Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in Israel National News: The empty toolbox
February 6, 2024

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in the Israel National News

On October 7, Palestinian Arab terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, aided by Gazan “civilians” of all ages, invaded Israel, pillaged, plundered, raped, and marauded, murdered approximately 1200 Jews, wounded thousands, and kidnapped hundreds. Tens of thousands of Israelis remain displaced, exiles in their own country.

The Palestinian Authority has yet to condemn the brutal assault and subsidized it in the form of its pay-for-slay program which continues, with a steadily increasing number of terrorist recipients. The attack was greeted with widespread celebrations among Palestinian Arabs and their supporters across the world.

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And Joe Biden wants to reward these people with an independent state, recognized by the United States and the Western world.

This is not only morally repugnant; it is also diplomatic folly, which, if it ever succeeds, would pose a mortal danger to Israel’s existence. Biden has said some nice things and done some important things for Israel since the invasion, for which we should be thankful; he has also said some nasty things and done some incredibly harmful things to Israel, for which we should be wary of his continued support.

An independent Palestinian state Arab is a moral obscenity for several reasons. It literally rewards terror – past, present, and future. Biden and his minions, much like they are doing with Ukraine, are hoping that Israel can defend itself but not prevail in this conflict.

The obsession with Gazan refugees (while concurrently indifferent to the condition of Jewish refugees) has, with irrational Israeli acquiescence, resulted in the unremitting resupply of Hamas’ fuel, food, and other provisions, instead of the evacuation of Gazans from the war zone which is a right afforded all other refugees enmeshed in a conflict. It is designed to make Israel’s military effort much more difficult, essentially an endorsement of the Gazans’ employment as human shields and hampers any possibility of rescuing the hostages. Israel has foolishly consented to this.

Even worse, by insisting since the invasion that Israel cannot remain in Gaza, hold any territory, reduce Gaza’s land size, or displace its population, Biden has created a win-win scenario for Palestinian Arab terrorists. When they attack, they get to murder and plunder as they see fit. They can achieve their goals of sowing fear and terror, murder and mayhem, among Israeli civilians. And when they are repulsed, they lose nothing. They can be crushed, vanquished, and their territory conquered, but then Israel is expected to return the land to the aggressor.

Heads, we lose; tails, they win. With those odds, further attacks are not only inevitable; they are logical. There is then no downside to terrorist acts against Jews.

Obviously, Hamas in Gaza functioned as an independent state. It had defined borders and exercised sovereignty over the territory and its population. And they used this autonomy to build an unimaginably diabolical terror apparatus. Perhaps Biden’s priority in his planned state will be the reconstruction of Hamas’ tunnels, which have been seriously damaged during Israel’s retaliation. Seriously. Win-win for terror.

Why, then, would otherwise intelligent people (all right, they are not all intelligent) proffer – at this point, in the middle of a war – the creation of a Palestinian state?

It is because that is the only tool in their diplomatic toolbox. They have nothing else. In the 1970’s-1990’s, it was assumed that a second Palestinian state (in addition to Jordan) posed an existential threat to Israel. By the 2000’s, this threat was being belittled by elements in the Israeli establishment, mainly those who brought upon us the Oslo catastrophe. If anything, though, the threat has escalated since then, as weaponry has become more deadly and tactics more advanced.

Nevertheless, this remains the only tool in their toolbox. It is perceived as the panacea for everything that ails the Middle East, even though that has been repeatedly disproven. It matters not that most Israelis are against it and most Palestinian Arabs are against it. The international fantasy of the Palestinian state utterly disregards the harm that will be inflicted upon us. We are the guinea pigs of the two-state illusion. And if, G-d forbid, it is somehow foisted upon us, and we are again invaded and brutalized? Well, then, the world will try again, and again. Because they have nothing else.

Whether we are at war or the region is relatively quiet, the diplomats feel the time is ripe for a Palestinian state. When terror strikes and when terror is thwarted, a Palestinian state is the answer. It doesn’t matter – up or down, left or right, day or night, right or wrong – a Palestinian state solves everything, or at least, it is worth it that we die trying to accommodate our enemy. That is the very definition of an empty toolbox.

The most recent threat leaked from the US is the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at war’s end, whether or not we agree. Certainly, that is not the act of a friend or an ally, but so be it. We should recall that “recognition” comes and goes and is not always beneficial to the recipient.

