THE OPENING POSITION
by Boris Shusteff
On May 14, 1948 proclaiming the reestablishment of the Jewish state David Ben-Gurion said, "We extend a hand of peace and neighborliness to all the neighboring states and their peoples and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all."
Almost thirty years later on November 20, 1977 speaking in the Knesset during Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, Menachem Begin bitterly remarked that the "hand outstretched for peace was not grasped." The Arab's answer to Israel's yearning for peace was a continuous war.
When Israel offered peace to her neighbors she did not ask them to give her land for this. It was Peace for Peace. Israel did not bring up her very justifiable claims to all of historical Eretz Yisrael. Israel did not demand that Trans-Jordan allow Jewish settlement on the East Bank of the Jordan River, which had been "postponed" for more than a quarter of a century. Israel accepted the "game" that started from square one. The Arabs did not. However, all their attempts to destroy the Jewish state led only to more and more territorial losses.
Never in history was an aggressor rewarded with additional land for an aggressive action in which it was defeated. It was the aggressor who paid for the aggression with its own land, not the victim of the aggression. The international community did not demand that Czechoslovakia return the Sudetenland after Nazi Germany acquired this territory in 1938 and later lost it during World War II. Quite the contrary; although in 1938 more than 3.5 million Germans lived in this territory, in 1945 the Sudetenland was returned to Czechoslovakia, one of the victors of the war, and the Germans were expelled. The United Nations did not request that the Soviet Union return the Kaliningrad region to Germany after World War II. It did not matter that before the war the region had formed the northern half of German East Prussia. After the war the German population was evacuated to Germany, deported to the USSR, or expelled.
However, it appears that history lessons are not applicable to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Middle East is like Lewis Carrol's Wonderland. If one compares Israel's and the Arabs' opening positions on the eve of the final "negotiations" one can easily see that the sides have changed their roles.
The Arabs' opening position is strong and uncompromising. Already on November 20, 1977 in Jerusalem Anwar Sadat said: "Our land does not yield itself to bargaining, it is not even open to argument. To us, the nation's soil is equal to the holy valley where God Almighty spoke to Moses.. We cannot accept any attempt to take away or accept to seek one inch of it nor can we accept the principle of debating or bargaining over it."
Since then, the Arabs have repeated and reiterated this position over and over again. On June 26, 1999, at the opening session of the Arab Parliamentarian Union meeting, Syrian parliament speaker Abdul-Kader Kaddoura said "Our commitment to peace as a strategic option does not mean, in any way, approving a peace that is not based on the full restoration of the occupied Arab lands."
A day before that, Sheikh Hamed al Beitawi, the grand Mufti of Nablus, and Head of the Palestine Ulama Association, warned against "giving up any iota of Palestine." "This is an Islamic land with a decision from God.this is the sacred land." On April 30, Yosuf Abu Snenah, Arafat-appointed cleric said in a Sermon at Al Aksa Mosque:
Our position is firm and will not change. All of Moslem Palestine remains one indivisible unit that cannot be partitioned. There is no difference between Haifa and Nablus, between Lod and Ramallah or between Jerusalem and Nazareth, since the land of Palestine is holy land that is the exclusive property of all Moslems from the East and from the West. No one has the right to relinquish it nor to divide it.
If one compares this Arab stance with the today's Jewish opening position, one would be shocked at how drastically it has changed from 1967. The degradation is stunning. In 1988 the Likud Party platform declared that "The state of Israel has rights and claims to sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Gaza sector. Israel shall forward this claim and press for fulfillment of this rights." It also said that "The autonomy agreements agreed upon at Camp David are a guarantee that there shall be no further territorial partition of the area of Western Eretz Yisrael, and under no conditions shall a Palestinian state be there established."
Ten years later the sacredness of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people is forgotten. The lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are set for squandering. Western Eretz Yisrael is on the eve of partition. Ariel Sharon, foreign minister in Netanyahu's government summarized this "new" territorial position on April 28 in Jerusalem at a briefing to the diplomatic corps,
The Jewish people is the only nation in the world, that was ready to hand over territories - not only a certain part of the country, but the cradle of the Jewish people, where the Jewish people was born thousands of years ago. We are the only nation in the world that has not been defeated, but was ready and is ready to make territorial concessions in order to reach peace.
Israeli eagerness to sacrifice her territory fits comfortably into the Arab design for the Jewish state. The Arabs are ready to accept the Land. As the Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in Beirut on April 26 addressing a rally of more than 300,000 people, "Israel should not exist... we only accept from Israel every grain of sand they occupy in the Arab world."
This catastrophic weakening of the Israeli stance is further proof for the Arabs of "Jewish inferiority." They strongly believe, as Anwar Sadat put it in his April, 1972 speech on the anniversary of the Prophet's birthday, that they "will, with God's help take [the Land] back from those of whom our Book says that lowliness and submissiveness is their lot."
That submissiveness is apparent today as the Jewish leaders steadily weaken their negotiating stance and turn to weeping over their fate. While the Arabs want to drown the Jews in the sea, the Jews, apparently, are planning to drown the Arabs in Jewish tears. CNN reported on June 17 that the British author Patrick Seale, a well-known expert on Syria, recently traveled through the Golan Heights with a top Israeli general, Uri Saguy, who told settlers "that hard decisions may be coming." "There were tears in his eyes and their eyes as he had this tough discussion with them," Seale said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak took part in the "crying" campaign too. In an interview with Ha'aretz on June 18, he stated, "I feel the pain of having to part with sections of the Land of Israel, .I have an emotional bond with those places. As for parting with sections of the Land of Israel in Judea and Samaria, I am moved to tears when I stand on the northern slope of Mount Ibal [north of Nablus].
It is not Saguy and Barak who should cry. It is the Jewish people who should cry at having such leaders. Although the tears will not help. Only the change in the Israeli position could put things in proper perspective and bring Israel back from the Wonderland to reality. It is time for the Jews to recall their Covenant with God. It is time for the Jewish state to recall that it has one of the best armies in the world. It is time to recall that its sons and daughters fell defending every single inch of Eretz Yisrael, which is now so cheap in the eyes of many Israelis. It is time to realize that without Eretz Yisrael the Jewish people will cease to exist.
The only way to prevent disaster is by declaring that all of Eretz Yisrael is destined for the Jewish people, and if anyone dares to demand that the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza be put on the chopping block, then the land of Jordan should be placed their first.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with The Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.