The Toughest Sell Ever: Unilateral Israeli Withdrawal

I think Israel must leave the West Bank for the good of the country and the Jewish people.

I don’t think that leaving the West Bank will end our problems. I actually think it will create more.

The West Bank will inevitably fall into the hands of Hamas or a group even more radical.

The world will not thank us for leaving and may even argue that we still occupy areas we have withdrawn from as they do with Gaza.

I know that when we leave the West Bank, Jewish holy places will be off limits to Jews to pray in and that I am effectively calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jewish people from the very parts of biblical Israel that are the most important to our great religion.

And there’s very little I can say that we’re going to get in return. In fact there is absolutely nothing tangible Israel is going to get in return. In this I concede that every argument made for hanging on to the West Bank is correct. Our fears of a dictatorial state hell bent on hurting us would likely, though not certainly, come to pass. The airport would be in range (it is now though and our occupation didn’t stop Hamas firing missiles from Gaza).

But there is one intangible thing the lack of which hovers over Israel and the Jewish people as an ever present shadow wherever we go. Our righteousness.

“The fate of Israel depends on two things,” Ben-Gurion once said. “On her strength and on her righteousness”. (from Michael Bar-Zohar’s biography of Ben Gurion)

At the moment we are strong but we are not righteous. Palestinians are condemned to live in one large prison. Israelis are condemned from birth to be their jailers. So far as the ruling Likud Party is concerned we are currently living the solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The racism of Israeli settlers will continue to be well documented and posted online for all to see, except by Israeli officials who will decry a smear campaign against the state of Israel.

It’s not surprising that Jews in the Diaspora are almost as miserable at the prospect of having to defend Israel as Israelis are at having to spend three years of their lives keeping Palestinians in jail.

There’s no righteousness to our argument.

We are not plucky little Israel just trying to survive we are bullying powerful Israel picking on people who can’t do anything about it.

In my own lifetime, the definition of a terrorist has changed from being a Soviet trained, keffiyah wearing paramilitary armed with a Kalashnikov to a 15-year-old girl armed with a knife she stole from her Mum’s kitchen.

I’ve watched as Israel gave Elor Azaria a token prison sentence for bravely shooting an incapacitated terrorist in the head. I watched the video of a bunch of Jews courageously abusing a girl —  terrorist —  lying on the ground bleeding to death from a bullet wound. I’ve watched hundreds of other smaller incidents of violence from uprooting olive trees to throwing stones at Palestinian kids and on and on courtesy of YouTube.

I know that the statistics in 2010 for the conviction rate of a Palestinian brought into an Israeli military court was over 99% and that in 2015 only 7.4% of West Bank Israeli police investigations following complaints from Palestinian victims of offences committed against them or their property by Israeli civilians resulted in indictments. If you’re a Jew you’re innocent if you’re a Palestinian you’re guilty.

I know that a withdrawal from the West Bank will result in additional Israeli deaths. I know that it will create rifts in Israeli society, particularly among those religious Jews who can’t even contemplate a Jewish state that’s prepared to remove Jews from living in the lands our forefathers lived in and where the miracles of our holy books took place. Especially when they know that the righteousness I speak of is mocked and held up as a weakness by the very people who seek to destroy us and that their lack of righteousness is rarely criticised by anyone.

Yet my concern is for my people and my country.

The other day we shot dead 16 Palestinians on our border with Gaza. Yet we don’t really know where our borders are. I wrote defending our actions because I feel that no country on earth can be expected to allow tens of thousands of people who wish to destroy the country simply march through their border. But when you have a country who fudges the issue of where its borders are it’s difficult to argue that we have a right to defend them.

It’s also difficult to criticise the opposition when I know that my own politicians are sitting on their hands rather pleased with the current situation.

Our much vaunted military that fared so poorly against Hezbollah in 2006, (though rather better against a badly equipped Hamas), is wasting away as a paramilitary force experienced only in making arrests and guarding settlements. It has little time to train and faces the strain of having to defend a growing populace in hostile surroundings.

At the moment in France Jews are being murdered in their homes. In the UK Jews are hated as an elite stopping Jeremy Corbyn from becoming Prime Minister. In the United States the Far Right are marching in front of synagogues with their rifles.

We need Israel more than ever before. But we are allowing our state to decay from the inside out. Within the Green Line 80% of Israeli citizens are Jews. Including the West Bank that figure drops to the point at which it becomes clear that there won’t be any Jewish state if Israel attempts to annex the territory and imposes an openly separate regime or is forced to by the international community and offers Palestinians citizenship in one country that means the end of a Jewish homeland.

But it is about more than that. It’s about righteousness.

Are we a force for good in the world or are we merely Palestine’s jailers?

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada