By Gary Acheatel and Eliza Kauder: Prior to Israel's more recent "wake-up call" with the daily horrors of Intifada II and consequences resulting from their unilateral pullback from Gaza, approximately 50 percent of Israelis desperately dreamed they might be able to "trade land and receive peace."
Gene Robbins recently wrote about a "division in the Jewish community" concerning Israel's continued holding of the disputed territories (see July 30 guest opinion "'Rachel' controversy at film festival highlights split in Jewish community").
Remember, these territories were acquired only after being attacked in two major wars, Arab refusal to sign a peace treaty and requiring a buffer zone between Israeli civilians and Arab terrorists bent on Israel's destruction.
Prior to Israel's more recent "wake-up call" with the daily horrors of Intifada II and consequences resulting from their unilateral pullback from Gaza, approximately 50 percent of Israelis desperately dreamed they might be able to "trade land and receive peace." Many efforts included Israelis and Palestinians working together in summer camps, schools and businesses — bridges for peace were being built. Four wars and a resurgent battle against terrorism shattered the dream. The vibrant and hopeful Israeli peace movement withered away.
Robbins is correct. Some American Jews continue believing Israel might get peace if they pull back from the land that is keeping terrorists away from 80 percent of Israel's civilians. Had they lived in Israel recently and been the daily targets of incessant rockets and suicide bombers, would their dreams still exist?
The Israelis feel betrayed by their Palestinian "peace partners." It has become clear to all but the most ignorant that radical Arabs who hold sway among the Palestinians consider ALL of Israel as "occupied territory."
The essential question concerning Israel's right to exist never disappeared and is paramount to finding a solution to the conflict. That fact gets buried in the propaganda.
To correct the record, occupation does not violate international law. Israel's presence in the territories began in 1967 as a direct result of the aggressive actions of Israel's neighbors that forced Israel into a war of self-defense. Should France return Alsace-Lorraine to Germany? Should the Czech Republic or Poland return the German territories awarded to them after Germany's defeat in World War II? Of course not! Those countries evicted most of the original inhabitants or caused them to flee. Israel, in contrast, has never evicted a single Arab.
Israel seeks peace. Israel's Declaration of Independence expresses it. Israeli concessions for the Egyptian and Jordanian peace accords showed it. Withdrawals from Gaza and Southern Lebanon proved it. Efforts by successive Israeli governments to reach a viable two-state settlement with the Palestinians continue to underscore it. Polls consistently demonstrate it.
Can Israel's critics expect her to ignore Hezbollah's cries to destroy Israel and the Jews, Hamas's aim of replacing Israel with an Islamic state, Iran's objective of a world without Israel, Syria's hospitality to all the leading terrorist groups in the region, and the teaching of incitement and contempt to Palestinian children?
In spite of the above, Israel continues to offer negotiations for peace. Palestinians were again offered the chance to negotiate their borders at Camp David and chose war, unleashing the second Intifada. Four years of incessant terrorism killed almost 1,000 Israelis and maimed thousands of others. In March 2002, there were nine suicide attacks in Israel, killing scores of Israelis. The intent of the intifada was to demoralize Israel, destroy its economy and thus force it to withdraw and surrender to Palestinian demands.
To many Israelis' and others' disbelief, Israel took an amazingly bold move for peace. In Gaza in 2005 every Israeli soldier and civilian left, with Israel receiving nothing in return — a unilateral move by Israel to test Palestinian desires for peaceful negotiations. Everything was ready for the Gazans to start a new period of economic development with no blockades. Instead of Palestinian nation building, rockets and tunnels came, and the destruction of greenhouses where flowers and fruit were grown and could have continued to be grown.
After the Intifada and Gaza, the message to Israeli peaceniks was loud and clear: "It isn't about the territories; it's about your existence!"
What government could be expected to passively render its population vulnerable to slaughter? Would we, in the U.S., sit quietly by as rockets fell on American cities from terrorist sanctuaries outside our borders? Would we allow such carnage to continue with impunity? Can capitulation and surrender ever be the reaction of a sovereign state sworn to protect its populations? For as long as political philosophers have written about the essential obligations of sovereignty, no state responsibility has been as important as the fundamental assurance of protection.
So while we all dream of peace some day, today's harsh reality woke up many dreamers in Israel to the fact that in the absence of sincere peace partners handing over territory, a gesture of goodwill intended to elicit goodwill in return has instead been seen as a sign of Israeli weakness. And in a region where, in the apt words of ex-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, "there is no mercy for the weak ... and no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves."
Gary Acheatel lives in Ashland and is a financial advisor at Raymond James. Eliza Kauder lives in Ashland and is director of sales and financial institutions for Nxgen.