Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
[ Arab Israeli conflict ] [ Israeli military strategy ]

Why Israeli Jews need the Palestinian territories?

What is the desirable territory of Israel?

The definition of Israel’s optimum boundaries fluctuates wildly among Jews. The millennia-old Jewish goal was the land of Israel within its biblical borders, a view not easily justified. For one thing, Israel was never that size. Samaria embodied a different strain of Judaism, possible only because Samaria was politically independent of Jerusalem government. Sinai never belonged to Israel in antiquity. In the messianic age the Hebrew prophets described, Jewish control included not only all the Promised Land but also the rest of the world, a notion commonly disregarded. The issue of Israel’s size is moot: the question is not where Jews live (Arabs never opposed Jews settling in Muslim lands) but rather Israeli sovereignty and government control, who rules where Jews live, an increasingly obsolete notion today as multinational governments like the United Nations and the European Union evolve. Globalization is directly related to the efficiency of communication and transportation, and the process, akin to nation-states assuming control of feudal towns, will doubtless continue to blur national boundaries.

United Nations-defined boundaries of Israel reflect the Arab-Israeli fleeting balance of power in 1947 and are irrelevant to Israel today. The UN resolution on Israel—which hinged on the votes of Haiti, Philippines, Costa Rica, and Liberia, and was adapted to long-gone interests of major powers—is no guide to the Promised Land. Jews accepted the partition of Palestinian land as a springboard, and Arabs did not accept the partition; neither Jews, nor Arabs agreed with the Israeli-Arab agreement.

According to the initial British promise, Jews expected to receive all of the Palestinian land. Then a part of Palestine was carved out for the Arab locals who would not move to Jordan. Then Jews decided to take control of all of Palestine and settle with Palestinians for whatever part of it for Israel. When the cause of Israeli independence seemed all but lost in 1947, sensible Jewish leaders persuaded others to agree to whatever Palestinian land the major powers were willing to concede to Israel through the United Nations. With Israeli unexpected[1] victory in 1967 against the Arab armies, Israel’s popular mood swung to optimism and a determination to hold the ancient Jewish land, though determination faded with the shock of the 1973 war, when the Egyptian attack caught Israel off guard. But many Israelis still believed they could take land from the weak Syrians (Golan Heights) and Palestinian Arabs (West Bank). Those Jews also were proven incorrect, and now, under international pressure and unwilling to suffer Palestinian terrorist warfare, many Israelis are ready to return to pre-1967 borders of Israel. With the West Bank overcrowded by Arabs, Palestinians might seek a part of the Negev desert the Jews developed. Some sort of partition of Jerusalem into Israeli and Arab sectors is probable, if not political then perhaps administrative, with separate mayoral jurisdiction for Israeli villages and Arab villages in Greater Jerusalem and visa-free travel between Arab and Israeli communities. Whether the Arabs would seek to reduce Jews to dhimmi[2] status under administrative autonomy of Israel in the Palestinian land is an open question, but the scenario is plausible if the Israelis continue making minor concessions and diluting the Jewish national resolution to fight Palestinians.

Israelis never decided on the acceptable fight with Arabs. In case of a major Arab invasion or terrorism with weapons of mass destruction, should Israelis exhaust all Jewish human and material resources or avoid apocalyptical confrontation by resettling the Jews, if not in Uganda then in Australia or Arizona? Israelis or the Land of Israel, what is more important and in what proportion? Ad hoc decisions might come too late to save the Jews.

Why does Israel want the Palestinian land?

To determine the Israel's immediate goal, one must first define the Israel's overall purpose. Why does Israel want the Palestinian land? One motivation is Jewish esteem: a powerful Jewish nation is respected, and that is especially relevant to Israelis. Since Israel could easily take land from Syria, Lebanon, and/or Palestine, run the Arab inhabitants off, and hold the ex-Arab land at little expense to Jews, expansion is a valid option. Before the notion of “humane war” appeared fifty years ago in Korea,[3] no nation acting rationally has returned lands taken from a weaker neighbor, especially in response to aggression. Seeming irrationalities sometimes have good reasons, like a previously weak colony acquiring arms and resolving to use them or the devaluation of raw materials which cease to justify the war expense of holding onto colonies. No country has returned territory significant to its national consciousness, especially with no significant war threat involved. Israel had good reason to hold onto Sinai, a buffer zone with Egypt.

