THE FIRST STEP

An Open Letter To Benjamin Netanyahu

By Boris Shusteff

"The demands placed on Israel will not end with the evacuation of the West Bank. After pocketing the territories, the Arabs would go back to demanding East Jerusalem, the "right of return," autonomy (and later independence) for the Arabs of the Galilee and the Negev, and more--demands that would place Israel in even greater danger, and against which Israel would still have to struggle on the world scene to defend itself." ...........

.................Benjamin Netanyahu, A Place Among The Nations

In October or November, 1923 a man came to Riga and gave a talk on [Zionist] activism. The next day Hasmonea invited him to a meeting in their basement and asked him squarely: "What now? You have no right to preach such views and to stir up young people if you don't intend to call them to action. You should either keep quiet or organize a party." This sounded logical, and their guest was the kind of person, unpopular in the Jewish people, who does believe in logic. Later after midnight, the guest and Hasmonea gave each other a solemn pledge to roll up their sleeves and straighten out the Zionist movement.

This is how Zeev Jabotinsky described his return to active political life on February 28, 1926 in the article The Hasmonea of Riga following the resignation from the Zionist Executive. After this encounter he renounced his literary dreams for the sake of Zionism and never for a moment let down the hopes of the people which he called to action. He rolled up his sleeves and created the movement without which today there would not be a Jewish state.

I am confident, Mr. Prime Minister, that you are well aware of this story. Zeev Jabotinsky is one of your heroes. He undoubtedly played a leading role in your Zionist upbringing. I recalled this episode because today you are trying on Jabotinskys mantle and we trusted your solemn pledge. It is you who preached Zionist views in A Place Among the Nations. [Editor's Note: Page references in the article refer to this book by Netanyahu.] It is you who stirred up the young and the old. It is you who called them to action. They answered your call. Against all possible and impossible odds they made the miracle happen. They were glued to the TV screens praying for your victory, and no words can describe the mood of celebration that engulfed them afterwards.

True, there were voices that cautioned against being euphoric. However, how could we not? You are a disciple of Jabotinsky, we replied. For you, as Jabotinsky explained, in 1933, in Zion and Communism, "Zionism is an ideal, it cannot possibly accommodate another independent and equal aspiration" and in any "clash between the ideal and one of the other views--the ideal is preserved and the view is sacrificed." You are a follower of Jabotinsky, we persuaded the unbelievers. It is your teachers famous--"Zionism is settlement." You yourself wrote, describing the US pressure on Israel in the battle for settlements,

....the real meaning of "freezing the settlements" is ending the Jewish presence in "frozen" areas. So when the United States was demanding a complete freeze on the Jewish presence throughout the territories [it was equivalent] to start the process of returning to the fragile pre-1967 borders.In other words...geographic strangulation. ... Something was irrevocably lost when Israel compromised on a "freeze" of any sort. For the first time, the United States had attempted to dictate to Israel what its vital defense needs were and were not, and the government of Israel had partially acquiesced in this. ...From the point of view of Arab strategists, this was ... a small victory upon which they will seek to build.(315-316)

We were sure that you, who wrote this, would not bend under American pressure. You know what is vital for Israels survival. It is you who said that "if you wish to control territory as minuscule as the West Bank, where the strategic points and the population centers are in close proximity to one another, you have to control it both militarily and politically. If you give up political control, you will ultimately give up military control"(285).

You stressed that Israel "must retain military control over virtually all of the territory west of the Jordan River"(284) and as proof presented the map that was drawn by the American Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The map was requested on June 29, 1967 by the then US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who asked the joint chiefs to submit a position paper outlining the minimal territory Israel would need to protect itself, without regard to political factors. The Pentagon proceeded to draw a map based on purely military considerations... It recommends that Israel retain four-fifths of the territories(not counting the Sinai). This includes most of the West Bank and all of the Golan Heights"(273).

