“And Laban said to Jacob, ‘Here is this mound, and here is the monument which I have cast between me and you. This mound shall be a witness that I may not cross over to you past this mound, nor may you cross over to me past this mound… May the God of Abraham and Nahor judge between us–the god of their father.’ But Jacob swore by the Awe of his father Isaac…”–Genesis 31:51-53
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is not woven into the life of our ancestors by the record of history?”–Cicero 46 CE
I want us to propose a scenario. An Orthodox Jewish man and a completely secular woman start dating and they fall in love. Somehow through some major loophole, he is able to keep his religious devotion a secret–she has no idea that he is extremely religious. Meanwhile, she makes no effort to hide the fact that she loves a good pork roast on Saturdays and going out to party on Friday nights. The wedding day comes, and everyone is happy. She thinks she’s found the one she loves and… somehow the guy just doesn’t open up about how religious he is. What is going to happen when she finds out that she has married someone who’s life is immersed in the Halacha and all of the demands that come with it, including the obligations that she herself will have to uphold if they want to have a happy marriage?
In early September 2020, the historic deal known as the Abraham accords was struck between the State of Israel and the countries of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco to normalize relations and engage in economic trade, including weapons. This agreement also solidified the ability for each country’s respective citizens to tour and visit the these countries. There hasn’t been an agreement like this in the Middle East since President of Egypt Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shook hands at the Camp David Accords in March 1979.
What was the primary condition that solidified such a deal?
Before answering this question (Which perhaps some if not most of you reading this already know the answer to) I want to take a moment to outline the history of the modern state of Israel and the nature of our connection to it.
For the modern Jewish state of Israel, it has been quite a journey. Anyone who studies her history would have to acknowledge that her survival and economic rise in the face of so much adversity has been nearly miraculous. Like any modern state–especially those which were created or had gained independence in the early to mid-twentieth century–there has been a huge process of finding itself ideologically. In our short history, we have shown ourselves to be a state with people of ultra-religious beliefs, ultra-secular beliefs, and basically everywhere in between. As such, the modern state of Israel is in an on-going journey of self-discovery. In such a scenario as this, the potential for both mistake and achievement is very high. Much like every kid who hits puberty, every journey of self discovery entails periods of doubt, lacking of self esteem, and lack of ability to know how to handle certain situations. As the nation grows, comes into contact with better national life experience, it comes to understand itself better, and hence it becomes more mature.
Thus the stronger one’s sense of identity, the stronger and more confident is one’s inner constitution. The same goes with a weak inner constitution in connection with a weak sense of identity.
In a journey of self discovery, knowledge and awareness of oneself, and a proper knowledge of one’s past history is imperative. This seems to be extra hard when a nation experiences a long exile like we have. Yet it must be mentioned that we have forgotten vital pieces of ourselves when it comes to our return to our land, and most of us have forgotten–at least our actions indicate as much–one of the geographical locations in the land of Israel where our Jewish historical roots go deepest.
I am talking about Judea and Samaria, otherwise what has become known as the “West Bank.”
Throughout Jewish history, the West Bank has been our heritage. It is where King David ruled in Hevron for seven years before he went on to rule in Jerusalem. It is where the patriarchs are buried. It is the birth place of King David in Bethlehem. It is where according to tradition Rachel wife of Jacob is buried on the road to Bethlehem. It is where Joseph is buried in Shechem, otherwise known today by the Arabic name “Nablus.” It is the place on which Moses commanded the people to stand on two mountain tops and proclaim the blessings and curses of those who took on the covenant of the Jewish nation–Mounts Gerezim and Ival. It was the locations of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Manasseh, and Ephraim. Throughout our history as a sovereign country in the Middle East–from the time of the Judges all the way to our defeat by the Babylonians, it was the hills of the West Bank that gave us strategic leverage to defend ourselves against our enemies who lived in and attempted to conquer us from the lower hills and valleys–because the high ground is always a strategic advantage. Even in the battles between the Macabees and the Greeks, it was the hills of Judea and Samaria that gave strategic advantage of Jewish freedom fighters over the seemingly indestructible Greek phalanx and their elephants. All that I have listed and more show our Jewish heritage is tied to the West Bank. Even though it is populated by a majority Arab population, places like Hevron, Nablus, Silwan, etc. are incomparably more historically Jewish than a city like Tel Aviv which was built in the twentieth century.
For those of us who truly wish to learn our history, it is imperative that we open up a map of ancient Israel as well as brush up on our Tanach sometime and see the territories in which we truly belong to historically. Then to learn the courage to sacrifice for them like people who have a country again after nearly two thousand years.
