Jul 5, 2009

Howard Teich : "Driving Our Own Destiny"

Driving Our Own Destiny

Howard Teich - May 29, 2009
Long Island Jewish World


There is a bottom line, for now. Negotiations for a two state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict have been nearly disastrous, and have led down a path that has failed to bring peace closer. While those who push for the solution are well meaning, it will not work now, and it's time for American Jewish leaders to take their heads out of the sand and forcefully and loudly support a strong and effective future for Israel on its own terms.

The Israeli population spoke in the last election, voicing the opinion that a two-state solution is off the table for the time being. Their message was that continuing policy initiatives of the past is not the way to go.

Oslo has proven to be a false start. Retreating from southern Lebanon only set up a new front for anti-Israel terrorists. The withdrawal from Gush Katif created a strongly militant terrorist state in Gaza that refuses ever to recognize Israel, and in fact calls for its destruction. And let's not forget earlier withdrawals from the entirety of the Sinai and parts of the Golan that Israel made in the name of peace. Israel has given back more territory than the size of its entire country today for the possibility of peace.

In return, Israel has faced intifadas in its own country, wars in Lebanon and then in Gaza, the need to build a wall to thwart suicide killings in Israel by separating Israel proper from its homeland in Judea and Samaria, attacks on Jewish citizens in Judea and Samaria, and the threat of a new Iranian power.

Additionally, the number of worldwide anti-Semitic incidents has risen, in direct correlation to Israel and the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Although money continues to flow into Palestinian territory, the people living there seem to be increasingly militant without developing economically or furthering peace.

Let's get it straight. After 61 years as a state, Israel is facing the threat of extinction by 100 million Arabs who surround it, from the Palestinians on its borders to the Iranians thousands of miles away. The Arabs remain unwilling to let Israelis live in peace. Going back to 1947 and earlier, the Arabs used the term "Palestinian" to gain additional land from the Jewish people, and succeeded. We cannot let that happen again.

The Land of Israel today is on the historic land of the Jewish people dating back to Moses and before. That land included Judea and Samaria as well as Jerusalem and Gaza, and in fact, a significant part of Lebanon and Syria. Through wars and extermination, the land of the Jewish people was reduced in size by foreign occupants, until it was re-established and recognized by the world community.

Multiple wars later, the Jewish people continue to fight for their right to have a homeland. The Arabs refuse to recognize this reality, and continue to use force, and now diplomacy, world opinion and terrorism, to destroy Israel. Those are the facts on the ground. The Arab world's attempts to thwart peace with the mission of ridding the Middle East of a Jewish civilization must be seen for what it is, and brought to an end.

So, yes it is time for a change. Certain principles guide my view. First, Israel should never again retreat from land it possesses. It has no obligation to do so. Of paramount importance, we must abide by the principle that Jews should be allowed to live any place in this world that they choose to live.

How outrageous to think that a peace agreement is being proposed and discussed based on the idea of all-Arab territory, where Jews would not be able to live, whether it be Gaza, or Judea and Samaria, or even as it was with Yamit in the Sinai. I hope that we have learned never again to accept the word "judenrein" when it applies to our Jewish community.

The second principle is that Israel cannot turn its enemies into friends through retreat, but only through strength. That was one of the earliest teachings of the great founders of Israel, such as Ben Gurion, and the lesson remains the same today. The threats posed by the Palestinians and other Arabs, as well as the Iranians' words of destruction against the State of Israel, must be taken seriously.

The third principle is that we must be proud of our Jewish heritage and our return to Israel. Perhaps the term "Greater Israel" is appropriate here. The original vision of Israel in the Bible encompassed the land West of the Jordan River, including our previous kingdoms of Judea and Samaria, the entirety of Jerusalem, and the land of Gaza. Israel has every right to exist in that land forever, and its claim is not secondary to that of the Palestinian Arabs. I reject the concept and the terminology that the lands are occupied territories.

The fourth principle is the most clear for me. Israel can never enter into a peace agreement unless it can be convinced that it will both offer a real, long-term peace and negate the probability of enhancing the strength of Israel's enemies.

We must remember certain facts. With the great wealth of the Arabs, and their vast resources of land, the Palestinian people could be guaranteed by their brethren Arabs an incredible future on their land if they so choose. Jordan was to be the Palestinian state, and they threw many of their Palestinian people out of their country. Maintaining the U.N. refugee camps has only continued the hardships of many of the Palestinian people. It is clear that the plight of the Palestinian people will not necessarily be resolved by an independent Palestinian state.

Although I opposed the withdrawal from Gush Katif, it was done, and Gaza was set up for the Palestinians to demonstrate that they could establish a positive society on their own land. They did not, and the fact is that Hamas set out in Gaza under Iranian guidance to disrupt, if not destroy Israel. That cannot, must not and will not be.

Until the day that the Palestinians accept Israel's right to be a Jewish state, their leadership credentials remain clouded. There can be no peace with them, and no one should be pushing Israel into a peace that is no peace at all.

It is time that American Jewry recognizes the realities on the ground, and stands firmly with Israel on them. We must be steadfast in our paramount interest that Israel's right to determine its own future is non-negotiable.

Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik said with regard to the Holocaust, as I learned from the Simon Wiesenthal Center's new Moriah Film, Against the Tide, "We must drive our own destiny, and transform fate into destiny during our life." This must be the commitment of world Jewry today. We may not live in Israel, and yet, living in America, it is clear that we can do something they cannot do alone. We can proudly shout out with a clarion call that Israel exists, and is entitled to a secure future just like every country on Earth. We must convince the world.

Am Yisrael chai.

Howard Teich, a practicing attorney in New York, has held many leadership positions in the Jewish community. For comments, e-mail howardbteich@aol.com