The Arabs Don't Want Us Here, So What?

The Jewish people's dream of peace is disturbed by unending scare tactics.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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From left: Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasping hands after signing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979.
From left: Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasping hands after signing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979.Credit: AP
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

In response to public criticism of the construction in Judea and Samaria, the prime minister said: They do not want us here. That, not the construction of houses, is the real problem.

Well, so what? Did we ever assume that they did want us here? Did we ever think, for example, that Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel stemmed from Egypt’s basic support of our country’s existence? Of course not. We knew there was a dispute over our very existence as a state, but the president of Egypt, who came to us with his head erect, gave support to the unquestioned fact that the State of Israel was here to stay.

Sadat made powerful enemies. Throughout the Arab world he was called a traitor and Egypt paid for the peace treaty with the loss of its status in the Arab world (though Hosni Mubarak regained that status about a decade later.) Some in Israel responded with suspicion as well and spoke of Sadat’s visit as an Egyptian trick whose purpose was to weaken Israel.

“They do not want us here” — that is the basic assumption of all those who have headed up negotiations. If the Palestinians were to be polled on the question, “Do you support or oppose Israel’s existence?” the results would encourage the prime minister. But Israel is an enlightened and moral country. If the Jews were polled about their willingness to accept the Arab citizens of Israel — who lived in Palestine for many generations before Avigdor Lieberman ever dreamed of moving to the Holy Land — and live beside them, it seems obvious what the result would be.

But still, Netanyahu pulled out that dusty card when things got tough. The Bar-Ilan University speech is not important. To hell with the need for a peace agreement — we are going back to square one: they do not want us here.

What is going to happen now? Cynics and devotees of the saying “The work of righteous people is done by others” will say that a good time has come upon us. No more vague wording. Does Uri Ariel want to build? Let him build. Does Naftali Bennett want to annex? Let him annex. That is the only way Israel will be able to deal with the refined right wing: Ariel and Bennett will increase the chances of a change in public opinion.

Every idea for a peace agreement has come not from the doctrine of the moderate or radical left. It has come from a realistic glance, within and without, by most of Israel’s leaders. Within: if we do not move forward with a peace treaty with those who do not want us here, we will lead Israel another step forward on the way to becoming a state of all its citizens. Without: If we limit democratic equality, we will be scorned and shunned throughout the world.

When Netanyahu proposed that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, I realized right away that the talks had failed before they even started. The ones who applauded, hailed him for the creative maneuver that had set the Palestinians an impossibly high bar in terms of both ideology and mentality. Bibi, who promised all the world’s statesmen that he would promote the idea of the two-state solution, made demands that he knew would never be accepted. And then, what then? Netanyahu can then share a hug with Ariel, since, after all, construction in the settlements is an appropriate Jewish answer to the insolent refusal to recognize us as the state of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu is not built for taking advantage of the establishment of the new Palestinian government; to examine, before the world, its willingness to hold effective talks. Instead of doing that, he will take advantage of it to unify Bennett and Ze’ev Elkin in support of him and his continued political survival.

Israel has no long-term strategic interest except making peace. That is the basic dream of most of the citizens. It is a dream disturbed by unending scare tactics that ignore the fact that our existential interest is not the political survival of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The peace talks failed the moment Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

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