Sunday, June 29, 2014

Religion of retreat


Continued adherence to a quasi-religious belief in the efficacy of retreat threatens survival of the nation.

Left-wing activists rally in favor of Oslo Accords
Left-wing activists rally in favor of Oslo Accords Photo: REUTERS
The fixation of Israeli governments on “land for peace”, a policy that has resulted in the murder and maiming of more than 10,000 Jews, puzzles the pundits. They puzzle over the fact that regardless of which party or coalition of parties controls the government, the policy of land-for-peace continues, despite its obvious futility and fatal consequences.

They wonder what animates Israel’s ruling elites? Why do they continue to negotiate with terrorists, with Arabs or Muslims steeped in a fourteen- century religion driven by hatred of “infidels”…

[They] also wonder why the people of Israel, who exercise the franchise, tolerate their ruling elites? ...why don’t the voters elect statesmen possessing enough courage, wisdom, and integrity to face the truth about the implacable nature of the enemy – statesmen who can pursue a strategy whose goal is to defeat the enemy? Why do the voters repeatedly elect governments that appease the enemy via the futile and fatal policy of land for peace? 

         – Prof. Paul Eidelberg, The Fixation of Israel’s Elites on “Land for Peace”, 2007.

If the proponents of the discredited land-for- peace principle and the two-state prescription for resolving the Israel-Arab conflict had any intellectual integrity, they would hang their heads in shame.

If the political discourse in Israel were conducted with decency and honesty; if substantive truth determined public stature in the country, these merchants of fraudulent, foolhardy fantasies would have been marginalized, consigned long ago to the enduring irrelevance, ignominy and commensurate ridicule they richly deserve.

Dramatic discontinuity in Zionist endeavor

We are now approaching almost a quarter- century since the fatal concoction of the noxious, Oslowian brew in the early 1990s, that culminated in the so-called “Declaration of Principles” (Oslo I) on the White House lawns in September 1993.

In effect, these events marked a dramatic discontinuity in the evolution of Zionism, fostering the previously spurned notion of Palestinian statehood as an acceptable – even preferred – policy option for the mainstream.

Not only did the event grossly distort the founding ethos of Zionism, it inverted its essence and the thrust of Zionism’s fundamental principles. What was once vaunted as virtue became vilified as vice.

Indeed, the agreement spawned an approach that put surrender of homeland and abandonment of kin at the apex of enlightened values. It denigrated any assertion of Jewish identity and solidarity as ethnocentric “racism”.

In a surreal twist of irony, the Oslo Accords, signed by soon-to-be Nobel Peace Laureates, proved to be a harbinger of unprecedented violence, sowing trauma and tragedy across the country.

Unchastened by failure

This was both predictable and predicted.

After all, at the outset of this pernicious and perverse historical process, there were advocates who promised that Oslo would provide great benefits, and apprehensive opponents, who warned it would wreak great havoc.

Today, after over two decades, the results are in. Prevailing realities reflect almost precisely the ominous prognoses of the opponents, and the exact negation of the rosy predictions of proponents. Indeed, the Oslo-initiative precipitated virtually all the dangers that were foretold, but none of the benefits pledged.

It is hard to imagine any greater professional failure than that of the pro-Oslo/two-state advocates.

Oblivious virtually to every principle of political science, international relations, and other relevant disciplines, desperate to conform to the dictates of trendy political correctness, they brought those grim realities into existence that their “extremist” opponents warned were coming.

As Prof. Efraim Karsh acerbically points out: Had such professional misconduct occurred in the natural or physical sciences there would have been serious consequences: e.g. the collapse of a bridge following specious engineering calculations, dangerous side effects hidden from oversight during the development of a new medicine…It would seem that when it comes to the social sciences or the humanities, researchers can escape punishment for every kind of malpractice.

Indeed, unchastened by the scope of the debacle, the endorsers of this eminently foreseeable tragedy still identify themselves as voices of clarity and reason.

Article of religious faith

Disdainful and dismissive of dissent, they doggedly deny error and steadfastly adhere to dysfunctional dogmas and doctrines.

Instead of bowing their heads in shame and slinking off in disgrace quietly and inconspicuously, these intellectuals strut around like morally superior peacocks despite their record of unmitigated failure.

Far more disturbing than refusal to admit error is their refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of error.

In last week’s column, I mentioned that, over the years, I have been making an effort to get two-state proponents to conceive of a theoretical scenario, which, were it to come to pass, would persuade them that their support for the two-state principle was mistaken, and thus bring them to retract their call for a significant retreat from Judea-Samaria.

After all, if one cannot admit to at least a theoretical possibility that one’s policy position might be refuted, that position is no longer based on a rational political perspective.

They are operating on an article of “religious faith” irrespective of prevailing realities or any changes that might occur.

“Sherman is a very intelligent psychopath”

Such beliefs require no proof to corroborate them. Their innate truth is held to be self-evident by its adherents. All contradictory evidence is either deemed irrelevant or ignored. All opposing analyses—however cogent—are declared, ispo facto, invalid.

Any “heretical” counter-arguments are belittled and those who articulate them besmirched, even branded mentally impaired for failing to recognize the “shiny” path of indisputable truth.

