Photo by: REUTERS
How do you manage in these conditions to create a situation in which those not involved in terror activities can continue with their lives? How can you not undermine the routine of life, while providing an effective response to the threat that emerges from individual attackers – knives, vehicle rammings, shootings? It is not organized; there is no organization, but it comes directly out of the civilian population. How can you, nevertheless, allow a sizable Arab civilian population in Judea and Samaria to live its life if it is not involved in terror activities?
…In this war which is predominantly a war of wills, of two societies with conflicting wills, a war in which endurance is more important than firepower, [the question is] which society will prevail?
– Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, Israel Democracy Institute, November 25
...Ya’alon...is the epitome of an officer and a gentleman...motivated more by his sincere perception of the national interest than of any narrow personal gain.
However, despite my esteem for the man and his impressive accomplishments, the issues at hand are so fateful that I feel compelled to overcome my personal reluctance to engage him critically in public, and take him to task for what I see as grave misperception of reality and of the policy required to contend with it.
“Ya’alon: We must let West Bank Arabs live as normal lives as possible”
in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post ...[by]...Jeremy Sharon, referred to an address Ya’alon gave at the inauguration of a new program at the Israel Democracy Institute on “National Security and Democracy” in memory of the late IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.
...It painted a vivid picture of moral and operational dilemmas facing Israeli decision makers in waging what is termed an “asymmetrical war” with various Arab militias such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Ya’alon articulated how the desire to preserve Israel’s “core values” of humanism and democracy imposed restraints on the IDF, designed to avoid (or at least reduce) civilian casualties on the other side, and how this desire impacted decisions on what action should/ should not be undertaken.
In essence it was an impassioned call for restraint and “proportionate” response to individual acts of terror, while making strenuous efforts to keep the civilian population largely immune from the consequences of those “proportionate” responses.
... I am utterly convinced that his prescription for restraint and proportionality is a counterproductive recipe that will almost certainly sustain the conflict, perpetuate the “cycles of violence” and result in mounting civilian casualties—on both sides.
Right diagnosis, wrong prescription
...On the one hand, Ya’alon correctly diagnosed the conflict as a clash of collectives – “predominantly a war of wills, of two societies with conflicting wills” – in which the victor will be the side with the greater persistence, not superior martial prowess – “a war in which endurance is more important than fire-power.”
...But then, on the other hand, Ya’alon urges – in my mind, inexplicably – that Israel should strive to preserve “the routine of life” for its inimical adversarial collective!
... If the clash is essentially one between collectives, surely victory will require one collective breaking the will of the rival collective. Accordingly, ensuring that said rival can maintain its daily routine hardly seems the most promising stratagem to adopt in an effort to break its will and achieve victory.
Indeed, if anything, it would seem the exigencies for a collective victory over an adversarial collective would dictate the diametrically opposite endeavor – disrupt the daily routine of the adversary...
It is for these reasons that I have repeatedly called for Israel to relate to the Palestinian collective in precisely the manner in which it defines itself – an implacable enemy – and to undertake policy that reflects this irrefutable truth by denying it the provision of merchandise and services that allow it to maintain its daily routine of unfading and undisguised Judeophobic enmity.
Indeed, it would be a grave error to conceptually decouple the animosity of individual Palestinian-Arab terrorists, who actively express that animosity, from that of the Palestinian- Arab collective that passively harbors it, for the two nourish each other.
Two recent opinion polls, using large samples, conducted by Palestinian organizations, shed sobering light on what opinions are held by the Palestinian public.
In a poll conducted in mid-September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, headed by the reputable Dr. Khalil Shikaki, participants were asked the following question: “There is a proposal that after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the settlement of all issues in dispute, including the refugees and Jerusalem issues, there will be a mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people. Do you agree or disagree to this proposal?” Some 58 percent of those polled disagreed while only 39.6% agreed.
With regard to the “vaunted” Saudi peace plan (a.k.a. Arab Peace Initiative), so fervently embraced by the Israeli Left, the question was: “According to the Saudi plan, Israel will retreat from all territories occupied in 1967… and a Palestinian state will be established. The refugee problem will be resolved… in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution 194 which allows return of refugees to Israel and compensation. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with her and establish normal diplomatic relations. Do you agree or disagree to this plan?” Some 48.6% rejected the plan, while only 43% endorsed it.
More on Palestinian “normal”
Arutz 7 (November 28) reported on a new public opinion poll, conducted by Watan Research Center among Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in mid- November.
It found that an overwhelming majority supports continuing the ongoing terror attacks.
A full 72% expressed support for continuing the current “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Intifada,” while 44% favored an armed intifada terror war and 48% indicated that the long-term goal should be the destruction of Israel.
Accordingly, whether or not all Arab demands – borders, Jerusalem, refugees – are met, a clear plurality of the Palestinian public would obdurately refuse recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, while a massive majority endorse the current homicidal rampage against Jewish civilians – and merciless slaughter of women, children and the elderly.
What conceivable interest, never mind moral obligation, does Israel have to sustain the social and economic “routine” of such an inimical collective, so overwhelmingly devoted to our demise? Unless policy makers can rid themselves of the crippling constraints of prevailing political correctness and the misleading and misguided conventional “wisdom” it begets, the chances of Israel prevailing in the “war of collective wills” look increasingly bleak.
Ya’alon, quo vadis?
There is something, however, that makes Ya’alon’s recent political pronouncements even more puzzling – indeed, perturbing.
For several years Ya’alon, together with an impressive line-up of former generals and senior diplomats, was involved in a project conducted under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, headed by Dore Gold, former UN ambassador, and today director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
The study focused on the issue of what Israel’s minimum security requirements were for defensible borders and a viable peace.
Ya’alon authored a 10-page introduction of an impressive monograph, well over 100 pages, excoriating the land-for-peace paradigm. The conclusions were that Israel must retain control of both the western and eastern slopes of the Judea-Samaria highlands, the Jordan Valley, as well as the airspace and electromagnetic spectrum over the entire area of Judea and Samaria.
I, of course, warmly endorse the findings of the study, but find myself compelled to ask: What are the political implications of these prescriptions for minimal Israeli security, and what “routine” does Ya’alon envisage for the recalcitrant Arab population in these areas, under such overwhelming Israeli dominance? Does he believe that there is any conceivable Arab partner, who would countenance any such dominance as “routine’? I know Ya’alon as a man of intellect, integrity and courage. As such I hope he will pick up the gauntlet, address these troubling questions and provide answers that many would be eager to receive.