Max Kleinman’s column is not the first, nor will it be the last, that warns about the consequences of Israel’s annexation of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (As I See It, “Israel’s best strategy is to forego annexation,” June 25).
Kleinman frets that “following through with such a plan would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions.” Others have warned of the disastrous consequences that annexation would bring to Israel, although I do admit that Kleinman’s warning, of a “tremendous dissension that will undoubtedly materialize in our community as a byproduct of annexation,” is a new one for me.
Similarly, Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, has written in a frequently quoted op-ed in The New York Times that should Israel proceed with annexation, President Donald Trump will “erupt in fury,” that Democrats will be “alienated” from Israel, and Israel will feel the outrage of “major European states.” As for the hope for improving relations with moderate Arab regimes, that will “quickly blow up.” And, as if they need an excuse, it could “incite” Palestinian Arabs to violence.
Kleinman picks up on similar threads. Progress that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made in “developing excellent, albeit de facto, strategic relations with the Gulf states” would be jeopardized, “and the Jewish state’s peace treaty with Jordan could also be at risk.” The good graces of Germany and the European Union, he says, are also elements Israel should consider.
Let’s look at the fears of annexation which, when one looks back at the historical record, shows that such qualms are not well founded.
There’s no need to speculate about what might happen if the whole world becomes angry at Israel — because it’s happened before. Let’s recall that episode and examine the consequences.
It was June 1981. Ignoring the fear that many people around the world would become angry, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin authorized the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The pro-Israel Republican president at the time, Ronald Reagan, condemned the Israeli action and even suspended the delivery of F-16 fighter aircraft as punishment. Under Secretary of State Walter Stoessel Jr. testified before the House of Representatives that the Reagan administration was “dismayed by the damage which has been done to the search for peace in the Middle East” by the Israeli action. He accused Israel of “embarrassing” Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. In fact, the Israel-Egypt peace treaty proceeded without interruption.
Some Democrats defended the Israeli strike, but many did not. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Clement Zablocki (D-Wis.), condemned Israel and praised Reagan for withholding the planes. Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) denounced Israel for “taking the law in its own hands.” Rep. David Brown (D-Miss.) blasted the Israelis for endangering the peace process. Still, most Democrats continued to support the Jewish state; the changes in their party’s attitude toward Israel were decades away.
The British called the Israeli bombing “unprovoked.” The French, who had built the Iraqi nuclear reactor that Israel bombed, demanded that Israel pay reparations for the damage. Anti-Semitic Austrians were up in arms. The Nazi war criminal Kurt Waldheim, then serving as secretary-general of the United Nations, vehemently denounced the Israelis. So did Austria’s Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, who accused Israel of acting “according to the law of the jungle.” Kreisky said the problem with the policies of the Polish-born Begin and others like him was that “they think in such a warped way, these Eastern Jews, because they have never had political responsibilities.”
Was it so terrible that all these people were mad at Israel in 1981? Not really. The United States remained pro-Israel, despite the occasional disagreement. The Europeans continued trading with Israel, because it benefitted their economies, regardless of political disagreements. Egypt went ahead with its peace treaty with Israel because it was in Egypt’s interest.
That’s, more or less, what would happen today, too. Various governments will condemn Israel if it annexes part of Judea and Samaria. But they will continue to have relations with Israel, because it’s in their interest to do so. Their bark is much worse than their bite, just as it was nearly 40 years ago.
The Palestinian Arabs certainly will object. Perhaps they will stage a few riots. But how different would that be from the current situation, in which Palestinian Arabs periodically fire rockets from Gaza, attack Israelis with their cars, or stab Israelis at random? I have full confidence in the ability of Israel’s security services to deal with such eruptions, just as they always have.
Moreover, annexation will serve several important purposes:
First, it will affirm the Jews’ right to their national homeland. Judea and Samaria have been the heart of the Land of Israel for 3,000 years. In fact, “annexation” is not the correct word, as it implies taking over some foreign territory. “Reunification” is the accurate term.
Next, it will abolish a grievous double standard. The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who reside in the territories have a right to be governed by Israeli law, just as 98 percent of the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are governed by the laws of the Palestinian Authority.
Finally, it will put an end to the threat of an Israel that is nine miles wide. Israel requires permanent control of the Jordan Valley, the Etzion bloc, and the other areas under discussion to have defensible borders. Giving those areas to the Arabs would mean a retreat to the pre-1967 armistice lines when Israel was just nine miles wide and could be cut in two in a matter of minutes.
It’s one or the other: so-called annexation and some international whining or a State of Israel nine miles wide and vulnerable to a daily threat to its very existence.
That’s the choice Israel faces. I hope that American Jewry understands it.
Stephen M. Flatow is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in the April 1995 Palestinian Arab terror attack at Kfar Darom. He is a past chairman of the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. He resides in Jerusalem.