It was on Jan. 28, 1976, that then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, made the following insightful assessment of the roots the Arab war against the Jews:
"Until 1967, Israel did not hold an inch of the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or the Golan Heights. Israel held not an acre of what is now considered disputed territory. And yet we enjoyed no peace. Year after year Israel called for -- pleaded for -- a negotiated peace with the Arab governments. Their answer was a blank refusal and more war. ... The reason was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all."
Four decades later, in Cairo, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, confirmed the enduring validity of that diagnosis when he said,
"We will never recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel" in November 2014.
One of the widely propagated falsehoods regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and the Palestinian-Israeli one in particular, is that it is an immensely complex problem requiring great sophistication and creativity to resolve.Nothing could be further from the truth.
The hundred-year struggle between Jew and Arab over control of the Holy Land, extending west of the Jordan River to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is in fact a very simple one.
But recognition of the stark simplicity of the conflict does not in any way imply that it is easy to resolve. In fact, it is the brutal simplicity of the conflict that makes a solution so elusive.
Any effort to obfuscate this unpalatable fact can only have -- and indeed, has had -- gravely detrimental, even tragic, consequences, just as mistaken diagnosis of a malaise is likely to have detrimental, even tragic, outcomes. Any attempt to portray the conflict as "complicated" is not a mark of sophistication or profundity, but rather of a desire to evade the merciless, unembellished truth.
For the clash between Jew and Arab over the exercise of national sovereignty anywhere west of the Jordan is a classic "them" or "us" scenario, an arch-typical zero sum game, in which the gains of one side are inevitably the loss of the other.
No amount of genteel pussyfooting around this harsh reality will change this fact. No amount of polite politically correct jargon will soften it.
Essence of enmity
This reality is aptly conveyed in the introductory excerpt from Rabin's January 1976 address. In his more lucid, pre-Oslo period, he succinctly diagnosed that the root of Arab Judeophobic enmity was not a dispute over any particular allocation of territory between Jew and Arab, but the allocation of any territory for Jewish sovereignty: "The reason [for the Arab refusal of peace and the ongoing belligerency] was not a conflict over territorial claims. The reason was, and remains, the fact that a free Jewish state sits on territory at all."
Rabin's assessment was valid then, and it is valid today.
No matter what territorial configuration for dividing the land was proposed, it was invariably rejected by Israel's Arab interlocutors -- from the 1947 Partition Plan; through the far-reaching concessions offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, that elicited nothing but a massive wave of violence that lasted almost five years and left thousands dead and injured; to the even more dramatically pliant proposal put forward by Ehud Olmert and rejected by Abbas in 2008.
Clearly then, as Rabin identified, the roots of Arab belligerence vis-a-vis the Jews cannot be traced to any specific borders of the Jewish state -- but to the existence of the Jewish state itself.
Not about borders, but existence
Accordingly, we are compelled to conclude that the "root causes" of the dispute are:
- Not about Jewish military "occupation" of Arab land, but about Jewish political existence on any land.
- Not about the Jewish state's policies, but about the Jewish state per se.
- Not about what the Jewish people do, but about what the Jewish people are.
Resounding affirmation of this came from the allegedly "moderate" and "pragmatic" Abbas himself, who in November 2014 told an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers that no peace accord with Israel was possible if this involved recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people -- see introductory excerpt.
This was no slip of the tongue.
Several months earlier, Reuters reported that "the Arab League has backed Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas's rejection of Israel as a 'Jewish state' ... [and] endorsed Abbas's rejection of Israel's demand for recognition as a Jewish state." The League issued a statement declaring: "The council of the Arab League confirms its support for the Palestinian leadership ... and emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish state.'"
Clearly, this should be a sobering message for all the self-professed Zionists who have so eagerly advocated that Israel adopt the Arab League Plan (aka the "Saudi Initiative") -- which calls for a return to the indefensible pre-1967 lines, division of Jerusalem, return of Arab refugees, and withdrawal from the Golan Heights -- as a basis for peace negotiations and pan-Arab recognition.
Recognition? Really? As an un-Jewish state? How accommodating....