A PERSONAL VIEW–I WROTE THIS 30 YEARS AGO, LITTLE CHANGED.
I thought that because I was born and raised in Israel, because my family was established there for several generations, because I fought in the underground to liberate Israel from England (Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir was one of my underground leaders), because I was arrested by the British, lived in a border kibbutz near Gaza, lost three kibbutz’ friends to Arab attacks, served in the Israeli Air Force, have all my “old” family there, and because for the last seven years I was a full-time U.S. peace activist, I understood the situation in Israel and knew what direction the Israelis should take in the territories.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
Despite spending long vacations in Israel every few years, I am an American, and thus have the limited awareness of an outsider. Living here for over thirty years kept me far away from Israeli reality. Extended visits and desire for peace do not overcome that.
For those Americans, either Gentiles or Jews, who feel that they know what is right for Israel, how to solve the problems with the territories, I say: keep your advice to yourself, you do not have the answer!
The Israelis have to find their own answer.
Until you consider Israel your home, live there for several years under typical Israeli conditions, until you have children in the Israeli Army, or until you lost a relative in a war or from an Arab-terrorists attack, you do not know what you are talking about!
I agree with you that the Arabs in the territories, like all people, should have the right of self-determination, but under the right conditions. I agree with you that too many people, Jews, and Arabs alike, were and are being killed, for too long. I agree with you, as most Israelis agree that peace is more important than territory. I agree with you that that area deserves peace. Every Israeli wants that. Unfortunately, many Arabs in the territories do not. And most Arab governments are still sworn to the liquidation of Israel. But I do not agree that you have the understanding and the knowledge to advise the Israelis how to solve their problems. And you certainly do not have the right to pressure them to do it your way.
There is no other country whose survival is so threatened, and for so long, like Israel. And that dictates certain conditions.
I will detail later why I came to the above conclusions, but first I want you to FEEL something. Do you remember how outraged we all were that a deranged man killed five innocent children in a Stockton school recently? This kind of murders happened in Israel not by a deranged individual, but by careful planning of several Arab terrorists’ groups. They rarely attack military bases and personnel. They blow civilian buses, kill women and children, blew innocent civilians at every opportunity. If the Israeli defense forces were not as diligent, the Arabs would have killed much more. A few months ago, I returned from a six-week trip to visit my family there. During that short time, I saw three police demolition of suspected bombs. After I had returned a bomb blew in Haifa, where I spent considerable time during my stay. Thirty-five civilian men, women and children were injured. Some children lost their legs.
You may say: Yes, but look at the Israeli soldiers, they shoot at children also. There are differences. Substantial differences. Those Arab teenagers (mostly) are throwing stones, and sometimes firebombs, at them. Look carefully at the TV pictures from there. Often you could see Arab women seating by the side of the road, where the Israeli soldiers are, observing the situation quietly, not attempting to hide. They know they are not in danger as long as they don’t join the attack.
If the Arabs would have their independent state in the territories without ironclad guaranty that these territories are demilitarized, and the borders firmly secured, many more Israelis would be killed by Palestinian terror groups.
I wonder what would be your reaction if, again and again, rockets would reach San Diego from across the Mexican border. Would you sit quietly and talk about the poor Mexicans, their low standard of living, exploited by the rich of their country
No. You would not!
You would be outraged. You would demand that the U.S. Armed Services put an immediate stop to it by any means necessary. And you would be justified in your demands. The reality is that you expect a different standard from Israel than from any other sovereign country. And no country could agree to live under these demands.
I sincerely hate war, any place in the world. One-quarter of my classmates died in the many Israeli wars. I miss them, and I do not wish that on any person. I do not hate Arabs, despite the deaths of many dear friends. I believe that they deserve peace, harmony, good life and their own country, like all other people on this small earth.
But I also cannot expect the Israelis to commit suicide. I guarded the border between Tel Aviv and the central territories during the war of independence. I know how narrow they are, a scant ten miles in some places between the Territories and the sea.
There is no natural border of any type. How could the Israeli government expose most of the Israeli population along that long, and nearby border to the certainty of terrorist attacks? You must have the right condition to secure the safety of the population. And how you do that? The situation between Israel and Jordan is a case in point:
My younger brother and his family live in a kibbutz near Eilat, the southernmost part of Israel. For some years infiltrators crossed from Jordan to Israel and caused casualties and damage. Israel retaliated against Jordanian military bases and increased its retaliation until the Jordanians realized that it costs them too much. They started to guard the border so carefully that almost no infiltration ever came from Jordan again. For more than twenty years the two sides live in peace. I was there, just a few feet from Jordan, this summer; I was helping kibbutz members to inspect their irrigation system. I saw the border sign a few feet from me. “You are not worried?” I asked. And they told me that they count on the Jordanian Army, more than the Israeli army, for their security. This is the kind of border Israel is looking for. But only a stable, strong, government like in Jordan can do that.
Now, let us look at what is happening in the territories, from the Israeli side.
Why the Israeli side? Because Israel would be the one that will have to agree to change the situation. No other country, including the U.S., could dictate Israel’s action. Israel will go to any length to protect its security. Even if the U.S. stopped all its assistance, monetary and military.
One immediate possibility is to let the Arabs have an internal control of their territories. The chaos, the murders by one fraction of another PLO supporters vs. local leadership, could tear the territories apart. It sometimes occurs now, Arabs against Arabs. Not only that, the Israeli government would be accused of carelessness and irresponsibility, for allowing this situation to take place. Also, it would be nearly impossible to guard the border from Arab attacks emanating from these territories. I lived in kibbutz Nve- Yair near Gaza in 1949/50 when the PLO did not yet exist. Each one of my three friends emerged only once out of the secured border of our kibbutz and was quickly killed. One of them was cut to pieces. Now, just imagine that Gaza is a free territory with unlimited access to the sea. Could anyone limit the number of terrorists and ammunition that could land there? They may not be from the PLO, if the PLO actually stops attacks against civilians, as it promised, but there are enough other terrorist groups, supported by different Arab countries, to make life in Israel very precarious. They can bring in rockets and shoot them at many of the population centers of Israel, a short distance away.
There is a good reason why the Egyptians did not want to take over Gaza, which is on the Egyptian’ border of the Sinai. They could not control it, and they do not want trouble. Neither does Israel. But what choice Israel has?
Leaving the Gaza population on their own would allow rampage murders both internally and externally. Just look at what is happening in Lebanon for so many years. Muslims of the same sect are killing one another for years, not to mention Muslims vs. Christians and vs. several other religions. And this is done with money from Saudi Arabia with our oil money, and Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Libya support terrorists too. And don’t forget the brutal, the savagely executed civilian war in Algeria that took someone hundred thousand lives in the last few years. Do you expect Israel to be willing to be subjected to this type of savagery?
I don’t have an answer. It is a highly difficult situation, and no simple, satisfactory solution may be available for many years. To achieve a real peace would require a change of approach to life by the Palestinians, and that may take generations. In the meantime, a lot of unstable times will be there, and a lot of Israeli civilians and military casualties would accumulate.
YES, I WROTE THIS 30 YEARS AGO, AND IT IS STILL VALID.
Matania Ginosar 4/2020