Two Jewish boys watching the sunset in the West Bank. (JTA/Laura Ben-David)
Two Jewish boys watching the sunset in the West Bank. (JTA/Laura Ben-David)

U.S. policy on Israeli settlements is the right call

In her opinion piece last month, Susie Gelman claimed that President Trump’s recognition of the legality of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and his encouragement of Israel’s annexation of some of those territories, violates the liberal world order established after World War II that forbids the acquisition of territory by force (“Trump is undermining America’s future relationship with Israel”).

In fact, this “liberal world order” has always been aspirational, never practical, and is becoming less and less relevant to today’s events.

The idea that all national boundaries, and all national rivalries, could be frozen at a particular point in time and never changed thereafter, except by peaceful diplomatic agreement of all concerned parties, is simply not the way the real world works.

No self-respecting nation, including Israel, is going to sacrifice its vital national interests because of disapproval from a small group of utopian idealists whose view of life has little connection to reality.

Ms. Gelman’s main practical objection to the annexation of the historically Jewish land seems to be that it could make the Arabs angry and might even result in violence. The answer to that is that Israel’s very existence makes the Arabs angry, and experience has shown that they’ll never agree to live in peace with it so long as they can still retain the hope of destroying it.

So Israel’s goal must be to destroy that hope by responding to every Arab attack in such a way that it tightens its grip on the land rather than loosens it.

Critics will say that Israel’s enemies are too numerous to be defeated and that Israel cannot prevail militarily in the long term. They’ll say that Israel must abandon its dream of restoring its biblical homeland, strike a deal with its enemies even if it requires major territorial concessions and settle for a smaller, weaker state that its enemies might perhaps be willing to let live in peace.

This type of negative thinking is extremely dangerous for Israel.

It’s the same type of thinking that led many people to oppose Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, because they were sure it would lead to a mass slaughter of Jews.

Everyone who has ever predicted Israel’s demise has been proved wrong.

Similarly, in 1967, in the run-up to the Six Day War, many people said that Israel was going to be destroyed and everyone should leave while they still could. Obviously, the results turned out very differently from what the doomsayers predicted.

In fact, everyone who has ever predicted Israel’s demise has been proved wrong, and sometimes deliverance has come from unexpected places. As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion put it, “In Israel, if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.”

The way for Israel to have peace with its neighbors is to demonstrate to them that any attack on the Jewish state will cost them more than they’re willing to pay. Despite its small size, Israel has everything it needs to prevail over its enemies. But it has to use its strengths wisely.

When it projects strength and determination, it deters attacks and thus increases peace. But when it radiates fear or weakness, such as by offering needless concessions, it invites attacks and lessens peace.

Israel’s highest national interest is to take full possession of its entire biblical homeland and settle it everywhere with Jews, creating facts on the ground that no one will be able to reverse, and it must act with firm confidence and conviction that it has every right to do so.

It may not be able to achieve all of these goals in the immediate short term, but it must never lose sight of these goals, and it must never do anything that would compromise its ability to achieve them in the future.

The United States’ new policy creates a window of opportunity for advancing toward these goals, and Israel should move quickly to fully utilize this opportunity.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Martin Wasserman
Martin Wasserman

Martin Wasserman is host of the technology-oriented cable TV show “Future Talk,” former host of the cable show “Spotlight on the Middle East” and a retired software developer. He lives in Palo Alto.