Columnist Don Feder drew upon the piercing warning Churchill gave to (then) Great Britain in 1938 to describe Feder’s perception of the current Israeli position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”
Feder believes that none of the candidates for prime minister have the heart to confront Palestinian terrorist violence-not the outgoing prime minister, Ehud Barak; not former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and not the hawkish Ariel Sharon-all of whom have responded with little more than words to Palestinian aggression. (Feder’s column ran on December 20, 2000. In the fast-breaking situation in the Middle East, Netanyahu has since dropped from the race and Shimon Peres has both attempted to join the race and been rejected.)
Perhaps the columnist’s indictment is unfair, for he allows no leniency for the pressure that the U.S. has brought to bear on the Israelis to negotiate with Yasser Arafat. Nonetheless, his echoing of the Churchillian indictment is sobering.
No Churchill exists among the current choices for Israeli prime minister. Or, does he? Some historians believe that circumstances make the leader, rather than vice versa. We may not have long to wait to see the theory tested.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, says, “Arab-Israeli relations…resembles the bad old days of pre-1967.” Overconfidence on the part of Arab nations spurred them into all-out war in June 1967.
A current UPI piece quotes Arab weekly Al-Zawraa, reporting Iraqi Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Hashem Ahmed’s boast that Iraq could destroy Israel and that Iraq would not hesitate to commit its armed forces to defend any Arab country targeted by Israel. The general plainly stated that there would be no Middle East peace until Israel returned the Palestinians’ land to them. He wasn’t referring to disputed territory presently under negotiation, but rather to the long-standing mantra that all Jews must leave Palestine entirely. UPI also reported that between 1.5 and 2 million people responded to a recent call by President Saddam Hussein for “volunteers” to fight against Israeli forces in an Arab-Israeli war over Palestine.
Daniel Pipes describes a believable scenario of Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli responses that could spark a full-scale war. The present climate calls for patience and wisdom, coupled with firm and appropriate governmental action.
As the outgoing U.S. president pushes Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, hoping to accrue to himself this positive legacy in the annals of history, the present reality implies that war is more likely than peace.
Sources: “Israel’s Leaders Choose Dishonor, Will Get War,” by Don Feder, www.jewishworldreview.com, December 20, 2000; “Iraq Can Destroy Israel, Defense Minister Says,” by Ghassan al-Kadi, UPI, December 21, 2000; “The Winds of War,” by Daniel Pipes, The Jerusalem Post, December 20, 2000.