Force and More Force – Then What?

I say all these things as an Arab citizen who cares about the well-being of his family and of his Jewish neighbors. When disaster strikes, it will strike all of us

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Israeli army tank along the Gaza border.
Israeli army tank along the Gaza border. Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

After 70 years of force and more force, we are informed by former Mossad head Efraim Halevy that a confrontation with Russia is inevitable. At the moment a nascent conflict is unfolding with a regional power, Iran, Russia’s ally, which is threatening to respond to an Israeli attack on any of its bases in Syria. Halevy wants to act to prevent this scenario from playing out, but if it does take place, he wants Israel to have the upper hand.

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And if it does take place and Israel emerges victorious, what condition will the country be in for its citizens, Jewish and Arab? We’ve already seen how Israel has emerged from confrontations with organizations that are far less than countries, and that was with the upper hand, as we know.

Moreover, after Israel emerges with the upper hand, what kind of threat will it face then? The thought should cause Israelis to lose sleep.

Is there no other doctrine than the doctrine of force that’s being used by the government here? What about the doctrine of common interest, for example? Or the doctrine of negotiation, rather than confrontation? After the October 1973 war, a department was set up in Military Intelligence called Ipkha Mistabra (Aramaic for “on the contrary”), whose job was to put forward and explore ideas and directions that contradicted widely held assumptions.

Where is the Jewish mind that’s supposed to be so smart and creative? Does it only work in minor matters, while on fateful ones it is paralyzed by fear of the messianic right? For example, why not just talk to Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas? But the leadership here is stuck on the doctrine of force. If it doesn’t want to talk to Mahmoud Abbas, it it going to talk with Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh?

As we know, there is an organized choir opposing such ideas, which whines that we don’t talk to people with blood on their hands, as if in Israel everyone’s hands are dipped in French perfume.

For example, instead of sending army Maj. Avichay Adraee to explain to the residents of Gaza what a decent woman is according to Islam, it would have been better to turn to Haniyeh’s adviser, Dr. Ahmed Yousef, as Haaretz’s Nir Gontarz did last month. Yousef said, “You’ve suffered a lot as Jews around the world, and there were issues of suffering and agony in Spain and Europe.” Yousef is a spokesman for Hamas and not a representative of Abbas, but in Israel, who cares? For most Israelis, every Palestinian is a terrorist, even if he would sing “Hatikva” on key.

When faced with grave danger, as a rule, first you make sure your house and your relationships with your neighbors are in order. Israel will get no sympathy from its neighbors or from the world until it solves the Palestinian issue, which is centered on establishing a state and a solution to the refugee problem. That’s where it starts.

I say all these things as an Arab citizen who cares about the well-being of his family and of his Jewish neighbors. When disaster strikes, it will strike all of us.

When Moshe Sharett found himself trapped between two hawks, Moshe Dayan and Pinchas Lavon, who were bitter rivals but united in their extremism and adventurism – sort of like Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett today – he said sadly, “God, I thought, how complex your world is and how stubborn your creatures. Are we really worse than every other nation? Or have we just not yet learned how to live with one another and we are prepared to smash the state we have merited to pieces, the way a naïve child smashes an expensive toy?”

Nevertheless, I will try to give reassurance by saying that Jews are like other nations, but when both nationalist and religious messianism prevails, they, like other nations, will smash what exists to smithereens. That’s what’s happening in the Arab world, for example.

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