Contrary to a conservative’s warnings, sending a signal that Israel intends to stay in its historic heartland forever will do much to deflate jihadist intentions.
By Yishai Fleisher, JNS
(May 8, 2020 / JNS) In a recent New York Times article, noted Middle East scholar and pro-Israel pundit Dr. Daniel Pipes warns that Israeli application of sovereignty in parts of the “West Bank,” known as Judea and Samaria, would be a grave mistake for the Jewish state and backs up his thesis with six reasons.
However, while Pipes sees himself as pragmatic, the article is riddled with one consistent flaw: It’s entirely founded on needlessly fearful conjecture.
Fear #1: President Trump’s fury
Right off the bat, Pipes reveals his phobic perspective: “First, President Trump could well erupt in fury at Israel for unilaterally taking that step.”
What? What is the basis for this concern? The annexation Pipes thinks will set off the president is in Trump’s very own “deal of the century” plan. Moreover, President Trump’s constituency supports Israel, and his administration is filled with officials who have openly backed Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, as they did in the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem.
And with regard to the commander-in-chief’s fury, it is clear that Trump respects strong leaders, not fearful weaklings.
So what is the basis for this terrified speculation that President Trump will “erupt in fury”? All indications are that the only “erupting” America’s president will do is the laughter he emits when he reads Pipes’s assessment.
Fear #2: Alienating Europe and the Democrats
For his second point, Pipes warns that “annexation would alienate and weaken Israel’s diminishing number of friends in the Democratic Party and in Europe.”
But “annexation” is just the latest excuse for the distance between Israel, on the one hand, and some Western European countries and much of the Democratic Party on the other. For these self-styled progressives, the very idea of nationalism has become abhorrent (except Palestinian nationalism), and the Zionist project, no matter what it does, is therefore distasteful. This mindset minimizes Israel’s accomplishments—military victories, impressive national economy, scientific and technological innovations. For progressives, the real heroes are perceived victims, not people who actually bring progress, liberty and freedom.
At the United Nations, Israel, the most liberal country in the Middle East, is regularly maligned as the world’s leading “human-rights abuser.” There is no way for Israel to please the radical progressives in Western Europe and the Democratic Party.
So while Pipes is right that Israel is losing the progressives, it has little to do with annexation.
Fear #3: Provoking Sunni Arab states
Third, Pipes warns that “the Israeli government has successfully managed to expand ties with the Sunni Arab states,” and “this working relationship has been premised on the Arab governments de-emphasizing the Palestinian issue.”
The truth is that for many Arab states, the Palestinian leadership and their endless whining, corruption and support of terrorism are a source of instability in the region and a financial bottomless pit. The Palestinians are seen as a hurdle to overcome on the road to regional realignment with Israel, which the Gulf States view as a key security and stability force.
Moreover, the progress Pipes warns that Israel stands to lose occurred precisely in the environment of America’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and Israel’s obvious preparations to announce its sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Israel’s growing self-respect and military activities against Iran and its proxies are driving the Sunni states to improve their ties. Annexation is a manifestation of that same principle. It does not sabotage it.
Fear #4: Palestinian fury
For the fourth point, Pipes warns of “Palestinian fury that could well destabilize Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza” in which “residents of the West Bank could start a new intifada—uprising—costing Israeli lives.”
Hamas and Fatah have been feeding us this Palestinian intifada rhetoric for decades, and (strangely) Pipes seems to have bought right in. The sad truth is that those Palestinians who engage in violence don’t need justifications. And violence has increased as Israel has made concessions. Israel fought three wars with Hamas-controlled Gaza after surrendering land to them.
Instead of recoiling in fear of possible Palestinian violence, Israel should tell the Palestinians the simple and clear truth. This is our land. We intend to hold on to it forever. If you start an intifada, we will end it.
Fear #5: Israel’s vicious infighting
But if you’re not afraid of Arabs, maybe you will fear the Jews. So, Pipes turns to internal Israeli politics:
“Fifth, annexation is sure to alienate Israel’s Left, which would lead at a minimum to a vicious political battle and probably to a contingent of Israeli Zionists turning anti-Zionist, with some Israelis leaving the country in disgust.”
The “vicious political battle” is called the ballot box. The Israeli right has achieved victory after victory for almost 20 years. The coalition that is about to be formed—the one which is about to apply Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria—is going to be one of the biggest and most politically diverse ever. And Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley has long enjoyed consensus support.
In short, Pipes’s apocalyptic prophecy of Israeli civil war is misguided.
And Israeli Jews are not about to increase immigration. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel is seen as one of the safest places on earth, with Israeli scientists making progress on creating a vaccination. The economy is also expected to make a strong recovery. Israeli startup Moovit was bought by Intel for $900 million just as the quarantine was ending. And on the eve of Israel’s 72nd year of Independence, the population stands at over 9.1 million, with Israelis consistently polled as enjoying high levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
Nobody is thinking of leaving Israel because of annexation. Indeed, a recent survey of Israeli opinion found that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was low on the list of issues that the Israeli public cares about.” In other words, Pipes’s theory of civil unrest and flight is pure imagination; there is no indication that Israelis are poised to abandon the country if their representatives apply sovereignty to communities in the West Bank which are already filled with Israelis.
Fear #6: The threat of Arab citizens
Then there is the demographic argument. Pipe’s final warning is t that “annexation would be likely to make more Palestinians eligible to become citizens of Israel. That would be a profound mistake since its Arab citizens constitute … the ultimate enemy of Israel’s status as a Jewish state.”
On the simple technical level, the proposed “deal of the century” annexation is meant to bring Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, into a normalized Israeli status. The mapping that is being done is precisely meant to assert sovereignty over Jews and not Arabs. While Pipes is right about the dangers of possibly seditious Arab citizens, the application of Israeli sovereignty to Jewish communities will not add to that problem.
Bonus Fear #7: Israeli sovereignty will achieve nothing
While not numbering it, Pipes sneaks in a seventh fear: that Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is merely “a symbolic move, a gesture towards Israelis living on the West Bank in legal limbo” and will achieve nothing except trouble.
But Pipes forgets that symbolism is a powerful force in the ancient Middle East. Sending a signal that Israel intends to stay in its historic heartland forever will do much to deflate jihadist intentions. Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will also broadcast a message of Jewish historic rights to all those who claim that Israel is merely a European colonizer.
Far from achieving nothing, Israeli sovereignty in the ancestral homeland and the annexation of strategic positions will have a much-needed positive impact for both Israeli identity and Israeli security.
Daniel Pipes’s latest article serves as a boon to enemies who wish to weaken Israel through exaggerating the very fears he mentions. To be fair, he has written many strong articles in favor of a robust Israeli policy; this one seems to be a departure.
The real Israel, thankfully, is not afraid because it shouldn’t be. There is a buoyant sense of prosperity in the air, and a healthy embrace of tradition is permeating Israel’s consciousness. Thousands of new housing units were just green-lighted in the Etzion block in Judea. Israel’s birth rate continues to be high, and the GDP per capita is above even that of the United Kingdom. Now is not the time to be gripped by fear. Now is the time for Israelis to gather strength and confidence from all we have been through and all we are becoming, and to take control—of our land through sovereignty and of our future.
Yishai Fleisher is the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron and an Israeli broadcaster.