Why did each side agree to stop and what can be expected?  In order to answer these questions, the nature and purpose of such agreements need to be examined from a historical perspective.

To begin, a recent template may be explored in the events of the last century — the two World Wars.  After initiating the conflict on the tenuous pretext of the assassination of the Archduke of Serbia, more than 4 years and 40 million casualties ended with the Treaty of Versailles. It became known later as the Great War, or the “war to end all wars”. Germany and the Allies signed an armistice. This term, taken from the Latin, means “stoppage”. No surrender; no victory, just STOP!

After the euphoria of the ’20s and while the world found itself in the Great Depression, Germany rearmed, its constitutional government dissolved, and Hitler rose to power. The world watched, and as I wrote in last week’s article, a series of tragic acts amounting to a colossal display of cognitive dissonance lulled the world into blinding itself to the clear evidence of Hitler’s intentions.

First, Hitler did not hide his determination to bring about an Aryan empire, eradicating first the Jews and other “undesirables”,  and later extending it out to all non-Aryans. Likewise, any junior historian knew that Fascism and Communism were on a collision course. Taking advantage of the desperate hope that war could be averted and that alliances could be made that would hold, Ribbentrop masterminded two pacts, first with Chamberlain and then with Stalin. The former led Europe to turn a blind eye when the Sudetenland (much of former Czechoslovakia) and Austria were simply taken by Germany; the latter permitted Germany to join with Russia to take Eastern Europe. Of course, each pact failed, and World War II more than doubled the casualties of the Great War. This time, the Allies demanded full and unconditional surrenders. These victories, however, did not halt the cognitive dissonance of the first half of the century, as the Soviet Union and China (including its proxy, North Korea), would then enter the new phase of their military objectives — confronting Democracy globally to bring about its long-term objective of turning the world Communist.

Recent history — of the last century — is not the true origin of the competing objectives of treaties. Saladin (echoed in the last century by Yassir Arafat) declared that Islam should enter into treaties with more powerful enemies, which would be abandoned, once Islam could surpass the military strength of its adversary. This tool was nothing more than another weapon in Saladin’s arsenal.

Even looking back hundreds or thousands of years do not give us a seminal understanding of the strategic tool of treaties. In the Torah, after Yitzchak is born, Avraham is visited by the King of the Philistines, Elimelech.  It is a time of great joy and promise for Avraham’s family. Elimelech brings his top general, Phicol (ironically, his name may be deciphered to mean “All-Talk”). Why a military leader to a community banquet?  Elimelech convinces Avraham that they should enter into a treaty, whereby Avraham agrees, in exchange for a supposed peace, never to attack or seek to conquer the Philistines.

What follows are centuries of Philistine warfare waged against the Children of Israel — destroying Shiloh and taking the Ark of the Covenant, war with King Saul (David & Goliath), the killing of Saul and Yonason, Shimshon’s downfall, to name a few notable examples strewn across the pages of Tanach.

The only adherents to the Abrahamitic treaty were the Jews. When Joshua entered the Land promised to the Patriarchs, the Canaanite nations that fell did not include the Philistines, who were left to dwell amongst them.   NOTE: this article will not explore the fact that Avraham had no right to give up any of the Land of Israel belonging to Hashem, and that his consequence was to experience what it felt like to potentially sacrifice Yitzchak at the Akeidah).

Fast forward to the present – Hamas occupies Gaza (which was one of the principal city-states of the Philistines). Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and an ethnic cleansing of the land from the Jordan to the Mediterraneans. Jews cannot walk the streets of Gaza or the West Bank. Synagogues cannot be built, homes cannot be owned (without severe penalties, including death, to any Arab selling to a Jew), and of course, no Jew may hold any office in the governmental units of either Gaza or the Palestinian Authority. If Jews come to worship or even step onto the Temple Mount, protests, riots and violence breaks out. And — what does the world do?  The United Nations condemns Israel at every opportunity, and officially renames the Kotel and the Temple Mount to Arabic names. In the neighboring Arab countries, the number of Jews not murdered or made to leave with the barest of belongings, leaving homes and businesses that in many cases had been owned by Jews for centuries, are but a mere vestige of the thriving communities that had existed before 1948.

So — with this mountain of evidence — with reality staring in Israel’s face, and with wave upon wave of wars, intifadas, rocket attacks, suicide bombers, and endless attacks upon men, women and children, what does Israel do?

First, in response to world pressure, Israel agrees to a ceasefire — the old armistice — that never meant anything in the past!  The stoppage occurs without conditions, without disarmament, without surrender, without any movement toward peace. In the interim, the blood-thirsty calls for ongoing war, the celebration of death and destruction of Israeli lives and homes goes on. More critically, funding is pouring in from the United States and the world community, so that Israel’s enemies may restock their rockets and arms, rebuild their tunnels, and revitalize for a future war.   And — instead of condemning Hamas (and its puppeteer, Iran), calls for prosecution and condemnation of Israel for its “war crimes” ring out. Anti-Semitism is more virulent than anytime since the Holocaust.

More destructive than even the rockets is the coalition government that threatens to replace the disavowed government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Preceded by a familiar alliance of the Far Left and the media, the former Conservative Naftali Bennett, enters into an unholy pact with the Left and Arab factions, whose agendas have no interest in upholding either the eternal sanctity of the Land of Israel or taking the strong position that the Land is non-negotiable!  Once again, the specter of cognitive dissonance has risen to blot out all the evidence and seek ceasefires, armistices and treaties, never insisting that Israel’s enemies abolish their determination to obliterate it and its inhabitants before any talks of peace commence. That threshold condition must be met, even if it simply on paper, before the fiction of peace can be declared.

All of history — ancient and modern — instruct us as did Moshe to B’nei Yisroel –                      to RE’EH (SEE) and SHEMA (HEAR), and warned us that we falter when we (as did the meraglimSURU (explore, analyze and perceive) only what we want or desire, rather than what is.   This ceasefire and this proposed government are both dangerous illusions! It is this writer’s hope and prayer that this generation does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessors and rely on the empty promises of pieces of paper that are offered as military strategy tools.

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".
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