Israel and the cost of being too clever

Oslo marked a quick and extreme conversion from old beliefs to a new faith in miraculously turning enemies into friends by giving land away. But Israel is never thanked for it, indeed it is hated more, in the MidEast and the West. Surely there's a lesson?

Oslo_signing_ceremony
Oslo signing ceremony. That went well!
Steve-apfel-medium
Steve Apfel
On 14 December 2014 09:34

Be not over righteous, nor too clever,” Solomon, a profoundly righteous and clever king, warns Israel for all time. His words speak cogently to modern Israel, at liberty to act for the good of its people, not least with regards to land.

If only Israel took the wise king’s early warning to heart. Echelons of Israeli leaders and society chose to be exactly what Solomon warned them not to be: over-righteous and too clever. 

Can anyone dispute that more ingenuity has gone into schemes to give away territory won against the odds than into schemes to keep territory for the benefit of Israel’s own people. Magnanimous is hardly the word. Foolhardy might be.

I'm sure one could turn up some example, but you'd have to dig pretty deep to come up with another nation that gave away parts of a tiny country to a well-disposed neighbour. To come up with another nation that handed its land on a platter to implacable foes you’d have far deeper to dig. Foolhardy is hardly the word. Nihilistic might be.

Like a child craving attention, Israel looked about for compliments only to have to ward off cudgels. “Barbaric barbarians” a celebrity called Israel for the way it conducted the last of three mini wars in Gaza, the strip it had made a gift of to a rocket-firing, tunneling enemy. “Systematic murderers” a British documentary maker called Israel for the way it stemmed waves of suicide attacks rolling in from the ‘West Bank’, Israel’s gift of real estate to bombers in human disguise.

The world forgets Israel’s open-handed sharing, yet remembers her every ‘disproportionate’ attack. You’d have to dig pretty deep to come up with another people universally maligned after giving away land for nothing but the holy grail of peace. Ungrateful is hardly the word. Perverse might be...Or contempt, even from Israel’s big-brother ally.

“The sad fact is that the United States has no appealing (Middle East) partners left today… Israel is wrapping up its latest outrage against the Palestinians -      to no lasting strategic purpose. The "special relationship" with Israel also fuels anti-Americanism and makes Washington look both hypocritical and ineffectual in the eyes of much of the world.”

So writes Harvard Professor Stephen Walz, a voice held in high regard among the American Administration’s foreign policy echelons. How bitter are the wages from being too righteous and clever. How self-defeating. How costly in hard currency. Thriving Jewish communities uprooted, economic activity disrupted, war debts incurred, worldwide Jews attacked and demonized, diplomatic ties frayed or broken. Not to forget death.

Rabbis at prayer slaughtered like sheep. Sons and daughters abducted, run down shot and knifed: the payback for weak-bellied appeasements. Never mind the terror it brought; does the international community love Israel any the better? Yet unelected  spokespeople for South African Jewry give lip service to the pretend “Peace Process” and talk peace with a terror mastermind in a suit. They left the meeting feeling “reassured.”

All credit to Palestinian President Abbas for taking in the well-meaning heads of the Jewish Board and Zionist Federation of South Africa. Hitler had no qualms about murdering his Jewish appeasers. Nor will Abbas, when nice Jewish leaders go the diplomatic route – the land-give-away route.

Sinai was Israel’s first give-away, and the easiest. Opposition to the dismantling of Jewish communities in the Sinai was weak because it was out of sight out, of mind. No more than a vacation spot to many, Sinai was dispensable. In 1982 Israel’s own bulldozers obliterated Yamit with barely a shout.

Oslo was different. The Accords were no less than Israel’s epiphany or Road to Damascus. Oslo marked a quick and extreme conversion from old beliefs to a new faith in miraculously turning enemies into friends by giving land away. In the 1990’s land for peace became the holy of holies. Israeli acceptance of the idea of a PLO state in the so-called West Bank marked a departure from four millennia of ties to the land, two millennia of fervent longing to return to the land, and a century of Zionist endeavour.

Arch enemy Arafat was invited…no, enticed to come back and set up shop in Ramallah. There were prophetic warnings. The prophetic Rebbe warned from Crown Heights about territorial integrity. He quoted Maimonides that the beginning of all defeat is retreat. Over and over he said that giving up territory would not lead to peace but to murdered Jews.

And so it proved. In quick time thousands of Jews paid for Oslo with their lives or their limbs. Israel paid for the scheme by being nominated for the villain’s role. Post Oslo the international community thought of Israel as Goliath and the Palestinians as the hero David armed with a sling and a stone.

Yet the fallout was as nothing compared to the fallout from retreating out of Gaza. Israel’s 2005 unilateral pullout outdid its other give aways by the proverbial mile. “I have applied my mind to know …madness and folly,” said King Solomon.

Of all Israel’s follies nothing surely beats Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s brainchild. His unilateral withdrawal from Gaza began one day after the national day of Jewish mourning and wailing in the month of Av. There were dire warnings aplenty.

Leaving Gaza to the Palestinians would bring calamity. Sharon went ahead, demolished twenty thriving Jewish communities and pulled the IDF out of Gaza. Misguided is hardly the word. Too clever by half may be right. The Israeli leader told American Jewish leaders in Washington that withdrawal from Gaza would,

“Reduce terror and give Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. It will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces.”

Nine years and three mini wars later we know that what happened was the exact opposite. When jihadist group Hamas took over Gaza from inept and corrupt PLO despots in 2007 the die was cast. Compared to the Oslo calamity, the cost in lives and limbs of the ‘Gaza give-away’ was paid most heavily by Palestinians.

For being over clever and righteous Israel paid in different currencies. Iron Dome, boots on the ground, air strikes and economic disruption were paid for in hard dollars.

Hundreds of killed and wounded soldiers and family members paid their own personal price. Depopulation of towns and kibbutzim abutting Gaza may presage a permanent no-man’s land.

Diaspora communities in Europe, Australia and South Africa are caught up in a maelstrom of violent hate. It is obvious that Jews, try as they might, can please or appease no one. Retreat is the beginning of all defeat. Consideration for the enemy means ultimate cruelty to kith and kin.

National suicide is the final cost for being too clever.

Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book, 'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics' (2012) and a contributor to, "War by other means." (Israel Affairs, 2012). His articles and blogs are published in several foreign journals. His latest book, "Balaam in Modern clothes: enemies of Zion", will be released in 2015

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