Welcome to the Holy Land
My wife and I are spending 3 1/2 months living in Tel Aviv, a city which I think is one of the most exciting places in the world. I lived in Israel from 1974-1979 but it was a very different country then and I was a very different person. I left Israel, both disappointed in myself and disappointed in Israel or at least my experience of Israel. Over the years, I returned for business and then later for the experience of just being here. I fell in love with Israel. I am dedicated to its security and survival. But this does not make me blind to its mistakes, and in particular, the mistakes of its leaders. Still, I am often frustrated that Israel seems to be held up to a higher standard than other countries. As a Jew that was born on the day that Auschwitz was liberated, I wonder if there are other reasons for that. However, I will let that thought pass.
This is one of the most difficult blog posts I have ever written. In fact, I have decided to make it a series of posts. The situation here is so complex that it makes my mind explode. I am used to writing about things I understand well, but frankly, I am not sure it is possible to understand this situation. That is beyond my and perhaps anyones capabilities. It it is just my attempt to try to make sense out of what I am experiencing. If you think I am confused, you are right. I also imagine that there are those on both sides of the conflict that will be angered by my comments.
First I would like to summarized my key points. I will then follow up with more detailed posts on each of these points.
There would be no Israel if it were not for the Anti-Semitism of Europe.
The pogroms in eastern Europe in the late 19th century, which drove my own family to the USA, gave birth to the Zionist movement, the movement to have the Jews return to their ancestral homeland. The Zionists believed that Jews could only be safe in their own land and that Europe was a hostile environment for Jews. This was clearly proven later through the first part of the 20th century and by the Holocaust, which resulted in the death of six million jews, nearly two-thirds of all European Jewish populations.
The British, which controlled the homeland of the Jews, collaborated with Jewish leaders to create such a homeland in the heart of the Arab Middle East.
If Jews had been able to integrate in Eastern Europe, or at least feel safe there, and if Hitler had not targeted the Jews for extermination, European Jews would have remained in Europe just like American Jews pretty much remained in America even after the creation of the State of Israel. This process continues with Anti-Semitism showing its ugly head again in France. Many of the 300,000 Jews living here are making plans to move to Israel.
Jews would not have left Europe without an actual state
It was necessary to create an actual Jewish State (for the first time in 2000 years) to get the Jews to move to the land of Palestine which really had little to offer economically, and had little meaning for those that were not religious. To create a state where none existed, Palestine which the British took from the Turks at the end of WWI, had to be carved up in such away that the Jews living there would constitute a majority in the part that would be assigned to them. This resulted in the partitioning of Greater Palestine into Israel and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza).
Neither the Jews nor the Arabs really wanted to partition or each other
What I mean is they both wanted to take all the land. Each side hoped they could drive the other side out and claim the whole country. While that did not happen, the Jewish side was able to take control of a larger part of what was to be Palestine. Over 700,000 Palestinians fled either because they were told to leave by the Arab leaders or because they were driven out by the Jews. Instead of a Palestine state being established, Jordan took possession of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Old City, while Egypt took Gaza. No attempt was made by these countries to set up an independent Palestinian State.
Jews living in North Africa and the Middle East were forced to leave their countries as well
About the same number of Jews, 700,000 were forced out of Arab countries where they had been living in some cases for thousands of years. Most came to Israel, resulting in the majority of Israeli’s actually having come from Middle Eastern/North African families. So while Israel was originally thought to be a nation of European Jews it actually became a nation of both European and North African/Middle Eastern Jews. The Palestinians now ask for the right of return to Israel for their “refugees”, about 5,000,000 of them, while no Arab country is offering to take back the Jews they forced out.
Six Day War results in Occupation
The war between Israel and the majority of the Arab states resulted in a major defeat for the Arabs. Israel took control of the West Bank including Jerusalem and Gaza as wells the Golan Heights which was part of Syria. Jews could now enter the old city and worship at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Jordan was given control over the actual Temple mount on which the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Keeping the West Bank and Gaza was a grave mistake
In my opinion, Israel should have backed out of the West Bank and Gaza after the cease-fire. Evidently, Israel offered to do this in return for a peace agreement with Jordan, Egypt and Syria but they would not agree.
The result has been very damaging to Israel. The government could not prevent Jews who believe in a Greater Israel (including the West Bank) from building Settlements there. The settlements are driven by religious, political, security and economic reasons.
