Disengagement, EXPULSION, OR WHAT?

We, the Jews, were in exile for almost two thousand years, but before that, we had a long period of trying to govern Israel. For the most part, even those times are not a happy story. Weíve had more than our share of overly ambitious or weak leaders, of betrayal from some Palestinians in our midst, and of fighting each other. Today we have again a dangerous combination of weaknesses. This history and the present are particularly sad for a state that was supposed to be a light to the world by setting a utopian example.

Weíve had the current state of Israel for less than sixty years, a very short period, historically speaking. In a few more decades we can easily lose it again. It wonít happen because we canít respond to a concentrated external threat. It can happen by a graduate
erosion of our strength, caused by a combination of the more subtle problems I mentioned above. We are at a very dangerous stage. Again, the outside pressures in the form of terrorism, Iran, or the Moslem world are great, but they are not the greatest dangers facing us. Our problems are internal and we donít have much time to ďget our act togetherĒ.

The disengagement/expulsion from Gaza, and most recently the ugly skirmish at Amona, are symptoms of the serious illness that has beset Israel. Letís look at the three previously-mentioned aggravating factors, lack of honest leadership, subversion, and infighting.

Disengagement or moving to more easily defensible positions is not a bad idea in my opinion, but unfortunately thatís where the good ideas of Sharon end. His manner of moving toward this goal could not have been done in a more tyrannical way. Here is a man who respects no one and nothing, certainly not the platform and the party that put him in power. These, he figured, could be abandoned after they no longer served his visions, i.e. his ambitions. He feels his abilities are giant and his good intentions outweigh his heavy-handed means. He loves this game of politics. He considers a referendum dangerous; itís much easier to play the coalition game. Find the group of legislators that is willing to approve your next move. We have here a semi-tyrant in a hurry to make his mark on history. Yes, in a hurry and that is a key fact. Itís sad, but itís not rare in our history. For Israel, itís more than sad: itís dangerous.

The big question in my mind is: whatís the rush. Why not have a full debate in Israeli society, over a period of years, about the lines of defense? The rush is Sharonís, the rush results from the age and health of an elderly man and of a few elderly allies (like Peres, for example). Itís not like the Palestinians are ready to reciprocate in any way. They are nowhere near ready to be peace partners. Now it looks like that day will be moved back significantly with the election of a Hamas government. So Israel could have taken and could take its time for a national discussion.

The settlements in Gaza could have been moved into a more defensible configuration if Sharon had sought a compromise. Of course, compromise has not been in his vocabulary for some time. You certainly donít give away Gaza and get nothing in return. In fact we know that Israeli security has been hurt by these evacuations, with rocket launches from that region and arms and terrorists entering from Egypt. What intelligent person could not have foreseen these developments, never mind a former military general. There is no escaping the conclusion that Sharon gambled with his countryís security so that his single-minded map-drawing would get completed.

Continuing with the theme of leadership, or lack thereof, we find the equally dangerous Olmert currently at the helm. He tries to follow his mentorís course, but has no clue where it will get the country. It appears to me, that he has no leadership capability and will tend to be blown about by the winds of liberal international opinion. He has no coherent policy toward the Palestinians or Hamas. He has no guidance for the security establishment either. Unfortunately the Israeli military has become politicized (another unfortunate Sharon contribution) and look to the government for instructions. Instead of defending Israel using their know-how, they do the politically correct things and try not to hurt the enemy. Is there anything more pitiful than responding to rocket attacks by shelling the open fields that the rockets came from? Is this the same army that won all those wars against terrible odds?

The worst thing is that Olmert wants to maintain the rapid pace of change. Hoping to fill his mentorís shoes, he rushed into an uncompromising and violent confrontation over Amona. Doesnít he have enough on his mind trying to brace the country for a Hamas-governed Palestinian Authority? Is this the time to bash countrymen using police on horseback? It would be reasonable to expect well-considered behavior from a prime minister. Unfortunately what we have here is a man nobody ever took seriously, a timid man looking over his shoulder for favorable press and the approval of other countries. Israel cannot afford to have him in power for several years. The damage can be enormous.

I havenít heard of a broad discussion in the Knesset or in the larger Israeli society about the territory Israel should keep. Can we have that please, in an unhurried deliberate way? Of course, there will never be complete agreement among the various parties but a serious discussion must take place. We cannot have too many Amonas. We must not handle these things like brutes.

Speaking of brutes, what are we to do with Israeli Arabs that are into subversion? Iím talking about those Israeli citizens who help terrorists, agree with the inflexibility of the Palestinians and cheer their hostility, or openly advocate the destruction of Israel.
Again, this is nothing new, historically speaking. There have often been disruptive foreigners in our midst, waiting to betray us at the first opportunity. This is a group that needs to be watched and the worst elements need to be deported from Israel. Is that harsh, is it cruel? That depends on how willing you are to be stabbed in the back in your own cities. Keeping your country isnít always pretty. Your worst enemies need to be kept at a safe distance. If that still does not work, then itís your life or theirs, and no amount of wishful thinking can change that. The Bible is pretty clear. Offer peace but be ready for war, and wage that in a serious and not half-hearted way.

Now, letís look at infighting, Jew versus Jew. This is nothing new unfortunately in Jewish history either, with one part of the country not willing to defend another or one group, whether religious, economic, or ethnic, callous or openly hostile to the interests of the other. We have lost Israel more than once when unity was severely lacking.

I sense Israelis in the major cities having little compassion for those in the country, those in the north giving little thought to the problems of the south, the religious and the secularists having no patience with each other, and finally the comfortable unwilling to disturb themselves over the frontiers. How many have forgotten that not long ago all of Israel was the frontier, that everyone was a settler? The Arab world still thinks of the whole country that way.

I especially am disappointed by the two ends of the religious spectrum, the very secular and the very orthodox. The former see the Jewish aspect of Israelís history and claims to the land as minor details. They are striving to make Israel into a mini Europe or America and take their moral or amoral cues from the West. To them Israel represents a resting place from our wanderings but any other spot of land would be just fine also. Of course theyíll defend Israel as their home but these attitudes make me worry about the countryís long-term future.

The orthodox, on the other hand canít agree with each other on anything and would rather see a competing orthodox group fail than to join together and apply all their political clout to stop a fiasco like the Gaza operation. They also canít take seriously the Jewish peopleís having to act again like a political entity, with all the day-to-day services, like defending the country, that a living nation requires. Of course all these orthodox behaviors are contrary to the commandments, many of which concern the operation of a Jewish state.

The lack of discussion and empathy between the various components of Isreali society will doom us for sure. Whether there is an open civil war or whether the hate just simmers under the surface and leads one group to undo what the other has worked so hard to do, we will lose this land. Unfortunately this prospect has not fully registered in Israeli minds or in the minds of world Jewry. It can and will happen, the second devastating blow for our people in a period of a hundred years. Will the light to the nations flicker and die out? It can and will happen unless we adopt an ethically more sensitive, i.e. back-to-basics Jewish, approach to Israeli life and government. The history of Israel already contains many sad mistakes. Must we repeat them in our time?


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