Israel’s deluded politicians

Last night I had the privilege of hearing some of the top candidates to the next Knesset speak at a debate held here in Tel Aviv. The candidates respected the audience enough to air, sometimes bluntly, their opinions vis a vis Israel’s security situation.

But not bluntly enough.

Former head of the Shin Bet Yaakov Peri came closest, he argued it was possible to reach “a settlement, not peace” with the Palestinians. The difference between a settlement and a peace seems quite clear. We cannot reach a point where Palestinian terror stops. We can however reach a point where the state of Israel ceases to be. A settlement could avoid this fate, a lack of one will ensure it.

Pretending there is a solution to be had that will involve a utopian Israel safe from terror is a nonsense. Pretending Israel can continue with settlements and occupation for as long as it takes Palestinians to realize they need a deal is also nonsense.

Palestinians would be more than happy to wait it out until they have the majority, until they have been deprived their rights for so long that the 50,000 marching on the streets of London during conflicts with Hamas turns into hundreds of thousands marching in every capital of the world. They’ll wait and they’ll wait and they’ll demand one person one vote between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean and they’ll get it. Then the dream that is Jewish self determination will sink back into the depths of history from which it was resurrected.

Israel will suffer terror regardless of whether it maintains control of the West Bank or gives it up. If we don’t give it up then we doom Israel to occupy Palestinians forever more, gradually bankrupting ourselves in the attempt as the coastal plain foots the bill for holding on to an area of land it neither visits nor cares about. The previous government “pumped one-third of the country’s funding for subsidized housing into the settlements. 35% funding for less than 5% of Israel’s population.” Why should the citizens of Israel be deprived funds in the name of a utopia that will never come into being? Certainly in the short term Israel will suffer less terror than if it leaves the West Bank but it will pay the price when it collapses under the weight of an occupation without end.

This is the future we have currently chosen for ourselves. The inevitable outcome is that the IDF will be occupying a people without end, a people whose freedoms and rights are denied them by the country claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East. Our armed forces will be eroded from being overstretched with duties of occupation rather than freeing them up to train for war. The budget will be so tight that even the meagre training reserve soldiers currently receive will be too expensive. Meanwhile the Palestinians will know they need merely wait until Israel is either forced to withdraw from the West Bank by outside powers or falls apart completely. They will succeed by default. They will succeed because when we were strong we were unable to accept the limits of our strength.

The other option is to withdraw from the West Bank and watch, helpless as Hamas takes over and fires missiles at Israel and turns Palestine into a terror state every bit as bad as Gaza. There is nothing in between. Last night I heard Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home casually admit her party’s plan to annex 60% of the West Bank and grant citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there wasn’t feasible and I heard Tamar Zandberg of Meretz pretend that coming to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority will somehow make everything okay.

Both of them lied to me and to themselves. There is no utopia to be had here and there never will be. They can make plans and they can even implement them but Israel’s ills will not simply disappear and peace will not reign as a result of them.

The options are all bad but not choosing any of them is in itself a choice. A choice for apartheid by default. A choice for a present without interest in the future, a choice for greater security precautions resulting in the loss of the Jewish state those precautions were implemented to protect.

There is no ‘solution’ to this problem. Either way Israel is going to get hit. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum you deserve leadership that has the courage to tell you what they have the capability to deliver and what they do not. As the evening wore on I gained the feeling that the candidates, from left to right, weren’t prepared to admit to a truth Peri could only hint at. Terror is something politicians can’t end and continued occupation will lead to the very existential threat so many on the right warn of.

Maybe Knesset candidates think it’s political suicide to stand up and tell Israelis that they don’t have the ability to present us with a ‘solution’. But real leaders in the past have managed to tell their body politic that they have nothing to offer but blood tears, toil and sweat and managed to guide them through the tough times when it might seem as though all is lost.

This is the difference between good leaders and great ones. We have some of the former, the latter are sorely lacking.

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