Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
The days during the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av are days of soul-searching, in which the Jewish nation is required to correct the sins that led to the churban (destruction). This is especially true in light of the government’s weakness in dealing with Hamas.
In truth, the two fundamental sins that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz still require correction. Today, the continuation of the Sin of the Golden Calf which led to the breaking of the Tablets of the Law is the delusional vision of “peace”. And the continuation of the placing of an idol in the Holy Temple which led to its destruction is currently the religion of democracy, which holds that granting equal rights to all is the supreme value, upon whose altar the lives of people and nations should be sacrificed.
The coupling of these two mistaken beliefs is what leads the Israeli left to support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is also corrupted by this concept, and as long as he does not renounce it, he will not be able to achieve victory over Hamas.
Who is being Logical?
There are leftists who arrogantly claim that their position is the rational one, whereas the right-wing position is based on religion and faith, and thus, irrational and impractical.
However, thus far Jewish history has proved that the Torah’s position was the most logical, but alas, due to our sins we did not act according to the Torah’s instructions, and were exiled from our Land.
In modern times as well, we did not act according to the Torah. When the gates of the Land of Israel were opened, many Jews failed to fulfill the Torah mitzvah of immigrating to Israel and remained in exile; their fate was the Holocaust, Communist decrees, and assimilation. On the other hand, the majority of the secular Zionist leadership did not follow the Torah, and relinquished Transjordan and Judea and Samaria. And with regard to the Arab citizens of the country, they did not attempt to deal with them in line with the principles of the laws of ger toshav (resident alien).
According to these principles, non-Jews who fulfill the Seven Noahide laws and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over its land can live together with us in dignity. And as for those who do not, we must try to remove from the country in internationally accepted ways, as could have been done immediately after the Six Day War. Today as well, we can moderately encourage migration to other countries.
Questions for a Rational Leftist (with the hope there is such a thing)
If there are leftists who are willing to contemplate the future rationally, they are invited to address a few questions I will present in a number of areas:
Morality or Rights
Do you support the establishment of a Palestinian state because, in your opinion, you believe that all Arabs should be given equal, democratic rights,and because you want their lives to be as good as possible (employment, individual freedom, religious and national expression)?
In other words, if you knew that in a Palestinian state within a few years a secular dictator the likes of Saddam Hussein would arise, or a religious ruler like Khomeini or an oganization like Hamas - who would suppress the people and violate their individual rights, would you still support the establishment of a Palestinian state?
If in such a situation you would not support the establishment of a Palestinian state, what would be your position if you knew that the chances of dictatorial regime taking power in such a state were fifty percent?
To illustrate this point, a similar question can be asked: Western countries imposed various types of boycotts on South Africa to force her to grant equal rights to the black population. Twenty years ago, the white regime in South Africa succumbed and gave the blacks equal rights; consequently, they came to power and overturned the previous administration. During those twenty years, the average life expectancy in South Africa fell approximately fifteen years, from 64.5 years, to 49.5 (with the decrease among the blacks even greater).
If the Western countries knew in advance about the expected heavy price in human life and their well-being, would they have pressured South Africa to immediately grant equal rights to the blacks even then? Perhaps they might have sought to implement an extended, gradual process leading to the granting of equal rights, even though doing so temporarily violates the sanctity of the principle of equality?
You claim that all people have the right to self-determination, including the right to national sovereignty, and for that reason, the establishment of a Palestinian state is just and moral.
Apart from the basic question of how a nation is defined – for, by any objective criterion, Israeli Arabs do not deserve to be considered a nation – it is necessary to clarify: Who has the right to self-determination – all Arabs in the Middle East, or all Arabs residing between the Jordan and Mediterranean Sea? Or perhaps a distinction should be made between the Arabs of ’48, and the Arabs of ’67?
If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state for the ’67 Arabs (residents of Judea and Samaria), will they have the right to demand unification with the Arabs of the Middle East on the basis of their national rights? And will the Arabs of the Middle East have the moral right to gain control over the Palestinian state, as part of an Islamic or Arabic caliphate?
Also, does empowerment give the Arabs of the Galilee the privilege to demand national rights, or to merge with the Palestinian state? If not – what is the moral justification for preventing them?
