Is Netanyahu a Chess Grandmaster?

If Middle East politics can be compared to a game of chess, then the
prime minister of Israel is a grandmaster. In his brilliant speech to
AIPAC yesterday, by calling for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to
recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people as an
article for any peace agreement, Netanyahu brilliantly just performed
a chess move called en passant. En passant, one of my favorite moves
in the strategic game of chess, counters an attempt by an opponent to
maneuver around one’s defenses on the way to topple the king. The en
passant moves ones defenses (a pawn) into direct confrontation with
the opponent, bringing to realization the famous expression, “If you
want to get to him (the King), you are first going to have to get
through me”.

Like a skilled opponent, the Palestinians have been avoiding the real
issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict and attempting to maneuver around
them.  In all of the discussions about land swaps, refugees, and  the
Jordan Valley, the world has forgotten that the real issue is not one
of land but rather one of religion. Anyone who has knowledge of
Islam as it is currently being preached in most places, knows that a
Muslim country cannot possibly recognize a flag with a Star of David
flying above the crescent moons of mosques. The utopian vision of
Islam is that the entire world will eventually become Muslim in
conjunction with an age of peace, morality, and holiness. While there
is some respect in Islam for Judaism and Christianity as earlier
divine revelations, these religions are nevertheless considered
inferior religions and their adherents are called Dhimmi, tolerated
religious minorities under the protection of an Islamic ruler. This is
the same status that a Christian community in Syria just signed on to
rather than face the threat of conversion to Islam or death.

The land we call Israel returning to Jewish rule, after it has already
progressed to Muslim rule, is unacceptable to a faithful Muslim. It
flies in the face of everything a faithful Muslim believes. It
creates theological problems that can easily keep a Muslim cleric up
at night with questions such as:

1)  If Islam is the true and superior religion and Muhammad was the
last and greatest prophet, why did the Jews win all of these Middle
East wars?
2)  Is Allah truly on the side of the Muslims?
3)  Why is the world regressing instead of progressing? Why are
countries that were once Muslim returning to the rule of inferior
religions, affectively lowering the number of Muslim countries in the
world? How come Spain was reconquered by the Christians and Israel by the Jews?

It is for this reason that the Arab world could not accept the 1947 UN
two-state solution nor can they do so today. The Palestinians and
other Muslim countries can recognize a place temporarily called Israel
as long as they can keep their eyes on the real prize – the entire
territory of Israel returning to Arab-Islamic rule. This strategy is
called the Stage Plan and is described in detail in PLO documents.
This Stage Plan involves conquering Israel stage by stage and piece by
piece and is clearly being implemented as we speak, with the demand
for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as well as a demand
for Palestinian refugees to enter Israel in such numbers that the Arabs
would outnumber the Jews in Israel and the Arab majority could then
rename and reclassify Israel as yet another Arab Muslim country.

Netanyahu’s chess move, en passant, forces a direct conversation about this very real issue. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian not only recognize Israel, but Israel as a Jewish state — because he knows that as long as the Palestinians avoid this issue, Israel will continue to be a theological thorn that won’t go away, challenging the fabric of the Islamic religion.

As long as Muslims consider Israel to be an insult to Islam and a theological threat to being a faithful Muslim, faithful Muslims will be compelled to prove the truth of Islam by attempting to erase the threat to their religious wholeness, otherwise known as Israel. And this means that no matter how much land Israel gives away to the Palestinians, there will be no peace.

The real solution to the Arab-Israeli Conflict lies not with land
negotiations, but inside of the hearts and minds of Muslim religious
leaders and institutions. Faithful Muslims must be able to sleep at
night even with the knowledge that there is a Jewish state in a land
once ruled by Muslims and which still has a Muslim population living
under a Jewish flag. Islam must search for a theology that will allow
it not to be insulted or threatened by the existence of a Jewish state
in the Middle East. There are teachings of love and tolerance towards Jews and Christians in the Koran and the Hadith. I have even heard an Imam classify Jews and Christians as Muslims. Since Islam means “subservient to Allah” and Jews and Christians are most definitely subservient to Allah, they must also be considered Muslim, according to Islamic law. There is even support in the Koran for the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, these are not the religious texts being emphasized by Islamic religious or political leaders.

The answer that Netanyahu received after his AIPAC speech was from Senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, who told told AFP that Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of a Jewish state was tantamount to “an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations.” This is yet another Chess move in an attempt to avoid the issues and move toward Israel’s king. How unfortunate. Isn’t it time we stopped playing chess and started just enjoying each other’s company?

About the Author
Rabbi Royi Shaffin has served as a rabbi, Jewish educator, professor, writer, and public speaker for over 15 years. His writings span the full spectrum of Jewish religious and political topics. He considers himself a member of both the faith community and the community of free-thinkers. As such, he bridges the gap between religion and reason, belief and inquiry. His commentary on Israel and the Jewish world uses unique insight, satire, comedy, passion, and life experience to shed light on Israeli and Jewish life in the modern world and creating visions and possibilities for a better future.
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