February 13, 2011
A few months after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 I found myself spending a week in the city of Cairo. Although several of my experiences during my short visit were rather eye-opening, none was more revealing than seeing popular bookstores lined with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other assorted anti-Semitic literature. This, more than anything, demonstrated for me the clear dichotomy between the Arab voice on the street and the Egyptian leadership that had signed a peace agreement with Israel in the late 1970s.
Similarly, after the signing of the treaty with Jordan in 1994 and the predictable flocking there by Israelis eager to visit the desert kingdom, several occurrences were reported of Jordanian dentists being blacklisted by their peers for having committed the unconscionable crime of treating Israeli tourists. Once again, the division between the sentiment of the nation and the decision of the ruling regime was apparent for all to see.
These are just two small examples of what has been known for years. Moreover, they help to explain why warm peace never evolved between Israel and any of her Arab neighbors. Simply stated, the Arab world has never really wanted peace with Israel.
Nevertheless, a make-believe game of peace has been played for years, at least at the leadership level, in order to maintain a delicate regional balance. Furthermore it was America, more than any other nation, which managed through the years to keep this fragile puzzle together via a mixture of financial incentives and occasional arm-twisting. Hence, with American influence currently waning, it should come as no surprise that the entire region is heading back towards its real, anti-Israel, self.
In such an environment it is astonishing to hear some voices, from within Israel and from without, saying that the “peace talks” with the Palestinians must quickly get back on track. In other words, rather than being attentive to what is transpiring all around us and making the necessary adjustments, their reaction like a worn-out mantra is “the show must go on”. However, despite their continued denial, events in the region are rapidly dictating that this game of pretend can no longer continue.
If the current protests throughout the Arab world are viewed together with other significant developments in the region – the ongoing rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the growing threat and influence of Iran, the ascendancy of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the fortification of Hamas in Gaza, the shifting of Turkey away from Israel and the west – then it should be obvious that relinquishing more land is nothing less than suicidal. In fact now, more than ever, we need to do the opposite and strengthen our hold on every parcel of land. Moreover, trying to appease the Arabs by giving away parts of our ancestral homeland, especially as the real intentions of the region are becoming evident, is like trying to pacify the neighborhood bully by giving him your lunch money. Such an approach, either with the local bully or an enemy that is fixed upon your destruction, only serves to encourage further aggressive behavior.