Yet, the most important thing is that nobody knows better then you the real nature of the PLO, "that is committed, sinews and flesh, tooth and nail, to the eradication of Israel by any means."(233). You wont be fooled, you know that it is impossible to believe anything that the PLO says or does. The PLOs lies are outrageous, even if they dont lend themselves to instant visual puncturing. Yet most people in the West receive the overwhelming majority of these falsehoods as either the truth or else a reasonable approximation of it. ... It therefore seems that the ignorance of both the media and the politicians about the basics of PLO politics is ... due to a profound Western desire to believe what the PLO is saying. Westerners deeply wish to believe that everyone can be reformed and that even the worst enemies can eventually become friends.... Schooled in compromise, Westerners find it difficult to realize that the PLOs obsession with destroying Israel is not a passing "interest" or "tactic." In fact, this goal defines the very essence of the PLO. It is the PLOs reason for existing, the passion that unites its members and wins their loyalty. ... PLO is constitutionally tied to the idea of Israel's liquidation. Remove that idea, and you have no PLO.(232)

How happy we were when you won! We remembered what you wrote about Arafat and his famous Phased Plan. We knew you would not allow it happen. You yourself explained that "Arafat did not limit the Palestinian Arabs goal to recovering the West Bank, the territory from the Jordan river to the old Israeli border, but the territory right on through to the Mediterranean."(222). You taught us that there is no difference between the PLO and Hamas. You quoted "Rafic Natshe, a member of the Fatah central committee and PLO representative to Saudi Arabia, who succinctly summarized the difference between the rival movements:

[Hamas says] all of Palestine is ours, and we want to liberate it from the river to the sea in one blow. But Fatah, which leads the PLO, feels that a Phased Plan must be pursued. Both sides agree on the final objective. The difference between them is on the way to get there.(224)"

You made it clear to everybody that "the trinity--West Bank State, self-determination, right of return--alongside the PLO Charter, the Phased Plan, and the Armed Struggle, form the PLOs catechism. This doctrine gives direction and guidance to its disciples as they pursue under changing circumstances the unchanging goal of a holy war, a jihad aimed at Israels ultimate destruction.(230)."

If, for many, at the beginning your words were like revelation, lead by you through the pages of the book we were completely convinced by your powerful conclusion to the chapter The Trojan Horse,

The PLO is the Trojan horse, a gift that the Arabs have been trying to coax the West into accepting for over twenty years, so that the West in turn can force Israel to let it in the gates. The Arabs paint their gift up prettily with legitimacy, with pathos of its plight, with expressions of love for the cherished ideas of freedom, justice and peace. Yet no matter how it is dressed up to conceal the fact, the ultimate aim of this gift remains: to be allowed within Israel's defensive wall, to be parked on the hills overlooking Tel-Aviv, hence it can perform it grisly task. Every inch of Western acceptance--the cover stories, the banquets, the observer status, the embassies, and any territory the PLO has ever been able to get its hands on--it uses to put it ever closer to its goal.... It is all too easy for anyone familiar with Israel's terrain to imagine, precisely as Arafat promises, that a PLO state implanted ten miles from the beaches of Tel-Aviv would be a mortal danger to the Jewish state. That the West has succumbed to such a ploy is a remarkable failing, of memory and of sense of justice. For how long ago was it that Yasser Arafat had Americans and Europeans murdered? That Israel, which knows the PLO, has not averted the increasing acceptance of this Trojan horse is also a remarkable failing: of communication, of concern for the importance of ideas, and of common sense of seeing that it must take the truth straight to the people who count--the citizens of the democratic nations. Israel has no choice but to begin, even at this late date, to explain what the Trojan peace proposed by the PLO means to Israel, and what it means for the world.( 236-237).

When you ascended to power you started to do just what you thought was vastly disregarded. You tried to counter the Arab propaganda, as you thought that disregarding this issue was the major flaw in previous Likud governments politics. You wanted to ensure that Israeli actions "were understood by the world to be correct and just." As you explained, "an integral part of making the decision is addressing the question of how it will affect public opinion and what needs to be done to make its message more palatable and effective to international audiences." You were convinced that a small country (like Israel) "simply does not have the luxury of ignoring the principle that a policy and its presentation are inseparable." You felt that Israel's presentation of its case should be "a central pillar of policy, and [it] must be treated accordingly, necessarily changing both Israel's messages to the world and the quality of its messengers."

You, as nobody else, understood Jabotinskys theory of public pressure:

"For there is no friendship in politics: There is pressure. What tips the balance one way or another is not whether the ruler is good or bad, but the degree of pressure exerted by the subjects. If pressure is exerted solely by our opponents, with no counter-pressure applied by us, then whatever is done in Palestine will be against us, even if the head of the government will be called Balfour, or Wedgewood, or even Theodor Herzl!" (382)

After your miraculous victory you did not abrogate the Oslo agreement. You thought that you would be able to explain to the Western world how bad Arafat and PLO are, and that the Westerners would understand this and will tell you to stop the process as it is disastrous for Israel. You believed that "support among the nations, especially in the great democracies of the West, can be bolstered, cultivated, and protected by an incessant campaign to win over the public."

