Op-Ed: Eilat for Peace
Josh HastenThe writer is President of the Bar-Am Public Relations Firm, and author of the recently released children’s book, “Itamar Makes Friends: A Children’s Story of Jewish Brotherhood.”
After literally years of brainstorming I think I have come up with the ultimate solution for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians – turn over our Southern coastal resort city of Eilat to Arab rule.
That’s right, Israel’s Las Vegas of the South (minus the now defunct gambling boats), with its world class scuba diving, five-star resorts, booming party nightlife, and year-round warm temperatures - ideal for water sport aficionados, and sun worshipers, should be handed over to Mahmoud Abbas in exchange for a full peace accord.
Sounds absurd? Why should it?
In the year 2000, Israel abandoned its SLA allies and pulled out of the Lebanon security zone which enabled Hizbullah to come right up to our border, leading to the killing of five Israeli soldiers including the kidnapping and killing of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
That series of events of course sparked the 2nd Lebanon War in 2006, which ended in a UN-brokered cease-fire and more relevant 165 Israelis dead (by most accounts), and free reign for Hizbullah to continue advancing its missile capabilities, which some say is now 40,000 weapons strong and can reach as far South as the Northern Negev.
While Hamas is the ultimate evil, one thing they are not is a group of liars. They usually say what they mean, and mean what they say.
And of course in 2005, Israel pulled its 10,000 residents and all of its troops out of Gaza, leading to an increase in rocket attacks by 500% along with a Hamas takeover. Now seven years later, thanks to probably the biggest blunder in our young State’s history, one million Israelis in the South, (as far North as Gadera) are all living under the threat of rocket attack. Hamas is already threatening to strike Tel-Aviv next – just listen to how they are revealing their intentions in Arabic. While Hamas is the ultimate evil, one thing they are not is a group of liars. They usually say what they mean, and mean what they say.
And of course, let’s not forget about the rock, firebomb, and many other type of attacks or attempted attacks which take place daily in Judea and Samaria against motorists and soldiers, ever since chucks of those areas became areas of the alphabet A,B, and C, respectively, with Israel turning control (at least in A and B) over to the PA.
What does it all mean? Why are they still trying to kill us after all those concessions?
It obviously must mean that Israel is giving away the wrong pieces of real-estate for peace.
I think the recent deadly attacks, - the cross border attack from Egypt on route 12 last summer which claimed the lives of eight Israeli civilians and security personnel along with last week’s cross border attack on a crew in the area ironically (or not) building our new 242 Km border fence, which left an Israeli Arab and father of four from Haifa dead, along with over 100 rockets fired this past week are further proof, that we just aren’t paying attention to what our ‘partners’ truly want.
Throw in a potentially peace-treaty shredding new Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leadership and you have the potential for disaster. Since the Southern border is obviously way too dangerous a place to be, why not pull back from there?
Israel has already started a revolving door policy on Route 12 of closing and opening the road based on terror threats from Sinai. And believe it or not Route 12 doesn’t traverse through any of our so-called “settlements”.
So it seems to me that giving away Eilat at this juncture would be a prime-time peace gesture!
Also, while there is no doubt that Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, were part of the Land of Israel from Biblical times, there is still debate to this day whether or not Eilat is considered part of the “Holy Land.” Some Rabbis hold that Eilat was only relevant to the Jews from the times of Solomon and since it wasn’t part of the area settled by the 12 tribes in the time of Joshua, most believe that the laws of “Shmita” on produce grown in the Land of Israel don’t apply to the crops there. If shmita doesn’t apply in Eilat, (which it did for the record in Gush Katif), there is certainly room for debate on the city’s true status.
On a practical level, who needs Eilat anyway? We have an entire coastline of Mediterranean beaches from Ashkelon in the South all the way up to Rosh Hanikra. Plus we’ll still have the Dead Sea beaches and the Kineret. How much water do we really need for swimming anyway? And it’s not like the Red Sea’s water is drinkable, so no loss there.
And with the current problem of illegal African migrants making their way into Israel, many who have found jobs in the Eilat tourism industry, turning over Eilat to the PA would put the onus on them to come up with a solution. Essentially, we’d be killing two birds with one stone!
It sounds like a creative and practical solution to me, surely one which would prove Israel is serious about ending the conflict once and for all.
Now for a dose of reality: If you haven’t detected my sarcasm throughout this entire column, then let me introduce to you the real me: No, I don’t think anything will change if Israel concedes Eilat to the Arabs. We’ve been making concessions in the form of territory ever since the 1920’s when this entire area was earmarked for a future Jewish State, including the areas of what is now Jordan. To illustrate this fact clearly, there is a graphic circulating on the social media networks showing how much Israel has shrunk as a homeland for the Jews since that time.
True we took over significant stretches of land in our defensive wars of survival, but because of our decisions to leave Sinai, Gaza, and swaths of Judea and Samaria, today’s map is miniscule compared to the one we were legally entitled to under international law in 1920.
No, I’m sorry to say, this is not a conflict about land, it’s a conflict as a result of the Arab failure to accept Jews as their neighbors in this part of the world. So we’ll hang on to Eilat, and I hope we will do what is necessary to hang on to whatever else we have left.