Surely, a leftist would answer that Arab residents have the prerogative to decide what their national rights will be, and since they are presently demanding a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, this is what the State of Israel is obligated to grant them. However, the fundamental question is crucial, because chances are if given a state in Judea and Samaria, after a year or two they will claim their national rights also apply to Arabs in the Galilee and the Triangle, and some Arabs will argue that national rights includes all Middle East Arabs.
Rights in Terms of Demography
As a leftist, you most certainly assume and believe that there are two and a half million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. What would be your position if you discovered there are only a million and a half, as various distinguished researchers from the right claim? Would you still believe they are entitled to a state? And what would you say if they number only a million (and perhaps we can achieve this by encouraging voluntary migration)?
To put it differently: How many Arabs must there be to entitle them to demand a state? And another important question: In your opinion, how many people (settlers) can be expelled justifiably in order to grant a state to a million and a quarter Arabs?
Another question: If it turns out that the demographic process is not as the left customarily believes it to be, but rather, the number of Arabs in Israel will not grow significantly in the future, while the Jewish population does grow quite rapidly (thanks to a high birthrate and aliyah), so that within a generation the Jewish population, including those who identify with us, will number over 75% between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (including the Gaza Strip) – would you change your mind?
If you are a rational person, would you not agree that there is a further need to check the numerical data and the demographic process more thoroughly and accurately, and not to rely on conventional demographic beliefs which over the years were repeatedly discovered to mistaken?
As a rational leftist, what do you think is the danger that if a Palestinian state is established, it will merge with other enemy countries and initiate a war against Israel? If you knew that the prospect this will happen within twenty years is greater than fifty percent, would you still support the establishment of a Palestinian state?
What do you think the probability is that from within the area of a Palestinian state, rockets will be fired on all Israeli cities, like what has happened in recent years in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip? If the danger is greater than fifty percent, would you still support the establishment of a Palestinian state? If so, at what level of risk would you oppose its establishment?
The Security and Demographic Aspect
As a rational leftist, what do you think the chances are that a Palestinian state will absorb four to six million additional Arabs, funded by UNRWA and other Arab countries?
What do you think the chances are that a Palestinian state, with eight million citizens in Judea and Samaria, will continue to demand from the State of Israel compensation for its (third and fourth generation) "refugees", and the "right" of return? In your opinion, what are the chances that marches of tens of thousands of starving women and children will climb the fences of the State of Israel? Do you think there will be a way to stop them without committing mass murder?
What are the chances that this will lead to a cruel and prolonged war, at high and low degrees of intensity? Can the results of such a war be better than our present situation?
The Instruction of the Torah is the Logical Position
It seems that after outlining these questions, it is possible to see how the Torah’s position rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Land of Israel, is moral and logical.
I will summarize:
Regarding the question of morality, since the overwhelming odds are that the individual rights and quality of life of the Arabs will be adversely affected, as happened in Gaza – there is no moral justification to demand the establishment of a Palestinian state for them.
With regard to the question of national rights, the reasonable difficulty of defining Israeli Arabs as a nation obligates a return to the basic position that there is no “Palestinian people”, but rather, the Arabs living in Israel are part of the Arab nation that resides in the Middle East, and thus, they have no right to demand a separate state for themselves in portions of the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
Concerning the demographic aspect in point of fact, there is a positive growth trend of the Jewish nation in Israel – since the establishment of the State, for sixty-six years, we grew tenfold. The predictors of gloom about Arab population growth compared to that of the Jews, always proved wrong and misleading. The Arab birthrate is declining. It turns out that the demographic threat is not critical, and we should reduce it by adopting a policy that will enhance the growth of the Jewish people in Israel, prevent Arab immigration into the Land of Israel, and if possible, even encourage emigration of those who alienate themselves from the Jewish state.
From a security perspective, the establishment of a Palestinian state is liable to endanger the existence of the State of Israel, since the chances of each one of the risks mentioned is over fifty percent. And no international guarantee will help prevent this risk, just as the U.S. and European countries failed to stabilize the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the rest of the Arab countries.
The Challenge before Us
In light of all this, we are charged with a twofold challenge:
1) to strengthen the consciousness of Torat Eretz Yisrael, from which comes the instruction of coping realistically with the difficult complications facing us. 2) In practical terms, to join the settlements in Judea and Samaria; this is the most effective way of fortifying the State of Israel, both spiritually and physically.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.