By Alex Sternberg
As a former Beitari and a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane, it should come as no surprise that I was never in favor of the notion of dividing Israel into two states.
When it was first proposed in the 1970s, I felt anger at the unfairness of such a concept. The Palestine Mandate, the land promised for a “homeland for Jews,” had already been carved up by the British when they cut the lion’s share out by creating Transjordan. Now the smaller area was to be further divided and carved into two entities. The far smaller area was for the Jews, with the larger one set aside for the “Palestinians.” How unfair is that?
As far as I was concerned, we already had a “two states” reality. Israel and Jordan. 70 to 80 percent of the population of Jordan identifies as “Palestinian.” I was surprised but delighted when each time there was another proposal to create a “State of Palestine” it was the Palestinian group that rejected what I considered a great Israeli capitulation. I understood the zeal for peace that clouded the judgment of each Israeli leader to agree to such suicidal offers. Still, I delighted in the time honored Abba Eban truism: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!”
During these times, a vibrant Peace Now movement grew in Israel consisting of soldiers who served the country with distinction. They wanted an end to occupation and of ruling over another people. I am sure it must be distasteful to be sent to the territories as hated occupiers, to be slapped and pelted with rocks by children and teens.
The Peace Now camp has all but disappeared today, discredited and undermined by the very Palestinian leadership they were trying to support. As long as Israelis could believe that there were “peace partners” among the Palestinians, they fought to make peace. The Peace Now movement was growing. (By the way, there was no equivalent “peace now” movement among the Arabs.)
Arafat breathlessly proclaimed on the White House lawn, “We will pursue the peace of the brave.” But shortly after all the fanfare and publicity at the White House, in a secret speech in Arabic, Arafat admitted to his Arabic audience that he never meant those words. They were only to mollify the West, he explained, agreed to because of their weakness and lack of any realistic chance to beat Israel militarily. As soon as the Arab army was sufficiently strong, Arafat assured his Arab listeners, they would abrogate any such agreement and slaughter the Jews.
Nothing had changed. As a result of such twofaced doubletalk, such perfidy, the Peace Now movement was discredited and withered. Polls taken among Arab populations reveal that a desire for peace is far less prevalent among the younger generation. Some would have us believe that this is caused by Israeli settlement policies (what else is new?). I certainly do not agree that it was anything Israel did that caused younger Arabs to opt for terror.
For far too many years, the Arabs have gotten a free pass by the world, the U.S., and even Israel when it came to holding them accountable for their warlike, belligerent words. Whenever Arafat’s doubletalk was revealed, the apologists in the Peace Now camp and all the pro-Arab “experts” maintained that you can’t pay attention to such words, as he had to say such things to satisfy the “Arab street.” Which Arafat lie should we believe then?
When King Abdullah recently proposed a resolution in the UN that Jews never had any connection to the Temple Mount, Arab apologists quickly maintained that he really is a friend of Israel but was just afraid of assassination. Some friend!
I believe that the answer to such pronouncements lies in the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish education Arabs have gotten for decades. The reason younger Arabs want Israel’s destruction is because they are trained and indoctrinated to hate Israel from early childhood.
As long as all the maps in the Palestinian schools show Palestine from Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea and make no reference to the existence of the State of Israel, there can be no peace. As long as young Arabs glorify murderers and terrorist and name plazas and streets in their memories, there can be no peace. As long as the Arab leadership pays huge bounties for the murder of Jews, thereby encouraging terror, there can be no peace.
So, let’s be realistic. If the Arabs want to be considered as a partner in peace they must revise their rhetoric. Don’t tell us how much you want peace. Show us. For once, the ball must be in their court. No more doubletalk. How can you negotiate with someone who speaks out of both sides of his mouth? It’s time to hold them accountable for their words.
We need a period of re-indoctrination, preparing for a new generation. When the Jews left Egypt, Moshe kept them in the desert for 40 years. It took that long to forge a new generation that had a different worldview than the slaves of Egypt.
I believe that the Palestinians need to spend years forging a new generation raised with the hope of peace that will coexist with Israel in friendship and partnership. A new generation growing up learning about the Holocaust and about the Jewish connection to and yearning for the Land of Israel. In the absence of such education, they reveal that they are not ready to pursue peace. In such a situation, it’s suicide to create another terrorist state.
After all, the lion may lay down with the lamb, but we all know that the lamb will not have a restful night! Let’s measure deeds and not words. What a ridiculous notion to trade land for empty words.
After changing the schoolbooks to reflect the existence of their neighbor Israel, with children taught about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem, the connection to the Land of Israel, and about Jewish history, including the Holocaust, Arabs would begin to earn Israeli confidence. You would also see the hatred disappear.
So, then, what about the national aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own? How would that be accomplished? There is no historical precedent for a state called Palestine. There was never such an entity. Evidence indicates that no one really wants such an entity to come into existence, despite the rhetoric.
Think about it. If the Arab world had wanted to create such an entity, why did they not create it from 1948 until 1967? After all, Jordan, an Arab state, was in control of the entire territory, West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. What a great opportunity to create their state that they have “longed for.” But they didn’t move to create such a state because they don’t want a Palestinian state! Nor did they even claim the existence of a “Palestinian people.” All of that came into being after 1967 when Israel triumphed. Never mind, some of my centrist friends tell me. Now they have become a people. They exist now!
For me and many like-minded students of history, there is only one viable solution to this 70-year-old problem. Divide the West Bank area, the areas of Israeli “settlements,” and incorporate them into the State of Israel. And take the area inhabited largely by Arabs and join it to Jordan. The Gaza area must be confederated with Egypt.
Now, before you tell me that it will never happen and it’s impossible, take a breath. In the face of the Trump realignment of history, this can become reality. For the first time, nations are thinking to reassess who the Palestinian refugees are and why they are still refugees after 70 years. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Much of the old, conventional wisdom is disappearing. So there!
This idea is decades old and is certainly not my idea. Jabotinsky advocated it and so did Begin. In the 1960s, my Beitar friends and I wore a medallion around our necks depicting both sides of the Jordan River. On it was written: “Shtei Gadot LaYarden” — both sides of the Jordan.
I proposed this solution recently to Gen. Yaakov Amidror of the BESA Center, former Israeli national security advisor, when I had a chance to speak with him at AIPAC. He belittled my idea and told me, “You can’t convince someone to commit suicide,” meaning Jordan. Well, General, should you convince Israel to commit suicide?
The only international expert who supported my idea was John Bolton. He agreed that Jordan is the only option as the Palestinian homeland. With his recent appointment as the U.S. national security advisor, this idea has gained currency. He believes in this even if some Israelis are slow to come around.
So, it’s time to bentch gomel, make a “shehecheyanu,” and refocus on new solutions to this problem. Two states? Time to say Kaddish. Abbas is not long for this earth. The Palestinian people would be better off as citizens of Jordan, integrated into the society of their peers. Palestinians are resourceful and energetic. With the Jordan solution, they would have an opportunity for national self-determination, assuring them and their children a safe and fulfilled life. A win-win for everyone.
At this time when we celebrate Pesach, the Festival of Freedom, it’s time to free ourselves from discarded ideas that that have chained us down.
Dr. Alex Sternberg is a lifelong student of Jewish history, focusing on the development of Zionism and the Holocaust. He is presently teaching graduate studies and is active in several pro-Israel organizations. He is a retired research doctor in children’s pulmonary health and a master karate instructor.