We are the people of the book; therefore, you hold sacred the strength of the word. As you wrote, "occasionally one word can be worth a thousand pictures, rather than vice versa." You believed that you can win this war of words. Alas, you forgot that they, the great democracies, are not the people of the book. For them, Arab oil is much more valuable than the words of truthspoken by the Jewish leader. They made you understand this, when you came to America in the wake of the Hasmonean-era tunnel rioting. You thought that you could convince them, that you would explain to them, that you would show them... You used all your eloquence, you were brilliant, you condemned the mass media for the distortion of the truth. It did not work. They listened to your arguments but they did not hear them. They did not want to hear. The tunnel was in "mainly-historically-predominantly Arab East Jerusalem." You were a "right wing leader." The clashes happened in "occupied territory." They had a perception, they already had an image of an "aggressor" and they did not want to change it. They did not tell you but the Arab oil embargo was still fresh in their memory, and they did not want to change their luxurious style of life.

The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenytsin noticed this kind of attitude more than twenty years ago. In his speech on June 30, 1975 in Washington he said:

"Such an attitude is already developing. Easier to concede, to give something up and some kind of peace and reconciliation will come. ... We already hear voices in the West: "Give them...Israel."... Let us drive our big cars along our beautiful highways. Allow us to enjoy quietly playing tennis and golf. Allow us to calmly prepare our cocktails as we are used to. Allow us to see a wide smile and a raised glass of sparkling wine on every magazine page..."

So when you came and brought with you the calamities of Israel's every day realities, they did not want them. They did not fit into their comfortable world. However, why should you be surprised that they did not listen to you? When Newt Gingrich. the speaker of the House of Representatives, gave his speech, saying that Americas interests should lie only with Israel's, they did not listen to him either. Only a single Washington newspaper gave a small report about his speech while not presenting any of his statements. The same thing happened to you. Your one-and-a-half-hour-long press-conference, where you begged journalists to be more responsible and not to disseminate lies, was not even mentioned the next day in the American media.

You decided that it was your fault. You tried to start everything anew. You showed good faith and closed your eyes to all the PLO's previous violations. You sacrificed Hebron to show that Israel will fulfill all her obligations. As you said this was "the anchoring and normalization of the principle of reciprocity for the first time since the Oslo agreement." If PLO violates its part of the deal then... .

Sure they violated it. They did not fulfill any one of their obligations stipulated in the "Note for the Record," because, as Douglas Feith indicated in the September issue of Commentary, in his superb, somber article A Strategy for Israel: "Arafat grasped early on that the Israeli government valued Palestinian promises more in the making than in the keeping. Not only could he flout his obligations with impunity, but he could sell Israel the same unfulfilled promises over and over again for new consideration."

Somehow you lost your orientation. Instead of abrogating Oslo once and for all, you kept trying to convince the world that Israel fulfills her commitments and keeps her obligations. The struggle for survival was replaced with a battle for "public opinion."

Jabotinsky wrote in Zion and Communism, "I say without rancor to whoever hesitates: delve into your own soul--perhaps you have made a mistake, perhaps the Zionism within your own soul is not at all the only ruler, as required? If so, do not lose even one hour; go in peace, go and do not think of us--we will get along without you."

I do not want to believe that Zionism is not your only ruler. Every person makes mistakes. The ability to admit and to correct them is an indication of strength and not of weakness. It is time to repeat the Hasmoneans question and ask you: What now? You have no right to write such books, to preach such views and to stir up people if you don't intend to abrogate Oslo. No one will ask you why you stumbled, just return back! Return to the people who made your victory happen. Return before it is to late. You should know that Jabotinsky said in The Ethics of the Iron Wall: "We cannot rely on anybody's help. We must remember that we will be saved not by liking of some foreign people but only through our independent action." Shake off the uncertainty. Nobody knows better than you that the Oslo process leads to disaster. Repudiate it now, today, as soon as possible.

You know that it will be tough. You would need to disarm the PLOs army. As Feith wrote, "there would be price in blood that Israel would have to pay. That price would be high. That price would not likely be so high, however, as the military and diplomatic price Israel would have to pay if it were compelled to take action against terrorists based in a new Palestinian state." Tell the truth. The people will understand. Just cry out as Mattathias: "Whosoever is zealous for the Law, and whosoever wishes to support the Covenant, follow me." People will follow. It is the first step that is most difficult. [11/26/97]

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Boris Shusteff works as an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a Research Associate in Israeli & Zionist Studies with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.


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