Israel's traditional elites
As Israel's 60th Independence Day swiftly approaches, considerations of Zionism and its discontents come to mind.
The revolutionary notion that Zionism introduced into the Jewish mindset, informed by 19 centuries of powerless statelessness, was that Jews could, and indeed ought to stand up for themselves. From the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, until the advent of modern Zionism, such a notion seemed absurd. Throughout the centuries of exile, Jews understood that their survival depended on the kindness of strangers. Zionism came and said that was no longer the case. We Jews would take care of ourselves from now on.
Given this basic Zionist assertion, it is little wonder that the Jewish elites in the Diaspora opposed the movement. Their positions in their communities were based on their ability to thrive in powerlessness. A Zionist success in rebuilding the Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel would render their skills, if not irrelevant, than far less necessary than they had been.
In a sad twist of fate, Israel's current elites are the direct descendents not of their Zionist predecessors, but of the exile elites their predecessors fought. Sixty years after statehood was declared, Israel is led by men and women who oppose Jewish power and embrace instead the Diaspora model of ingratiating themselves with foreigners through appeasement.
TAKE SYRIA for example. Last week we learned two things. We learned, definitively, that with North Korean assistance, and Iranian collusion, Syria was illicitly building a plutonium based nuclear reactor that if permitted to reach completion, would have been capable of producing nuclear weapons. We also learned that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is conducting secret talks with Syria through the Islamist and anti-Semitic government of Turkey. If those talks are "successful," they will lead to an Israeli surrender of the strategically vital Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty with Syria.
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is often described as a weak fool who enjoys hanging out with murderers like Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to prove his manliness.
Assad may be foolish, but he certainly knows his enemy well enough to play the Israeli elites like a virtuoso violinist.
The day before CIA Director Michael Hayden informed Congress of the details of Israel's Sept. 6 raid in Syria, Assad began deluging the Arab airwaves with declarations of his earnest efforts to convince Israel to give him the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement. Olmert, for his part, didn't deny Assad's claims, and so seemed to accept them.
Being the radical leftwing trumpets they are, the Israeli media seized on the story. The TV, radio and tabloid elites ignored the strategic implications of the raid and opted instead to badger politicians who think it would be a bad idea to surrender the Golan Heights - and with them, Israel's ability to defend itself - in exchange for a piece of paper from Assad.
The media ignored completely that Syria's decision to build that nuclear facility placed it in open breach of its treaty obligations to the international community as outlined in the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty of which it is a signatory. How can Assad be trusted to keep his word to Israel when he was just caught breaching his obligations to the entire international community in such a profound way?
Moreover, the local media ignored what the North Korean-built, Iranian-financed nuclear reactor revealed about the nature of Assad's regime. That nuclear proliferation cooperation demonstrated clearly that Syria is not a peaceful nation but a full member of the Iranian-Syrian-North Korean axis of evil.
THE ELITISTS' passion for pieces of paper - or even just negotiations about them - is a general one. Anyone who is willing to talk about signing one, whether they are American presidents or Syrian dictators, is a friend and a partner. And anyone who questions the elitists' stubborn belief in agreements as Israel's ultimate goal in all things is an enemy of peace.
Given Syria's radicalism, it is not clear how long the elites will be able to keep up their fiction of Syrian good will and credibility. But whereas many in Israel do not trust Syria, almost everyone is Israel trusts America. So to the extent they heard, it no doubt came as a shock to many Israelis that the Bush administration is trying to cancel President George W. Bush's signed 2004 pledge to then prime minister Ariel Sharon to accept, and so support Israel's right to maintain many of the communities that it has built in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem since the 1967 Six Day War.
In 2004, Sharon was faced with a difficult political reality. After trouncing the Left in the January 2003 elections by denouncing Labor leader Amram Mitzna's plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, in December 2003, Sharon shocked his party and coalition members by announcing that he was adopting Mitzna's reviled plan as his own.
Sharon was unable to argue with his critics who asserted that an Israeli withdrawal would mean a terrorist takeover. Israel would be handing Fatah and Hamas terrorists their biggest victory ever and convincing them that there is no reason for them to accept Israel's right to exist and sue for peace.
Since Sharon had no answers for his critics, who were merely stating the obvious, he worked to change the subject by linking the withdrawal to a piece of paper. He begged Bush to write him a letter stating that the US would not expect Israel to throw out all of the 500,000 Jews who live in Judea, Samaria and post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhoods in the framework of a peace treaty with the PLO. And in April 2004, Bush presented Sharon with a letter, which while qualified, was sufficient for him to claim a diplomatic victory that could justify the withdrawal. Bush wrote, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
THE LETTER was never the stunning endorsement that Sharon and his defenders in the local media made it out to be. But it was something. Today however, the Bush administration, which has sought to bar all Jewish building in both post-1967 neighborhoods in Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria including major population centers, is trying to disavow Bush's signed pledge entirely.
According to last Thursday's Washington Post, Bush administration officials are doing everything they can to try to get out of the President's commitment to Sharon. Justifying the letter as an insincere piece of political maneuvering used to help Sharon expel the Jews from Gaza and Northern Samaria in 2005, they explain that the letter is no longer politically necessary. It served its purpose of drumming up domestic Israeli support for the now completed withdrawal and expulsion and ought to be set aside.
As National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley gently phrased it, "The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context in which it was issued."
In a breathtakingly inconsistent claim, former secretary of state Colin Powell asserted that while the administration issued the letter specifically in order to lead Israeli voters to believe they had won an American concession, he never anticipated "that Bush's letter would be perceived as a green light by Israel for adding to the settlements."
All of this was eminently predictable. Times change, interests change and policies adapt to new conditions. This is a basic and iron rule of politics. But Israel's elites refuse to accept it no matter how many times events bear it out. Take for example the Six Day War.
The Six Day War might never have happened if the US hadn't breached the signed commitment president Dwight Eisenhower made to Israel in 1957. After forcing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, Eisenhower pledged in writing that if the Egyptians ever closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, the US would come to Israel's aid. But when, in 1967 Egypt did just that, the US had more important things to attend to. And so Israel was forced to fulfill the Zionist vision and defend itself.
IN 2005, against the advice of the IDF General Staff, Sharon opted to vacate Gaza's international border with Egypt. Abrogating Israel's responsibility to secure the lives of its own citizens in the Western Negev and beyond, Sharon amended the peace treaty with Egypt to allow Egyptian forces to deploy along the border in the hopes that Egypt would guard the border for Israel. While Egypt was only too happy to deploy its forces in the Sinai, it has refused to take effective action to prevent Gaza from becoming a hub for international terror that is armed to the teeth with advanced weapons that have flooded in since Israel withdrew from the international border. And not only do they not help Israel, those Egyptian forces further complicate the task of Israeli military planners trying to figure out how to defeat Hamas.
Israel opted to lose the Second Lebanon War in 2006 by leaving Hizbullah intact in exchange for a never serious promise that UN forces would do what the IDF failed to do - namely, secure the border and prevent Hizbullah from rearming and reasserting its control over south Lebanon. And now, lo and behold, even the UN admits that UNIFIL has failed in its mission. Hizbullah is fully rearmed, retrained and based in force south of the Litani River.
Jews, who have clung to our religion and our traditions against all odds for thousands of years, are without a doubt a stubborn people. And Israel's Diaspora mentality elitists are anything if not tenacious in their belief that Israel is better off at the mercy of others.
But of course, the elites are not the entire country. They aren't even the majority, just a powerful minority. There can be little doubt that in due time the stubborn Zionist Jews will force our elitists from power and secure our country for the next 60 years.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.