Yet even without making the argument to heritage, asserting Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank is also imperative to Israeli strategic and security interests. As in ancient times, the West Bank is at a higher elevation than most of the rest of the country. Should the Palestinian Authority be given the West Bank as a Palestinian state, all major cities in Israel would be in mortal peril–and would have no protection from the Iron Dome as all incoming missiles would be too close in range. While there has been talk of setting up a demilitarized Palestinian State, there would really be no way to enforce demilitarization of such a state without compromising its sovereignty in the first place. As we have also seen, international sanctions as deterrents at best only slow down the countries who are only going to do what they want in the first place.
Hence the very idea of the Two State Solution has been tried again and again–through the Oslo Accords headed by President Clinton, the Road Map Agenda asserted by President G.W. Bush Jr. starting in the year 2000 (One might also remember forced evacuation of all Jewish settlements in Gaza which in the end resulted in the Hamas terrorist organization taking over and embarking on campaigns of shooting missiles into Israel, of which at the onset President Bush called an “Historic move”), and once again with President Obama. Only an extremely incompetent State Department within the US, not to mention an extremely naive and ill-informed international community could believe it to be the only way forward after this diplomatic agenda has failed over and over again. This is indeed, the definition of insanity–doing the same thing over and over again, when nothing has changed and expecting different results.
The perception of a demographic threat of the Palestinian population, has often led US State Department officials to strong-arm and manipulate the Israeli government into turning over the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. They have stated that the Palestinian populous would to paraphrase former Secretary of State John Kerry’s, become either a single state under apartheid law with second class Arab citizens, or a state that maintains it’s democratic principles but inevitably becomes overrun by the Palestinian demographic and thus causes the Jewish state to collapse. (“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens – or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.” Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail, says John Kerry | Israel | The Guardian)
In contrast, Caroline Glick in her book the Israeli Solution writes that despite the fear and hysteria from both American and Israeli governments over the Palestianian demographic, it was found that “the demographic time bomb is a dud. “According to a team of demographic experts called the American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIRDG), the Palestinian Authority’s claims of demographic growth through birth-rate and numbers detailed in their census were grossly exaggerated. The numbers which the PCBS gave essentially told that the Palestinian growth rate–that of 4.75 percent–was the highest population growth rate in the world; an extremely unlikely scenario.
“In a nutshell, the researchers discovered that the 1997 Palestinian census was a fraud. The PCBS (Palestinian Census Bureau of Statistics) had exaggerated the Palestinian population figures by nearly 50 percent, or 1.34 million people…” (The Israeli Solution, Caroline Glick. Chapter 8, “The Demographic Time Bomb is a Dud.)
Hence, one can see that the Palestinian demographic is not something to panic over.
While there would be other concerns to address pertaining to Israeli annexation of the West Bank and are not pertinent to the timing of this blog, I wanted to address the demographic problem as it has been perhaps the strongest argument of moving forward with a single-state solution.
Thus to return to the subject of the Abraham Accords and to answer the question of what was the key to this new deal? The state of Israel halting annexation of parts of the West Bank.
In a Jerusalem Post article written back in December 2021, the events leading up to the halting of annexation of Area C (A fair amount, though not all of the West Bank) and normalizing relations with the above stated Arab countries, outlined the big agenda of course being the US President wanting to make peace in the Israeli Arab conflict (Behind scenes of Abraham Accords: Israeli annexation halted day before – Israel News – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)). It was essentially a choice between more international convenience and an opportunity to preserve the heritage and security of the Jewish state.
The Jewish state chose international convenience, and suppressed its assertion of voicing out the importance of its historical heritage. The location of our deepest Jewish roots was cheapened to the status of a bargaining chip.
While I would commend former President Donald Trump for his efforts at helping the Jewish state and asserting a US foreign policy that perhaps has shown him to be the most benevolent US President in history towards Israel, even for me to say such a thing implies that the state of Israel has some growing up to do in realizing it’s own sovereignty and its ability to not allow itself to be overly influenced by other international players.
Ultimately, the story above about the religious man marrying the secular woman strongly applies here. As long as we keep our heritage to the land a “secret” and trade it for a cheap marriage like the Abraham Accords, we will not be worthy of respect in the region. Eventually, all of these Arab countries who made the deal in the Abraham Accords will wake up one day and realize that we the Jewish nation at the end of the day are not leaving the West Bank and cannot will not give it up.
Like the religious man in the story, the state of Israel should have had the maturity to say to it’s potential partners, “Hey I like you, but this isn’t going to work out under these conditions.” At the moment, we have a diplomatic “marriage” based not on honesty and transparency, but deceit and secrecy concerning fundamental issues and identity.
One would think that in such a scenario, the religious man should do his secular wife a favor by either coming out and being completely honest with her about the situation and then offer her to stay with him under the principles he has rightly committed himself to, or he should divorce her. In any case he should learn a better awareness of who he is and how to be honest about himself with others.
The state of Israel should do the no less with her Arab partners.