Whenever Arabs in the Palestinian Authority (PA) accuse Israel of ‘killing the peace process’, Leftist politicians in Israel recoil in fear. For example, MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) has warned that if negotiations with the PA fail, Israel will be in trouble. Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Leftist Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) has repeatedly expressed her fear that Israel cannot allow these talks to fail because Israel’s legitimacy is under attack. Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) says he will work to ensure that any peace plan US Secretary of State John Kerry presents will be accepted by Israel—no matter what that plan says (“Herzog: Opposition Will Vote With Govt. On PA Deal”, Arutz Sheva, January 6, 2014).
Now, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) wants 25% of Judea-Samaria Jews—perhaps 100,000 people—to be transferred for peace. He acknowledges that it would be painful to evict these Jews in order to create a Palestinian state. But the evictions, he says, must be done. If we don’t evict, “The negotiations with the Palestinians will fail, and the crisis with the Americans will deepen.” The result, he fears, could be a third intifada.
The Leftist mantra is simple: peace now or perish.
Leftist peace is built upon the belief that Judea-Samaria is Arab land. Leftists believe the Arab narrative that Jews are European usurpers who have come to colonize the Arab. Leftists believe whatever the Arab says against Israel.
Israel’s Left believes that Israel must give to the Arab what the Arab wants. Otherwise, it argues, Israel will collapse.
This week (starting today, February 24, 2014), German chancellor Angela Merkel and nearly her entire Cabinet arrive in Israel for talks and business sessions—and Israel’s Left fears the pressure German leaders will put on Israel. As these talks unfold, we will see Israel’s Left urge Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu to ‘make the tough decision’ and surrender land for ‘peace’.
It’s what the Arab wants. It’s what Germany wants (“German FM calls on Israel to make tough decisions”, Times of Israel, February 24, 2014). It’s what Israel’s Left wants.
But is this what Israel’s Prime Minister should do?
As Germany’s leaders arrive with their call to surrender land for peace, Israel’s Prime Minister should forget about surrendering. He should forget Israel’s Left. Instead, he should remember Israel’s first Prime Minister, David ben Gurion.
According to an essay by Yoram Ettinger in LPH Magazine (“Ben Gurion’s Legacy,” January 4, 2014), Ben Gurion faced threats startlingly similar to those we face today—and his decisions in the face of those threats are instructive indeed.
Citing the book, My Mission in Israel, 1948-1951, by James McDonald (Simon and Schuster, 1951), Ettinger writes that in May, 1949, the US Ambassador to Israel (McDonald) delivered a scolding message to Ben Gurion. US President Harry Truman was not happy. Israel was behaving badly. Israel had annexed West Jerusalem. It had refused to absorb Arab refugees. It was aggressively soliciting a massive Jewish ingathering.
Israel’s behaviour was dangerous to peace, McDonald suggested. Israel was disregarding UN Resolutions passed in 1948 and 1949. Israel was refusing to offer the Arabs tangible refugee concessions.
Israel could lose America’s ‘friendship’ if it continued with such intransigence.
Sound familiar? This is exactly how Israel’s Left speaks today.
But Ben Gurion did not respond to this threat the way today’s Leftists respond—with fear. He told Truman that his (Truman’s) message was unrealistic. The US position, Ben Gurion said, ignored the fact that the original UN partition plan was no longer applicable because Arab aggression had destroyed it.
Ben Gurion then declared, ‘we will not commit suicide.’
When two UN Resolutions threatened sanctions for ‘occupying the Negev’—Resolutions supported by the US—Ben Gurion was not compliant. He did not react the way today’s Leftists react.
He was not afraid. He was defiant. He said, Israel had been attacked by six Arab countries. Israel reserves the right of self-defense. What Israel has won on the battlefield, he was quoted as saying, it would not yield at the UN.
Mr Netanyahu, forget Israel’s Left. Remember Ben Gurion.
Earlier, before Israel had declared its independence, Ben Gurion had received another threat, this time from US General George Marshall—World War Two super-hero and now Secretary of State to the post WWII Truman. Marshall had been adamantly against any US recognition of Israel. According to Ettinger, Marshall had sent Ben Gurion ‘a brutal ultimatum’: Israel was not to declare its independence. Israel must accept a UN Trusteeship. If Israel declared independence, America would join Britain in an arms embargo against Israel (which it did)—even as Britain supplied arms to the Arabs. Marshall threatened that if an Israeli declaration of independence triggered war, the US would not provide any assistance to Israel. Israel would be doomed.
Today, Israel’s Left fears that if Israel does not comply with EU, US and PA demands, it is doomed. But the doom of 1949 was starkly different: Arabs had well-equipped armies. These armies were both British-trained and, often, British-led. Israel had virtually nothing. It lacked guns, ammunition and training. An embargo and a US refusal to help would be devastating.
Nevertheless, Ben Gurion did not submit to Marshall’s demands. He did not believe he had to yield because ‘he had no other choice’.
Today, Leftist Tzipi Livni does not remember Ben Gurion. Today, Livni says Israel has no other choice put to yield to Arab demands.
Ben Gurion was not Tzipi Livni. He told Marshall that, much as Israel desired friendship with the US, there were limits beyond which he could not go. He told the US that the US would be gravely mistaken if it assumed that threats or UN sanctions could force Israel to yield on issues it considered vital to independence and security.
Mr Netanyahu, forget Israel’s Left. Remember David Ben Gurion.
Ettinger reminds us in his essay that, in 1949, Israel was a small, struggling country, with 650,000 Jews, a one billion USD GDP and a very slim military force. Today, Israel is a very different nation. It has 6,000,000 Jews, a 260 USD billion GDP and one of the world’s finest military forces.
Today, we face threats similar to those Ben Gurion faced. But Leftists quake in their boots when other nations express exasperation with and hate towards Israel for not surrendering to Arab demands. Leftists forget Ben Gurion.
Mr Netanyahu, forget the Leftists. Remember Ben Gurion.