The Catch-22 in which Israel finds itself in the current decade is the catch of withdrawal. On the one hand, if Israel does not withdraw within a few years from most of the occupied territories, it will cease to exist as a democratic-Jewish state. It would become a decaying state of injustice, in which one ethnic minority rules by force over another ethnic majority. On the other hand, if Israel withdraws in the near future under pressure of Palestinian violence, it is liable to bring upon itself in the worst possible wars. Israeli withdrawal under fire or in the wake of a capitulation to fire would invite an all-out assault on the beaten and bloodied state, which would try to wrap itself up inside the 1967 borders, and would be seen in its neighbors' eyes as easy prey.
Ostensibly, the simple way to get out of this catch is through a peace settlement. However, as Yossi Beilin's Taba document proved, and as desperate attempts to explain and expound the document still prove, there will be no agreement with the Palestinians without acceptance of the principle of return for refugees and of UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Since acceptance of these two conditions means Israeli suicide, it is clear that in the foreseeable future, there will be no permanent settlement with the Palestinians that would allow Israel to leave the territories with an agreement - and peace - in hand. In the words of former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, the current Palestinian leadership is not ready to sign any agreement that does not constitute the breaking of Israel's national neck.
Given this state of events, it is clear that the requisite Israeli withdrawal will take place - sooner or later - under difficult conditions. It will not be a joyous, ceremonial event, but a dramatic, existential move the likes of which we have not known since the establishment of the state and the War of Independence. In a certain sense, the end-of-the-occupation withdrawal will be a sort of open-heart surgery, the avoidance of which means a slow and certain death, but whose execution involves the assumption of life-and-death risks.
To reduce the risks involved in a withdrawal, Israel will need three security umbrellas. One security umbrella is international; Israel will not be able to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip without the West embracing it and granting firm guarantees for its security. Without the formation of an effective defense alliance with the United States, or Israel's co-option to the European Union in one fashion or another, Israel could not endure the trauma of an extensive evacuation of settlements and an almost suicidal territorial shrinkage. Upgrading the alliance between Israel and the West is critical toward granting the Jewish state an alternate deterrent force to replace the deterrent force it would lose as a result of the big withdrawal.
The second security umbrella is inner strength. In its current condition - confused, corrupt, lacking leadership and devoid of a comprehensive national policy - Israel is not ready for the shock and repercussions of a withdrawal. Only a tightly-knit, well-run, socially united country that has a clear identity could contend with the anticipated shake-up. Only a muscular, moral and resolute Israel could radiate sufficient strength to the outside world - even from within shrunken borders, beyond which a hostile and warmongering national movement continues to simmer.
The third, and most vital, security umbrella that Israel needs so that it can return from the occupation in one piece is victory. Israel must ensure that its pullback from most of the occupied territories will not take place out of weakness and submission, but out of the unambiguous knowledge that it is the victorious regional superpower that vanquished those who arose against it on the battlefield. Israel must see to it that the end-of-the occupation withdrawal of the 21st century will be a no less victorious occasion than that of the war that began the occupation in 1967.
In the Israel of the occupation, and of the struggle against the occupation, the idea of victory sounds strange. In a country that has not garnered a single victory for the past 35 years (aside from those of Maccabi Tel Aviv), the mere concept of victory comes across as somewhat anachronistic. However, anyone who wishes to end the occupation must understand that without a clear Israeli victory, there will be no peace here for the present generation. Although it may not be polite to say so out loud, Israel simply has no other choice: This time it has to win. It has to win a clear decision over those who try to undermine its stability and systematically murder its citizens.
It is hard to withstand the burdens of this onerous summer. In the absence of a leadership that might inspire us, the Israeli citizen stands practically alone against the recurrent news of terrorist attacks, closures and smallpox. In the absence of a national leadership with a vision, the Israeli citizen may have a hard time remembering the circumstances that led to this bloody war. So there are times when the temptation to lose our will gets the better of us, and the urge to grab onto the mirage of a solution surges up. It is therefore important that we define for ourselves what we are fighting for now. We are fighting for our continued existence and for the end of the occupation - for that critical Israeli victory without which we will not be able to bring an end to the occupation, and without which we will not be able to ensure the continuation of sovereign Jewish existence.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now