Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"Land for Peace" < Life

A guest post by Lurker:

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
-- Albert Einstein

A few days ago, DovBear presented an argument that since the mitzva of living in the Land of Israel is not categorized as yahareg v'al y'avor (a mitzva for which one is required to sacrifice one's life), it would therefore be appropriate to surrender land to the Palestinians, rather than endanger lives.

He also noted that this is not simply his own personal view, but rather, the view of a number of halakhic authorities. And in fact, he is quite correct about this: R. Ovadiah Yosef has ruled that due to the halakhic imperative of pikuah nefesh (preservation of life), it is permissible to cede parts of Eretz Yisrael in order to save lives. The late R. Eliezer Schach also issued a similar ruling.*

DovBear is also correct that anyone who would accuse him of being a "heretic" for embracing this particular legitimate opinion, is simply a fool.

Where DovBear is wrong is in his belief that lives can, in fact, be saved by giving land to the Palestinians. This assumption has been tried, and has failed completely, multiple times over the past fifteen years. The idea has been done to death, quite literally: The plain, harsh reality is the exact opposite: Giving land to the Palestinians endangers the lives of Jews, and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of them.

It is for this reason that R. Ovadiah -- who still stands by his halakhic ruling in principle -- has stopped supporting the surrender of land to the Palestinians in practice.

Here is a question to which not many people know the answer: How many suicide bomb attacks there were before the Rabin government signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO?

Answer: ZERO (0). Yes, really. Suicide bombings first began only following the signing of Oslo.

In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (now President) inaugurated a complete reversal of prior Israeli policy: They decided to negotiate with terrorists, and to arm them with land, money, and weapons. Plenty of Israelis were aghast, and wondered how this could possibly lead to anything other than disaster. Unfortunately, their fears were borne out in spades: The September 1993 Oslo Accords sparked a massive wave of terrorist attacks in Israel, of unprecedented proportions: Immediately following the signing, terrorism skyrocketed to levels that had been previously unknown. Regardless of this, the Rabin government was undeterred: Ignoring the mounting carnage, they negotiated and then signed the Oslo II agreement in 1995 -- in spite of the constant suicide bombings, which had become a matter of routine by then. And not surprisngly, the rate of terror death climbed even higher with Oslo II.

In the 30 months beginning with the Oslo signing, more Israelis were killed by terrorists (213) than in the entire preceding decade (209 from January 1983 to September 1993). You can find graphs illustrating this phenomenon here. [Note: These graphs cover the relatively "quiet" period prior to the much bloodier "Second Intifada" period, which began in October 2000.]

This massive explosion of terror attacks continued until Binyamin Netanyahu came to power in 1996. Netanyahu had campaigned on a platform that precluded any further territorial concessions as long as the terror onslaught continued. And interestingly, as soon as he assumed office, the terror attacks dropped dramatically, for the very first time since the Oslo Accords had been signed. Netanyahu's term in office marked the first time that the level of terror attacks dropped back down to pre-Oslo levels. (You can see this visually, along with the figures, on the graphs cited above.)

This respite didn't last very long, unfortunately. In 1999, Netanyahu was succeeded by Ehud Barak (now Defense Minister), who declared his intention to continue the policies of Rabin and Peres. True to his word, at Camp David, he offered Arafat a final-status deal that included the entire Gaza Strip, 97% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Arafat's response was to angrily reject the offer, and to launch a new terror war (the infamous "Second Intifada") that dwarfed even the monstrous levels of bloodshed that had hit Israel during the Rabin and Peres governments.

More Israeli civilians -- men, women, and children -- were slaughtered in the years since Oslo than in all the years since the founding of the state in 1948 up until the accords were signed in 1993. The numbers speak for themselves.