As an edifying example, take the reaction of my Jerusalem Post colleague, Gershon Baskin to my last week’s column. Baskin was one of the “two staters” mentioned in it who declined to stipulate the parameters of some theoretical scenario whose occurrence might induce him to abandon him current position.

In his “carefully crafted, tightly argued” response Baskin, posted the following “erudite” talk-back: “Sherman is a very intelligent Pyschopath”

But sarcasm aside, Baskin’s retort is significant in illustrating the point I have been making as to the devout fanaticism of “two-staters” to the articles of their obsessive faith.

For by deeming me “very intelligent”, he seems to acknowledge that I am capable of mustering arguments of some persuasive force, but by ascribing me a mental disorder, absolves himself of any need to contend with them on their substantive merits—something he is clearly unable to do.

Articulate but asinine

“Two-staters” have always been eager to shut down substantive debate on their political credo, for they know it cannot survive scrutiny.

Indeed, they have been conspicuously cavalier with the facts in a desperate effort to mask the fading relevance of their futile fetish.

A recent article (June, 19) by the usually articulate Ari Shavit in Haaretz provides an instructive example of just how asinine — read “disingenuous and irrational” — “twostater” arguments have become. Apparently apprehensive that the abduction of the three youths two weeks ago could result in a setback for the popularity of the “two-state” approach, Shavit, unsurprisingly, condemns Israel for not taking advantage of “seven good years” of relative calm to reach agreement with the Palestinians. In a breathtaking misrepresentation of facts, he writes: “Until the abduction of the three youths in Alon Shvut a week ago, no strategic attack had been launched. The bloody attacks on Israeli cities and even the attacks on the settlements and settlers dramatically diminished. The economic prosperity, cultural boom and good life…since 2007 were possible only because the violent reality we had lived in was replaced with a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability.”

‘Two-state uber alles’?

Shavit laments: “We misused the calm that descended on the West Bank’s roads and towns and settlements. We wasted the laid-back prosperity that visited Israel’s cities and shopping malls. We let the seven good years slip through our fingers.”

A recent Post editorial (June 19) takes him to task for his gross distortion of the truth, aptly pointing out that: “Shavit conveniently ignored the hundreds of Kassam rockets and mortar shells shot over these years...He also ignored several incidents of murder, dozens of foiled kidnapping attempts, and hundreds of incidents of rock-throwing and firebombings…throughout the West Bank.”

So the argument that Shavit appears to advance is that just because Israel has been able to foil a myriad of attempted terror attacks, the Palestinians’ failure should be taken as a sign of their goodwill, and therefore Israel should make perilous concessions that would give such attacks greater chance of success. Really, Ari.

Indeed, one might be excused for concluding that it is not the “hedonistic and apathetic” Israeli public or its “callous uncaring” government that the extended period of relative calm lulled into a false sense of security, but rather the “two-state-uber alles” zealots, like Shavit.

ISIS and the Irrelevance of Abbas’s bona fide

For “two-staters” the speech given last week in Jeddah by Mahmoud Abbas, in which he firmly condemned the abduction of the three Israeli youths, was a veritable “shot-in-the-arm” — particularly as it was given in Arabic and clearly intended for an Arabic-speaking audience.

I do not know if Abbas is sincere in his occasional declarations of goodwill and his desire to conclude a lasting peace agreement with Israel. And neither does any avid “two-stater”! However, as I have been at pains to underscore, whether he is or he is not should be entirely irrelevant for the formulation of Israel’s long-term strategic policy.

The main concern about the viability of the two-state paradigm has been that its durability cannot be assured, no matter what deal may be struck, no matter with whom it may be struck.

In the past this concern was centered on (a) whether the party contracting on behalf of the Palestinians has the requisite authority and sincerity to “deliver the goods”; (b) even if he did, what is to prevent him from reneging on his commitments; and (c) even if he does not renege on his commitments, nothing prevents his replacement by a successor who would renege.

In recent months, however, a new element has entered the equation, which, even if none of those scenarios materialized, is likely to make an agreement with any Palestinian worthless.

With much of the Arab world in bloody turmoil and the rapid erasure of previous international borders, the increasing pressure on the stability of the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan makes the prospect of regime change an essential working assumption of any responsible Israeli government.

Even if an otherwise durable pact could be concluded with some trustworthy Palestinian, how would his mini-micro-demilitarized state cope with the kind of Islamist forces now routing the Iraqi army? The specter of an ISIS-affiliated regime taking control in Amman, or seriously destabilizing the country and undermining the rule of law must be considered a plausible outcome that Israel should plan how to deal with.

Strategic peril 

Who would defend the nascent Palestinian state, so that radical Islamists do not deploy on the ridges overlooking Greater Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport? With the fall of the monarchy in Jordan increasingly on the horizon, can anyone seriously advocate relinquishing the Jordan Valley or the highlands of Judea-Samaria, the only barriers between urban Israel and the kind of horrors we now witness in Syria and Iraq?

These, and many other related questions, must be urgently inserted into the public discourse. Unchastened “twostaters” must be pressed to give persuasive responses to these concerns.

Until they do, their adherence to what can only be understood as irrational, quasi- religious belief in the efficacy of retreat, must be considered a tangible strategic threat to the survival of the nation.

Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (

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