Israel's Arm Is Strong, Yet Its Hand Is Not Extended in Peace

We are indeed facing dangers, but economically and militarily we are the strongest country in the region.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives on the podium to address attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, October 1, 2015
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives on the podium to address attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, October 1, 2015Credit: Reuters
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

The recent murderous attacks expose the glaring leadership wasteland here. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts like someone whose worldview is coming true before his very eyes, while the opposition leaders grab every microphone they can to explain to whoever doesn’t want to hear how much they resemble Netanyahu.

Suddenly, compared to the justice minister, who is in charge of the rule of law but fearlessly supports breaking it, Netanyahu looks like a cautious and moderate leader. The justice minister dreams of annexing the West Bank, a solution that goes against all the declarations Netanyahu made in the United Nations General Assembly.

It is convenient for Netanyahu that he has at his side Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and ministers Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel – they remind everyone who is sick of the prime minister that there are worse than him.

And they are not alone. The settlers, crying out in pain, are forcing their worldview on the Likud ministers, like Zeev Elkin, Gilad Erdan and Yariv Levin, who support them almost unanimously in the demand to “come down hard.” What they are seeking is clear: new rules of engagement vis a vis the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, rules of engagement emanating from the school of Bennett et al., not from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

The settlers, crying out for help over the severe blow to their security, are worthy of all possible assistance, but we must remember that the experts, who know Judea and Samaria close up, warn that we must not turn the entire civilian population into hostages of the terrorists. Neither must we ignore what is motivating people on the right: imperialist aspirations to continue building and settling, putting at risk Israel’s international status and the chance of reaching an accord.

The government claims that it represents most of the public. Indeed, a majority supports a firm approach – but a level-headed one. There is no majority for the positions of the Yesha Council of settlements, Shaked, Bennett and Levin, despite what is written in the only Stalinist mouthpiece in the Western world, Israel Hayom.

Most of the public is not national religious. It feels the pain of the victims and demands a response, but it does not want renewed escalation or declarations about the Temple. The traditional public does not share the positions of the national religious community. Traditional people are the ones who recite Kiddush on Friday night and desecrate the Sabbath in public. Religion for them is a private matter.

It is undeniable that most of those who do not want any agreement at all come from the religious circles. They will curse Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the most convenient partner Israel has ever had, because they prefer Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, then perhaps they will be able to persuade everyone that the only way is to use more force – with God’s blessing.

Netanyahu, who is supposed to maintain a kernel of sanity in keeping with his post, and because he sees how the entire world criticizes his policies, has been able through hard work to create a unique reality of existential danger and to believe in it. They want to bring a new holocaust on us and he is standing in the breach. The Palestinians are killing Jews because they are Jews. There is no partner. In his speech at the UN he did not extend a hand in peace to anyone. He is afraid of the right-wing extremists, who are ready to gamble with the fate of their country.

There is also a different reality than the one Netanyahu describes and it should assuage the fear he sows. We are indeed facing dangers, but economically and militarily we are the strongest country in the region. All of our enemies know our capabilities and the fact that they are lacking them. And so we are able to propose comprehensive negotiations and reach an agreement on two states that will be accompanied by a security and economic alliance with part of the Arab world.

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