There might have been a settlement and a Palestinian State in 2000 but Arafat did not really want it
It seemed that a real settlement was close, but evidently it was not in the best interest of the Palestinian leadership, who I blame primarily for the breakdown. Instead, they used a stupid act by Ariel Sharon, (who was running for prime minister at the time ) as an excuse to start a war of resistance and terrorism which was know as the Second Intifada. The Palestinians targeted Israeli civilians including children. Israel responded aggressively including the building of what is now called Separation Walls. Continuing to build Settlements and roads connecting Israel and the Settlements, resulted in the slicing and dicing of Palestine.
Israel leaves Gaza and gets a taste of what might happen if Palestine becomes a state
In 2005, Israel leaves Gaza in an unilateral move. Israeli settlers living there were forced to evacuate. By 2007, Hamas, a terrorist organization, took over the government of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup. Israel still controls the borders of Gaza. Gaza shares a border with Egypt which is tightly controlled by that country.
The two State Solution is not Viable
Most Israeli’s don’t even think about Palestine. They imagine that they are living somewhere in Europe or maybe Southern California. This is especially true in Tel Aviv. So Israeli’s think that the Palestinians are somehow going to leave and move to Jordan. But most just try to ignore the situation. Things are very different for the Palestinians. They feel that they are in prison and, in fact they are, with very high walls cutting throughout their land. They are often treated poorly by the Israeli soldiers who are acting like a police force in a large part of Palestine.
It is not clear that the Palestinian Authority could continue to serve in a two state solution. Israel not only protects the settlers in the West Bank but also the Palestinian Leadership. One just has to look at what happened in Gaza to imagine the potential fate of a Palestinian State.
Israel left Gaza in 2005, in 2008 Hamas took over and executed the members of the Palestinian Authority living there, including throwing some of them off of buildings. The Palestinian Authority is known to be corrupt. This was one of the few things that Palestinians and Israeli’s can agree on.
I don’t understand why John Kerry is working so hard to get a solution for the Israeli/Palestine conflict. He must believe it is possible and he is the guy to do it. But he must also be delusional. And, is this really the most important issue for the USA?
The Middle East is a bad neighborhood that is only getting worse
The countries that surround Israel are only getting weaker. Israel no longer has to worry about a war from a neighboring state. Instead, it has to be concerned about terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and while both of these groups are also getting weaker, they are getting hold of weapons that could be used to attack the Israeli Heartland. Terrorist attacks especially of the suicide kind, are very difficult to prevent. I do not believe there is anything that Israel could do politically that would make any difference. So Israel turns to Military might and their Intelligence capabilities for its security.
The treat of Iran makes for strange bedfellows (like Saudi Arabia and Israel)
You are going to have to wait until the last post of this series to read this.
Fascinating Avram. Have to re-read and digest. Looking forward to the individual posts.
The Arabs leadership has demonstrated multiple times with words and actions that they don’t want Jews anywhere on what they consider their “land”. Therefore, until such time that they can recognize that the Jews have a claim to the land, there is no hope for a solution.
Nothing to be anger with, here. It’s all true. Nice work, Avram.
You look extremely handsome in the picture. Thank you for sharing your thoughts xoxox Caren
I think this is the best post you’ve ever written. Debbie and I are taking the kids to Israel in June; I wonder how they will react.
Good overall summary of the situation. In fact, Ben Gurion, even though he was no longer in power, suggested that Israel should withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank after the Six Day War. He felt that Israel had proven to the Arab nations that they were no match militarily, and that holding on to the territories was a ticking time bomb. He was definitely right about the ticking time bomb. Whether he was right about the Arab nations absorbing the lessons of the Six Day War is another story.
Nice summary and good historical description, but I’m not so sure a two state solution is not viable. It’s not a certain slam dunk success, but it would (1) give many Palestinians a real vision of hope, (2) change at least some of their blaming from Israel to their own leaders.
I also agree the neighborhood is getting worse, in the sense that governments across the Middle East are breaking down and a kind of Arab anarchy seems to be growing. Hard for me to see any light at the end of that tunnel, though perversely it might actually diffuse some hostility towards Israel as that has been used by regimes to deflect hatred from them.
Great post! Loved reading it.