Monday, May 18, 2015

What A.B.Yehoshua Refuses to Recognize

First published in Israel Hayom, January 21, 2015

In a recent op-ed in one of the Hebrew dailies, entitled "Why I called on Europe to recognize Palestine," revered novelist A.B. Yehoshua offered explanations for his joining some 1,000 other Israelis in supporting European parliamentary resolutions recognizing a Palestinian state with borders that follow the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Yehoshua declared,"The first reason stems from the desire to signal to the moderate Palestinian camp not to give up on the peace process... The second reason stems from the growing fear... that the road to the two-state solution is being blocked because of Israel's unceasing settlements in the territories."

But neither rationale holds up under even minimal scrutiny.

No doubt there are moderate Palestinians that would be happy to live in peace in alongside Israel, but polls of Palestinian opinion demonstrate that they are a dwindling minority. In part this is due to the actions of Yehoshua and his associates in what he characterizes as "the peace camp," who two decades ago pushed Israel to embrace Yasser Arafat and his PLO as its peace partner. After two decades of indoctrination by media, mosques and schools controlled by Arafat and his heirs, indoctrination declaring that the Jews are merely colonial usurpers, that the Zionist state is illegitimate, and that it is the duty of Palestinians to dedicate themselves to its demise, moderates are a much rarer phenomenon. In addition, those that exist are cowed by the Arafat/Abbas thugocracy, whose methods are revealed by brave Palestinians to anyone willing to listen. And many moderates who had means to do so have emigrated, not wanting to live in a police state and not wanting their children to be educated in a system teaching them that the highest goal in life is to martyr themselves in efforts to kill Jews and help destroy Israel.

What moderates remain, those for whom Yehoshua expresses concern, know that Abbas has no intention of changing the PA’s autocratic governance or of coming to an agreement with Israel no matter what concessions he is offered. Rather than being encouraged by European support for Abbas and for "Palestine," they see such support as more firmly setting the PA’s boot on their necks and making any prospect of peace more distant. One Palestinian moderate, Bassam Tawil, recently wrote of this in an article entitled "The Palestinians’ Real Enemy: Europe."

No doubt genuine Palestinian moderates likewise view as hostile to their interests Israelis such as Yehoshua and his "peace camp" associates who happily endorse Abbas’s current European gambit. If Yehoshua truly wanted to understand why Palestinian moderates lose hope, he need only reflect on the impact of his own actions.

And if he truly wished to encourage Palestinian moderates, he would be urging his European friends to condition their lavish financing of the Palestinian Authority on a loosening of the PA's stranglehold on dissent, an end to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement and creation of a space for moderate voices in the Palestinian political arena.

As to Yehoshua's second rationale for supporting European recognition of "Palestine," the settlements, Yehoshua sounds like an Israeli version of Rip Van Winkle, someone who has been asleep for the last two decades. If at the time of the Oslo Accords’ initiation, in 1993, about half of Israel embraced the delusion, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that sufficient territorial compromise would win Israel peace, that number has dwindled dramatically in the face of subsequent events. These include the rejection by the PA - under both Arafat and Abbas - of every Israeli offer of territorial compromise, including dismantling of settlements, as in 2000, 2001 and 2008, without Palestinian presentation of counter-offers.

Also shifting Israeli opinion was Arafat’s launching of his terror war in 2000, which over the course of the next few years took more than a thousand Israeli lives and maimed thousands more; and the fallout from the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, with the dismantling of all settlements there. Israelis have not been impervious to the subsequent rocket bombardments and other terrorist forays from Gaza, or to their forcing the nation into three wars in less than a decade. All of this may be lost on Yehoshua; it has not been lost on the majority of Israelis, including a majority of those that once supported Oslo.

However much Israelis chose to delude themselves in the past, most now recognize what Abba Eban recognized almost 50 years ago, that Israel could not survive within the 1967 armistice lines. Most Israelis don't want either the PA or Hamas digging tunnels from one Jerusalem neighborhood to another or firing mortars from one to another or at Ben Gurion airport. Nor do they want an Arafat-type terror war launched from across those armistice lines. UN Security Council Resolution 242, unanimously passed in the fall of 1967, calls for new, "secure and recognized boundaries," and its authors spoke of how the pre-1967 lines were indefensible and only invited aggression against Israel. Settlements have been built overwhelmingly in strategic areas Israel would need to retain to defend itself, and most Israelis recognize that necessity.

Why does Yehoshua then cling to settlements as a key issue, or to the absurdity that it is Israelis who are somehow frustrating Palestinian moderates? Why, more generally, does Yehoshua cling to the delusion that Israel has a genuine peace partner in the PA and sufficient Israeli concessions would see peace attained?

Writing three decades ago, Yehoshua spoke of Israel’s right to defensible borders, to be in a position to defend itself. He also spoke of the self-doubt engendered by the chronic Arab siege and of the danger of internalizing the indictments of the nation’s enemies. He stated at one point: "Self-hatred, an attempt to identify with the enemy, to elude him by adopting his positions... What emerges, then, is total criticism of everything done in Israel: everything appears to be faulty and futile."

Given these views, what could have led Yehoshua to his own shrill, deluded indictments of Israel and vocal championing of the positions of the "peace camp"?

The explanation, at least in part, seems to be related to his wish to comprehend Israel as properly rendering Jews a "normal" people and his understanding of "normal" as entailing the ability to achieve peace. He has stated clearly that he chooses to believe Israel by its own self-reform can go a long way to attaining peace and that those who think otherwise have, like Diaspora Jews, some aversion to Jews becoming a normal people. (Yehoshua has castigated Diaspora Jews, in no small measure unfairly, for not doing more, particularly in the 1920's and 1930's, to come to the Yishuv and help establish the state; and he attributes their not doing so to what he sees as the allure of the abnormality of the Golah.)

But the notion that Israel, by its own actions, most notably territorial concessions, can bring about peace, is, again, a delusion of which most Israelis who once embraced the Oslo debacle have since been disabused. The Arabs are by far the dominant force in the region around Israel, and peace will come on the Arabs’ timetable, not Israel’s. And it should be obvious to all observers that neither the Palestinian leadership nor virtually all the rest of the Arab world is prepared to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, end the pursuit of her destruction, and enter into a genuine peace with her at this time. Israel can at best deter aggression against her, and defeat aggression when deterrence fails. But it cannot force peace upon its neighbors, neither by force of arms nor by concessions.

Yehoshua refuses to recognize and reconcile himself to this reality. And so he joins with Europeans, who are largely either hostile to Israel’s well-being or at best indifferent to it, in endorsing a Palestinian agenda for establishing a state without any bilateral agreement with Israel and without foregoing future claims against the Jewish state.