Israel Gives, Israel Gets

The warming of relations with Pakistan serves as a reminder that what Israel gives, it gets in return.

The widely publicized meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan was nothing other than the first episode in a new-old political television series. The starring role in the coming episodes will be played by Ariel Sharon, alongside the king of Jordan, the U.S. president, and leaders from North Africa and the Gulf states. Some are saying that even Muammar Gadhafi may make a guest appearance and wave hello. The name of the series: "If they give, they'll get - if they don't give, they won't get."

This time around, the world, with the United States at the fore, is playing the role of the giver, and Israel is the getter. And it is all happening due to the fact that Israel gave the Palestinians the Gaza Strip, and undertook that this would be only the beginning. Benjamin Netanyahu did not invent the theory of international relations between the strong and the weak.

David Ben-Gurion, who ruled that "what matters is not what the gentiles will say, but what the Jews will do," also spoke the following resolute words: "No nation exists in isolation, not even a great nation like the English nation, let alone a small nation like ours. Even when we have a sovereign state within the boundaries of the historical Land of Israel, we will be constantly tied to the world around us, the countries of the Near East, the British Empire, Europe and America" (an address to security officials in September 1939, "Bema'aracha," volume 3). The spirit of these words influences every politician who takes up residence in the Prime Minister's Office - some more so, and some less so.

Recognition of the vital need for this tie to the international community was the thing that got Revisionists such as Menachem Begin out of all of Sinai, and Yitzhak Shamir into the Madrid Conference, a prelude to the Oslo Accord. Yasser Arafat didn't get the Hebron Agreement, regardless of what he gave or didn't give to Israel.

Then prime minister Netanyahu, like his predecessor, managed his give-and-take account with Bill Clinton. And he did the same at the Wye summit, where he in fact "gave" the Americans, and not the Palestinians, 13 percent of the West Bank. On the eve of his departure to that conference, he tried to appease concerned right-wing MKs and representatives of the Yesha Council with the following words: "If I have come to the conclusion that there is no alternative, then there really is no alternative. Even Father says that if there is no alternative, you have to make concessions." He warned his guests that if they work to oust him, they will get Ehud Barak. (Haaretz, October 23, 1998).

Like all other Israeli leaders before and after him, Netanyahu did not forgo any asset because he followed the path forged by Ben-Gurion in that same speech when he said: "The Jews are a goal unto themselves, like any other nation, and they treat every other nation with respect and understanding, out of recognition for equality and self-worth." Netanyahu made concessions out of the concern that if he does not give something to the Palestinians, he will not get the Americans' support. The loan-guarantees dispute that led to the end of 15 years of Likud rule had taught him that the Israeli public turns its back on a politician who is out of favor with the superpower.

Sharon has taken great care to ensure that the Palestinians play no part in his game in the international arena. They got the Gaza Strip so as not to ruin George Bush's vision and undermine the prime minister's regime.

Pakistan may be the swallow that heralds the arrival of springtime in Israel's relations with the Muslim and Arab world in general, and the Palestinian people in particular. Sharon may get a handsome international return for his disengagement plan - for example, support in the fight against Iran's nuclear arms build-up and in the campaign to disarm Hamas and the remaining Palestinian organizations.

However, if it turns out that the disengagement plan was a plot to shake off the burden of Gaza and delay the establishment of a Palestinian state on most of the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the days of this springtime will not last very long at all - the world giveth, and the world taketh away.

If the Jews do not learn to treat a neighboring nation with respect and understanding, as noted by Ben-Gurion, the Palestinians won't give them a thing. In not too many years, they will be the majority in the country, and they will get it as a gift.