Many were certain that the Second Intifada spelled the end of Israel's policy of "land for peace". After all, it had become painfully clear -- even to many on the left, who had originally advocated this policy -- that it garnered nothing for Israel other than bloodshed and death. However, in 2004, the Sharon government announced its plans for a unilateral "Disengagement", which would entail the forced expulsion of 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron, and turning over this land to the Palestinians. Surprisingly -- or perhaps not so surprisingly -- this announcement was promptly greeted by an enormous barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip into Sderot and other border areas, as well as Gush Katif itself. This, however, did not deter Sharon, who carried out the Disengagement (over his own electorate's stanch opposition) in 2005. Every single last Israeli -- every civilian resident and soldier -- was removed from the Gaza Strip.

There were two immediate effects: (1) With the IDF and their deterrent effect gone, Hamas quickly siezed full political and military control of the Gaza Strip, ousting their Fatah rivals. (2) The western Negev was innundated by a massive, unprecedented increase in rocket attacks, that soon spread far beyond the Sderot area, and into Netivot, Ofakim, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and other cities.

This dramatic increase in rocket attacks caused by Israel's concession of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians can be seen graphically here and here. [Note: These graphs do not cover the last three months.]

It should be painfully obvious to any objective person that the main reason for not giving land to enemy terrorists is not the sanctity of Jewish land. It is the sanctity of Jewish life.

The situation in the West Bank today is essentially the same as that of the Gaza Strip five years ago: Hamas already has large caches of mortars, and Katyusha and Grad missles. Hamas is far more powerful -- and popular -- than their Fatah rivals, and they are poised to sieze control. The only thing currently standing in their way is the presence of the IDF. If Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, Hamas would sieze full control within a matter of weeks. Within a few months, missles would be raining down on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Netanya, just as they have been raining down into the western Negev. And with the dense urban population of Israel's central region (about 80% of the population lives there) -- as opposed to the sparsely populated Negev -- the casualties would far surpass anything ever seen before.

In spite of this, there are plenty of Jews -- in Israel and abroad -- who advocate surrendering the West Bank to the terrorists. These Jews are fueled by a fervent, messianic faith that making territorial concessions will somehow usher in the dawn of a new era, in which Israel will finally live in peace. They are completely undeterred by the enemy's own unabashed declarations that they will do everything in their power to annhilate Israel. But even more incredibly, these Jews are undeterred by the fact that their idea was already tried several times, and the result was not peace, but rather massive death and bloodshed. They remain steadfastly certain and true to their "religion", which preaches that the past should be ignored: Regardless of what has come before -- or what is happening right now -- they have complete faith that the next time Israel makes concessions to its terrorist enemies, peace will finally come.

In a bizarre inversion of reality, these Jews often deride their ideological rivals, who oppose such suicidal concessions, as being "fanatic messianists". They blithely dismiss the dire warnings of what will result, insisting that their rivals offer no viable "alternative". As though their own plan, which has already failed multiple times with deadly consequences, does constitute a viable "alternative".

So, honestly: How far does Israel need to continue this suicidal "experiment"? Can any sane person still believe that if we once again give land (and money, and weapons) to the Palestinians, this time it will bring peace, rather than the deaths of more and more Jews?

According to Einstein's definition of insanity above, the answer is obvious.

[*] I am compelled to point out the logical fallacy in this position -- as has been pointed out by several other halakhic authorities, including R. Avraham Shapira and R. Shlomo Goren: There exist certain mitzvot which, by their inherent nature, entail danger to one's life, and therefore cannot logically be overriden by considerations of pikuah nefesh. The classic example of this is the mitzva to go to war to conquer or defend the Land of Israel: Obviously, going into battle involves risking one's life. On that basis, everyone should be able to say that pikuah nefesh overrides his own obligation to fulfill this mitzva. That would clearly be an absurd argument, since it would mean that nobody at all would ever participate in such a war, and the mitzva to do so would become meaningless. The only logical conclusion, therefore, is that pikuah nefesh does not apply in the case of such a mitzva.
Nevertheless, this argument doesn't negate the undeniable fact that there do exist halakhic authorities who say that pikuah nefesh allows for giving up parts of Eretz Yisrael, as DB noted.

Buy DB's book. (I personally recommend it)
Buy DB's wife a gift (please)

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