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Haaretz, I Didn't Call for the Wholesale Killing of All Palestinians

Bezalel Smotrich: Any option leaving in place an Arab collective with national aspirations that contradict our own would only perpetuate the conflict

Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich
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MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), November 2016.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), November 2016.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich

Haaretz has lost its way in the past several weeks, or perhaps it’s not something that happened recently: Identification with the narrative of the enemy and the instinctive antagonism, to the point of hatred, of anything that hints of nationalism have driven its writers mad. This time I was the pretext for the outburst of memories from the terrible days of World War II (“The Israel lawmaker heralding genocide against Palestinians,” Daniel Blatman, May 23; “Smotrich as a sign of things to come,” Zeev Sternhell, May 26, Hebrew edition).

It began with the groundless accusation that I had called for the systematic killing of women and children (“Why religious Zionism is growing darker,” Tomer Persico, May 17). It never happened. It was based on a distorted, tendentious leak by a participant in a closed meeting in which I explained my political philosophy. She made the accusation in a Facebook post; people who consider themselves serious, including some professors, fell for this nonsense and built entire theories and interpretations upon it. I hope Prof. Sternhell’s academic research is founded on more-solid facts and figures.

What did I say? I said that in the Land of Israel, two contradictory national aspirations dwell together, and that the entire foundation for defining the Palestinian national movement relies on the negation of the Zionist movement. The Palestinian national movement was established as a countermovement to Zionism movement, and so the right of the Palestinian “nation” to exist is based in the denial of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. That is why the chances of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, based on the continued existence of these two conflicting national aspirations by means of an artificial geographical division and on Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, is virtually nil.

On the practical level, that is the fundamental difference between me and the left. The left buries its head in the sand, believing these contradictory aspirations can be reconciled, while I do not. The reality of recent decades supports my viewpoint. We have always extended our hand in peace; they have always rejected it at the moment of truth: the 1947 United Nations partition plan, the Oslo Accords, Camp David and then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s negotiations. That is no coincidence: If they recognize us they will pull out the rug from under their right to exist as a national entity.

Given the fact that these are two contradictory national aspirations, we have two options: to continue the bloody conflict for another 100 years, or to decide it. Hence my plan, which is first and foremost one of political consciousness. I want to etch into the consciousness of the other side the understanding that there is no chance an Arab state will be established in the Land of Israel, through the “settlement solution.” When we impose sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, create additional settlements there and bring in hundreds of thousands more settlers, the Arabs will realize that it’s irreversible, that their dream is over.

There are two possible human responses to this unambiguous situation: The realists will understand and accept it, while the “Don Quixotes” will try to fight it. The realists will also fall into two groups: those who accept the reality will also be divided into two groups: those who choose to remain and to enjoy a personal life far superior to that of Arabs in neighboring states, and those who will not relinquish their national aspirations and will choose to fulfill them in one of the Arab states or in any other country.

Those who refuse to accept the new reality and choose to fight it through violence will encounter the “military solution,” in the form of a determined Israeli army with a mandate from the political leaders to achieve victory and to eliminate terror. There is nothing more just and moral than Israel’s right to defend itself against those who would destroy it. Would such a war require indiscriminate total slaughter? Of course not. You’d have to be a total fool to think that. Those who remain won’t be forced to sing the national anthem. All they need do is not to take up arms.

My program is the key to peace. The alternatives, from the left and from the self-styled right, that are based on leaving in place an Arab collective with national aspirations that contradict our national aspirations, guarantee the perpetuation of the conflict and its high costs for another century. I want peace and coexistence; therefore, I want to decide the conflict. Had the Arabs not waged war for a century for the purpose of destroying Israel, not a single Jew would want to harm or to expel even a single Arab.

Nor do we want to destroy the Arab national hope for a state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River simply because we enjoy destroying the hopes of others. We are forced to do so, because their national aspiration conflicts with our own, and on the practical level it is attempting to destroy us. We are forced to do so because it’s either them or us, and given that choice, I unhesitatingly choose us.

It is sad that for some of the writers at Haaretz, and perhaps a handful of its readers as well, words such as victory and defeating the enemy are offensive terms that are reminiscent of the Holocaust. You can agree or disagree with my plan, you can think it realistic or hopeless, but to claim that it bears any resemblance to the Nazi worldview is an insult to the intelligence. We would expect “the newspaper for people who think,” according to an old Haaretz advertising slogan, not to disparage the intelligence of its readers.

Bezalel Smotrich is a Knesset member for Habayit Hayehudi.

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