Some recent comments on my blog were full of pessimism at the thought of Israel’s future, or even the possibility that Israel might not even have a future (G-d forbid). It’s true that when one reads reports of the rise of Jihadists throughout the Arab world, Iran’s push towards nuclear weapons and the constant incitement emanating from Israel’s ostensible peace partners, the picture one receives is depressing indeed.
Along comes Professor Barry Rubin with a well-timed article which I quoted in my comment on my post, but which I feel deserves wider attention. While Prof. Rubin doesn’t minimize the dangers that Israel faces, he looks at Israel’s situation from a different angle, giving cause for some slight optimism and certainly making it easier for us, Israelis and Israel’s supporters, to resist
Here is an excerpt from the article which is rather cryptically headlined: Israel has no other alternatives but the alternative it has is a good one:
In 1995, Israel signed an agreement with the PLO to make peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The accord, known as the Oslo II agreement, included the following passage in Article 31:“Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
By essentially unilaterally declaring the existence of an Arab Palestine, the world has abrogated that agreement.[...][...] And at least the Western public should know how this all looks from an Israeli perspective, information often denied it altogether or distorted by the mass media.
–They have rewarded the party that refused to make peace.–They have rewarded the side that rejected the offer of a state and pursued violence instead, cheering the murder of Israeli civilians.–They have removed the framework on the basis of which Israel made numerous risky concessions including letting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip; establish a government; obtain billions of dollars of money; created military organizations that have been used to attack Israel; establish schools and other institutions which call and teach for Israel’s destruction; and a long list of other things.
[...] Israel has paid for the 1993 deal; the Palestinian Authority has only taken what it has wanted.
Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, was one of many who stated that the Oslo Accords have now ceased to exist. What then governs the situation and Israel-Palestinian (Palestine?) relations?
There is, for example, no standing for any claim that the Palestinian side has recognized—much less accepted—Israel’s existence. Indeed, a “one-state solution” is daily advocated by Palestinian leaders.
Yet the world’s outrage is reserved for Israel’s announcement that 3000 apartments will be constructed on land claimed by Israel on the West Bank, all built on settlements whose existence until a bilateral agreement was reached was accepted by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Incidentally, repeatedly decisions of Israeli zoning boards that permit construction in future provoke global hysteria about the bulldozers moving in next week. Perhaps if the Palestinian Authority would make peace those buildings would never get built in a few years.[...]
Again, what’s important here is not to complain about the unfairness of international life, the hypocrisy of those involved, and the double standards applied against Israel. This is the reality of the situation and must be the starting point for considering what to do.
And what’s important is to do that which is necessary to preserve Israel’s national security and to ignore to the greatest possible extent anything that subverts it.
What has experience taught us? Very simply this: The Palestinian leadership’s priority is not on getting a state of their own--they have missed many opportunities to do so–but to gain total victory. No matter how much you might think it is rational for them to seek to have a country living peacefully alongside Israel forever as it develops its economy and culture and resettles refugees out of the camps they do not think so. And that’s all that’s important.
Taking a state of that kind is only acceptable to the PA, and even more to the Hamas, leadership if it serves to promote that goal. Even if moderation provides material rewards they prefer militancy. But after all, suffering–even if self-inflicted–brings massive political gains for them.
What has the world’s behavior taught us? Very simply this: Nothing we can do will suffice.[...]What has diplomacy taught us? That the other side will not keep commitments and those guaranteeing those commitments will not keep their word to do so. And then they will complain that Israel doesn’t take more risks, give more concessions, and defend itself too vigorously.
Well, that’s the way things are and in some ways they’ve been like that for decades; from a Jewish standpoint, for centuries. So what else is new?[...]That is not a pessimistic assessment at all. Basically, this process has now been going on for about 40 years. It will continue to go on, partly because the West has been and will continue to be content with purely symbolic anti-Israel measures so it can reap some public relations’ benefits without any costs. The quality of existence is more important than the quality of the ability to justify one’s existence.
By coincidence, several surveys have just been published which pertain to Israel’s achievements in the face of such obstacles as small size, lack of resources, international hostility, and war waged against it by neighbors.In its November 21, 2012, issue, The Economist Intelligence Unit, a respected research group which is part of The Economist (which has been bitterly anti-Israel in recent years) published a study — “The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013””– of the best places for a baby to be born in 2013 and subsequently live its life. Israel was rated at number 20, just behind the United States [...] and ahead of Italy (21), France (26), and Britain (27).
In the World Happiness Report, Israel rated 14th and in health it was in the 6th position, ahead of the United States, Germany, Britain, and France.
Living well, as the saying goes, is the best revenge. Meanwhile, Israel’s neighbors don’t get criticized by the UN—many of them get elected to the Human Rights Council despite their records—but are sinking into violence, disaster, and new dictatorships.So which fate is preferable? To win the wars forced on you, to develop high living standards, to enjoy real democratic life, or to writhe under the torture of dictators, terrorists, and totalitarian ideologies?
Israel’s fate includes to be slandered, its actions and society so often distorted by those responsible for conveying accurate information to their own societies. And that also means to be attacked violently by its neighbors, though it can minimize the effectiveness of that violence. Like our ancestors we have to deal with this bizarre situation, this mistreatment that others don’t even understand still exists.
But we cannot let this nonsensical excuse for reality drive us mad or make us mad.There are only three ways, which must be combined, to survive: to believe truthful things, do constructive things, and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
Truly, as the Israeli saying puts it and as the story of the Oslo agreement so vividly proves, en breira, there’s no choice. Fortunately, the real-life alternative available is a good one. Go ahead; do what’s necessary; reconcile everyone possible; but don’t let that stand in the way of survival.