|Who are the Mystics?
Shortly after the Six Day War, Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Britain's eminent military expert, urged Israel on no account to give up any of the territory she had occupied neither the Golan Heights nor Judea and Samaria, nor Gaza and Sinai.
There was very weighty pragmatic justification for his view. Here was no "regular" border dispute. It was the second time a coalition of states had announced and tried to implement the annihilation of another state. In 1948, with overwhelming odds in their favour against a minuscule Israel, the Arab states had come perilously close to achieving their objective. In 1967, with a more efficient plan of attack and execution on Israel's eastern front they could, by Liddell Hart's estimate, have cut the state in two at its narrow waist, within an hour. Sinai's only employment by the Egyptians since 1948 had been as a staging ground for attacks on Israel, and the Golan Heights had been converted into one great offensive base, from which Israel's north eastern villages were subjected to constant shelling over 19 years.
Israel had twice been saved by the bravery and resources of her sons. Now that, in repelling the aggressors, she had achieved rational defence boundaries, it was her duty and her right by any international canon, to stay where she was, and not provide the Arab aggressors with the opportunity to have another try. To Liddell Hart, applying universal criteria, this was no doubt simple logic.
A fascinating aspect of the tremendous debate that has raged in Israel since 1967 is that every articulate public figure, barring a handful on the far so called "left," was fundamentally in agreement with Liddell Hart's proposition, except for south western Sinai. Those who urged giving up parts of Judea and Samaria did so on "demographic" grounds, always subject to the area's demilitarization and to the perpetuation of a sovereign Israeli "strip" along the Jordan (as for example, in the Allon Plan). All were agreed that not only must Israel not return to the 1949 lines, but that it must not withdraw (except in Sinai) from the 1967 cease fire lines.
If Liddell Hart was alive today and re assessing Israel's security imperatives, he would no doubt be subjected to heated denunciation from some quarters abroad as an "Israeli expansionist," and to sneering denigration from some quarters here as a biblical mystic. Amusingly enough, his most vehement detractors would be those who insist that Israel must base her "case" only on "security considerations" and not on any account, on historic or political rights. (These advocates usually do, in fact, respect historic, even religious, claims, however ridiculous provided, of course, that they are Arab claims). As year after year, the waves of Arab propaganda and of American and other pressures activated by oil interests or, as now, petrodollar greed, and seasoned by some old fashioned anti Semitism have washed over and into tired Israeli spirits or naive Israeli souls, their power of attrition has made its impact. The basic elements of that propaganda and those pressures are now clothed in a seemingly rational formula: all that is required in order to achieve peace is concession of territory by Israel. In other words, it is Israel's occupation of territory that is the reason for the absence of peace and that threatens war. Unable to sustain this bizarre thesis with rational arguments, its proponents often buttress it by abusing their opponents (as mystics, expansionists, etc).
Theirs is of the same order of logic, of reason and of common sense as the proposition so widely held in Britain in the late 30s indeed until 1939 that Chamberlain was saving the peace of Europe and that Churchill's policy against appeasement would lead to war. This theme, it is relevant to mention, was promoted not only by such advocates as "The Times," but also by Hitler and Goebbels.
In our case, there is far less excuse for the idea that surrender of territory will bring peace. After all, unlike Chamberlain in 1938, we have had it all before. And our experience is unequivocal: surrender of territory brought war. In 1947, Chaim Weizmarm proclaimed that this was our country (for all the "mystical" Zionist reasons) but that the Jewish Agency was prepared to give up yet a further part of it (in addition to Eastern Palestine Transjordan) because we were hungry for statehood and because we believed that this concession would solve our problem with the Arabs. Six thousand dead in the Arab onslaught that followed proved how mistaken he was.
After 1949, Israel having again made what was in fact a unilateral territorial compromise, she offered the Arabs peace on the Armistice lines but they were not interested in those or any other "lines." In addition to employing every means of war except the open battlefield, they went on planning the next try at annihilation which came in 1967 from Sinai and Gaza, from the Golan and from Judea and Samaria.
The Arabs constantly have proclaimed their purpose Israel's elimination. An incessant campaign of indoctrination throughout the Arab world, stressing the rational, religious and moral imperatives of the lethal purpose that has been our experience. There is nothing mystical in it. It is all too bitterly factual.
What then, do the proponents of surrender of territory present in order to bolster their usually supercilious insistence that the way to peace lies in Israel's doing again precisely what she did before with such dire consequences?
Amazingly, all they offer is a mystical belief bolstered by little more than their own wishful thinking. They are "sure," it seems, that the Arab states, once they are again faced by an emaciated, painfully vulnerable and, by then, probably dispirited Israel, will burn the hundreds of books calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, and the maps that have long anticipated that event; erase the teachings in their schools and colleges and theological seminaries, and indeed the whole vast area of Arab and Moslem culture devoted to the theme of Israel's destruction, and proclaim that precisely now, when its realization has become feasible they are giving up their dreams of "uniting the Arab world" (hitherto divided at its heart, even defiled, by Israel). In all reason, it is the Arabs who must produce evidence that they have abandoned this veritable culture of annihilation before there can be any hope of real peace. Many people were indeed prepared to believe that Sadat's visit to Jerusalem might be the first sign of such a process, at least on his part. They were strengthened by the knowledge of the dire state of Egypt's economy, and the monstrous burden of Cairo's incredible urban chaos, which might reasonably be driving him to seek Israel's cooperation.
But the much vaunted spontaneity of Sadat's "initiative" turned out to be a fiction: he came only after he had been promised 98 per cent of Sinai and Israel's acknowledgement of Egyptian sovereignty over all of it. Since then, he has in fact simply reiterated the standard Arab demands that Israel reduce herself to her pre 1967 vulnerability. (Mr. Sadat's solution for the eventuality is not without significance. He said to Mr. Peres: "Why not make a defence pact with the United States? If you're attacked, they will come to your aid").
There is no certain way of preventing war. The Arabs' propaganda success in providing their imperialist dream with the disguise of a struggle for "homeless Palestinians," their great economic leverage in the West and, not least, the susceptibility to their propaganda of Israelis with short memories and short sight, has encouraged them to believe that Israel can be overcome, though of necessity in stages.
Only the last of these need be war. The first stage is that of diplomatic pressure. If we hope to prevent war or delay it, even to lay the foundation for peace (however remote this may seem), we must avoid defeat in this present, diplomatic round. Our first imperative is not to give up any part of our strategic strength.