President Barack Obama's insistence on a complete settlement freeze is justified from the standpoint of his global policy - which aims for a world order with as little violence as possible - with all the dangers this entails. But it is also justified from the standpoint of his concern for Israel, its wholeness, Jewishness and morality.
As for Obama's global policy, Moshe Arens complained on this page a few days ago of Obama's double standard for treating Israel and "the troublemakers in Tehran, Damascus and Pyongyang." Arens tells us that Obama has decided to "sweet-talk them" and to allow them to "get away with murder." As for Israel, "America's longtime ally," Obama decided to use a firm hand. It's as if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il were toddlers in Obama's nursery, and he must rule in favor of one of them according to some infantile "it's-not-fair" standard.
Is it not clear that if Obama wishes to make credible demands of those who upset the world order and who do not count themselves among America's allies - countries like North Korea, Iran and Syria - he must first gain control over those who upset the world order but who are ensconced in his camp, particularly Israel? It is somewhat embarrassing to have to tell this to a man who was once Israel's defense minister. But Arens errs not only in his criticism of Obama's foreign policy. He also does not understand that Obama's policy is also correct from Israel's standpoint. The U.S. president and his administration are convinced that settlements are illegitimate, and they are right.
Arens and the right wing in general believe that the settlements are legitimate because the Jews' historic right to the Land of Israel serves as the basis for the right to exercise sovereignty over all the land. Yet even Arens' ideological forefather, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, did not think so. As Prof. Gideon Shimoni has noted, Jabotinsky wrote that if the Jews felt they had enough land, they wouldn't need to rely on historic rights.
During his testimony to the Peel Commission, Jabotinsky rationalized the necessity for a Jewish homeland on both banks of the Jordan River not by citing historic rights, but by the need to rescue Europe's Jews from extermination (while taking into account the population density that would have resulted in the late 1930s in relation to the number of Jews in Europe).
The Jews' historic right justified their choice of the Land of Israel as the place to realize their self-determination. But that right has never justified Jewish sovereignty over all the Land of Israel. The Zionist movement accepted this truth at every important stage of its history. After the persecution of the Jews reached its peak in the 1940s, Zionism had the justification to actualize its right to self-determination immediately. It is no wonder then that Israel's attempt to turn this historic right into the basis for demands more than 60 years after the persecution of the Jews - all while continuing its cruelty and abuse of the Palestinians - endangers both world peace and Israel's moral standing.
Arens' claim that "the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria is a basic principle not subject to negotiations" has only managed to persuade the Israeli right, which has also misinterpreted the views of its spiritual leader. But it fails to convince other Israelis, Obama and the world. From Israel's standpoint, this view not only endangers the future, but also the past.
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