The State of Israel is ridiculously small, minuscule compared to most Arab states artificially carved from Muslim entities much larger than Israel. Even after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France originally divided the region into only three countries: Iraq, Palestine, and Syria, and later subdivisions served to appease local puppet dynasties. Israel’s size is unnatural and poses a clear danger to Israel's existence in the age of weapons of mass destruction, especially if the Arab enemy states merge into fewer, larger Muslim entities.

Israeli seemingly rational but mistaken pretenses often mask the goal of increasing Israeli national prestige. Consider a few of them. Israeli war purposes? Another few dozen miles are insignificant to Israeli defense in the age of air warfare. When Israel held the West Bank land, Palestinian terrorists operated mostly in those territories and in Jewish border settlements inside Israel. When Israel gave the Palestinian land back to the Palestinians, the Islamic terrorists moved into Israel proper. Infiltrating disputed Palestinian territory is easier than infiltrating Israel. With infiltration routes into Israel, the Palestinian land ceased to be an Israeli buffer against Muslim terrorists. Jewish religious claims? But Judaism is questionable in the modern world, where most Israelis are secular. The Jewish religious claim brings the Middle East conflict to a dead end, as Israel would also have to fulfill the Jewish biblical obligation of eradicating all other religions in the land of Israel besides Judaism[4] and blow up the Aqsa Mosque. Even Israeli zealots would not suggest destroying Christian and Arab holy places. The Torah does not enjoin on Jews an obligation analogous to jihad of acquiring the land promised to Israel but rather of waiting for the divine command to Israel, as did Joshua. Jewish historical right? There is none. Nations swap land around all the time. Hardly any nation today occupies precisely its original territory. States grow or shrink. The right to make Arabs speak Hebrew and elect delegates to Knesset? That is not desirable. The right of retribution, to make the Arabs pay for past Arab domination of Jews? Of all nations, Arabs were the most tolerant of Jews, and Jewish revenge upon Palestinian Arabs is unwarranted. No Arab contests the right of Jews to settle wherever they like. Jewish communities flourished in Arab milieux for centuries. Had Jewish settlers asked only for cultural autonomy, the Palestinians would have granted it. Indeed, giving autonomy to Jewish dhimmis is a religious obligation in Islam, sanctioned by the centuries-old practice of capitulation, giving Westerners in Islamic countries immunity under various intergovernmental arrangements. Five million Jews settled throughout the Land of Israel would restore their pre-historic density, too low for Israeli economic, social, and security purposes. Whatever the choice, Israel must consider economic consequences for the Jews. Clinging to ancient Judea and Samaria has already cost Israel hundreds of billions in Israel Defense Forces maintenance and other economic losses over the decades of Jewish suffering. With that, Israelis could buy a nice chunk of New York.

Israel' returning the Palestinian territories might not lead to normalizing Arab-Israeli relations
A culturally attractive Israel could annex the Arab territories more easily
Israel can win tolerance of foreigners to annexation of Palestine
Israel can annex Palestinian land
Israeli threat of expansion would bring resolution to the Middle East conflict

[1] By pure Jewish luck, Arab armies were not prepared for Israeli preemptive strike and were surprisingly weak in aerial and tank warfare compared to Israel Defense Forces.

[2] Resident Jewish and Christian aliens in the Muslim world, generally protected but with considerably restricted civil rights.

[3] European Christian governments sometimes tried to spare civilians even a few centuries ago, but the definition of “sparing” was limited to refraining from mass murder and large-scale robbery. Napoleon restored the practice of living off the land to maintain his huge armies, unable to supply them from France.

[4] Leviticus 19:34 requires the Jews to love strangers in their land as themselves. But since non-Jews were prohibited from practicing idolatry and had to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish rules, the only way to love the non-Jews was to make them equal to Jews—through assimilation. Luckily, the Palestinian Arabs would not accept that option. Another possible sense of the biblical commandment is not oppressing aliens, as Egypt did the Hebrews, but that does not imply religious toleration of Muslims, as evident from numerous condemnations of places of pagan worship. Beside, many Israeli Arabs are not peaceful strangers but often dislike Jews and Israel and pose a real threat to Israel’s survival as a Jewish country by exploiting democratic institutions through the swelling numbers of Arabs.