-The US recognized South Vietnam, even went to war and lost more than 55,000 soldiers defending it, but such recognition mattered little in the end. South Vietnam no longer exists.

-The US recognized Taiwan as China – until it did not, leaving it in diplomatic limbo for the last half century with a tepid commitment to its defense (no one seriously entertains the possibility that the US under any Democratic leader would intervene militarily if China invaded Taiwan, or least they should not entertain that).

– The US commitment to Afghanistan was sturdy, at great cost in blood and treasure, until it completely dissipated, seemingly in an instant, a hasty and deadly withdrawal that resembled America’s retreat from Saigon in 1975.

Such recognition – an overtly hostile act towards Israel that should be interpreted as such – is not insignificant but it is also not the end of the world and could have little effect on the ground (aside from nefarious UN involvement that could include sanctions). It will further color the United States’ reputation in much of the world as an unreliable ally. And these types of trial balloons are often floated to try to win concessions in other areas – cease fire, returning Gazans to their homes, more aid, etc.

More ominous is Biden’s unilateral decision to sanction four “extremist settlers.” In his haste to punish some Jew for something to curry favor with Arab voters in America, Biden neglected certain phases in any prosecution – investigation, indictment, arraignment, trial, and verdict. Instead, he jumped straight to the sentencing phase, trampling every notion of justice in a free society.

The four Jews have not been charged with anything in Israel; it seems likely that some anti-Israel leftist group singled them out. The farce is as unnecessary as it is bogus – so-called settler violence, never murderous, against Arab is down in the past year, even as Arab violence against settlers is up. And if the metric for sanctions is, as the Executive Order put it, “actions… that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank,”

Biden should consider sanctioning himself. His desire to establish a Palestinian state will not bring peace, will undermine security, and will destabilize Judea and Samaria.

In any event, we too have played an unfortunate role leading to this dramatic moment and anticipated confrontation. Repeated Israeli governments have failed to provide any strategic vision, instead couching Israeli policy in the amorphous objective of “providing security.” That surely is a worthy goal per se, but it is insufficient as a strategy. It also engenders the claims of our interlocutors that account for (from their perspective) Israel’s security needs, such as a demilitarized state.

Of course, those with an empty toolbox will not recall that the Palestinian Authority was supposed to be demilitarized, as was Gaza after the reckless retreat, and that didn’t turn out well for us.

But we persist, voting time after time for some guy presented to us as “Mr. Security” and never quite succeeding. If our toolbox only contains “security, security,” that too is a losing argument. Too many people across the globe think we are occupying someone else’s land in order to provide security for ourselves. It is time to change the narrative.

Why are we in Judea and Samaria? Why should we not – for the third time! – surrender Gaza to an enemy who attacked us? Why are we in the land of Israel altogether? It is not because of security. It is not because we have “historical ties,” as the cliché goes. It is because this is the land that G-d bequeathed to our forefathers and to their faithful descendants. It is because this land is the foundation on which the Torah is to be fully realized and implemented. It is because we have lived in this land in an unbroken chain since the time of Joshua – a land given to us as the holy land and G-d’s chosen land. That is why we are here.

Faithfulness to the Torah is the key to our continued residence. It provides our spiritual worthiness. “Security” is the mundane manner by which we fortify the divine plan in real time in this world. It is a secondary consideration.

Those with an empty toolbox trumpet our need for security as justification for a diplomatic impasse and opposition to a Palestinian state. But our toolbox – call it our Aron Hakodesh, if you will – needs only the Torah, the basis for our rights in this land. The one tool in the toolbox crowd construes that as extreme. They have nothing else, and they would not grieve that much if their machination was our ruination. They do not want us to win – and they will do everything they can to turn our military victory into a diplomatic defeat, as has frequently happened in the past. And we have allowed that to happen because we have lacked, and failed to articulate, a comprehensive vision of what we want and who we are.

We would be in a better position – spiritually, militarily, and even diplomatically – if we embraced the reality that we are here because this is G-d’s land and He in His wisdom and kindness gave it to us so that we, as a nation, should be able to propagate His word to the world. The world will never adopt that approach if we don’t. And when we do (see keepgodsland.com), we will base our statecraft not on ephemeral political considerations but on eternal values, as befitting an eternal people.

Originally published in the Israel National News

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