Monday, September 15, 2008

The "Iron Wall" Strategy

I'm attaching the last part of an "opinion" from M.J. Rosenberg, because it describes the "Iron Wall" strategy under which Israel has labored since before its Independence in 1948.

Mr. Rosenberg favorably quotes Ian Lustick (Political Science prof at the U. of PA), who argues that the Israelis are abandoning their "Iron Wall" strategy, when it has been working so well for decades!

The latest demand by Olmert and Livni (the foreign minister) is that Israel's Arab neighbors "recognize" Israel "as a Jewish state." Does this mean that Arab Palestinians must "accept" the Zionist nature of the Jewish state (contrary to modern definitions of a democratic state, where "one man, one vote" is the ideal)?

Read on: (with thanks to the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). JRK

M.J. Rosenberg
Israel Policy Forum
Opinion, Sept. 12, 2008

The "Iron Wall" was the creation of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of right-wing Zionism and spiritual leader of today's Likud Party.
Jabotinsky, who died in 1940, believed that the Jewish state would not be able to achieve acceptance by the Palestinians because the two nationalisms were in fundamental and irreconcilable conflict over the same territory.

He wrote this about the Palestinians in 1923: "There has never been an indigenous inhabitant anywhere or at any time who has ever accepted the settlement of others in his country. Any native people views their country as their national home, of which they will always be the complete masters. . . . Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement."

Accordingly the Jews should not even seek Palestinian consent to Jewish settlement. They should, instead, build a Jewish state behind a metaphorical "iron wall." They should build a state so strong that the Arabs would have no choice but to accept its permanence. Peace would be achieved not by any Arab recognition of Jewish rights, but rather by recognition of the Israeli reality.

Jabotinsky wrote: "As long as there is a spark of hope that they can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels, because they are not a rabble but a nation. . . . Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups lose their sway, and influence transfers to moderate groups. Only then would these moderate groups come to us with proposals for mutual concessions. I am optimistic that they will indeed be granted satisfactory assurances and that both peoples, like good neighbors, can then live in peace."

In other words, the Israelis should simply build their state and wait the Arabs out. Once they understood that Israel wasn't going anywhere, the Arabs would agree to peace.

The "Iron Wall" concept was first vindicated in 1977 when, after failing to defeat Israel in four wars, the Egyptians essentially threw in the towel. President Anwar Sadat announced that he would go to Israel and sign a peace agreement. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Jabotinsky's political heir, welcomed Sadat and returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for Egyptian recognition. Begin had no illusion that the Egyptians had come around to accepting Israel, just that they accepted reality. That was good enough.

The Israeli-Egyptian peace has held for almost 30 years, 30 years without a single dead Israeli or Egyptian soldier.

"The Iron Wall" concept was also vindicated when Jordan agreed to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1994. The Jordanians did not suddenly accept the premise of Zionism; they accepted reality. Most significantly, the Palestinians did the same when the PLO accepted the two-state solution in 1988 and signed the Oslo Agreement recognizing Israel in 1993.

So Jabotinsky's terms have been met. The Arabs (not the extremist minority but the mainstream) are finally reconciled to Israel's permanence. They are, essentially, suing for peace.

But now the Israeli government says that is not good enough. Now there's a new demand.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that the Arabs must "recognize the State of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has also said that they "must not only recognize Israel's right to exist but to exist as a Jewish state."

Suddenly, Israel needs not just security, but an endorsement by Arabs of its special character. But states don't recognize each other as anything in particular. The United States recognizes Canada without regard to the special character of Quebec. Germany recognizes Belgium without regard for whether the Flemish or the Walloons are dominant.

Why would Israel need Arabs to recognize its right to exist as a Jewish state? That is nobody's business but Israel's. As the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once put it, "Our right to exist is independent of any recognition of it." That is even truer about Israel's right to exist "as a Jewish state."

Those who seek that kind of acceptance from the Arabs are barking up the wrong tree. Listen to Jabotinsky: it's not going to happen. The Israelis can argue among themselves about the nature of their state. The Arab world, and especially the Palestinians, can only offer security and peace. That used to be enough. It should be now.

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