Just for a second, imagine this. Imagine there had been no Six Day War. Imagine that the Arab countries surrounding Israel had realized that they couldn't win that fight -- that, in fact, they were liable to lose big time. Imagine that instead of massing their armies and forcing Israel into a pre-emptive strike, they had grumpily settled down to live with the status quo: a Jewish State existing side-by-side with them, tucked neatly within the 1949 armistice lines. No formal recognition, mind you, no diplomatic relations, just hostile but non-combative co-existence. What would the Middle East look like today?
Well, of course, that's an impossible question to answer. Too many other factors come into play. But we can make a few guesses about a few things. Jerusalem would still be divided, with barbed wire running through its center. Jews would still be forbidden to pray at the Western Wall or the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Syrian (or perhaps Hezbollah) snipers would still be taking potshots at Israeli communities in the northeastern Galilee from their positions atop the Golan Heights. And there would be no Occupation -- at least by Israel.
Ah, no Occupation. No checkpoints, no fence, no curfews or destruction of terrorist-sheltering olive groves. But, most likely, the refugee camps would still be there, festering. The palestinian refugees in them would still be there, multiplying. And the Egyptian and Jordanian governments would still be trying to figure out what to do with them, while the U.N. passed resolutions condemning them and the E.U. pointed its accusing fingers . . . hmmm. Well, maybe not that last part. Probably, neither the U.N. nor the E.U. nor the International Solidarity Movement, assuming there would even be such a thing, would be paying very much attention at all. But the refugee scenario is a good bet, because the last thing that Egypt or Jordan would ever have considered doing was providing either sovereignty or relief to the palestinian refugees living under their control.
Israel, in the meantime, well, I wonder. Would it be a thriving country, enjoying pretty good relations with most of the planet? With no Occupation, it's entirely possible that Israel's fall from grace as the "good guy" in the Middle East picture could have been sustained. It's hard to imagine what stick the antisemites of the world would have found with which to turn the tables and beat up on such a tiny little country, minding its own business. Somehow, though, I suspect they would have managed. It's the tenor of our times.
I've spent the past few days reading over my cousins' Holocaust memoirs. Tough reading. Throughout their horrific experiences in the ghetto and the camps, they kept asking themselves the same question: what did we do? Why is this happening to us? Why will no one put a stop to it? There was only one answer: because we're Jews. No other reason was deemed necessary.
I resist accepting this answer to Israel's problems. I still can't wrap my mind around a world where such a thing could be true. Not with respect to Jews or anyone else. But I do know, for an absolute fact, that once upon a time, it was. No, twice, thrice, too many times upon a time, it was. And it stands to reason, then, that it could be again. Are we approaching such a time? God help us all.
In the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel tried to trade most of the territory it had won for peace. No deal. At Oslo, and then again at Camp David, Israel tried to trade most of the territory it had won, for peace. And again, no deal. And, really, why should there be? Why take half a loaf when you expect that you can get the whole? Peace, unfortunately, is the goal of only one side, here. The goal of the other side is victory, retribution, repudiation.
I say this with utter conviction, because there is no scrap, no shred of evidence to the contrary. So long as those who believe there is no place for a Jewish State in the Middle East (and this includes, sadly, all of Israel's neighbors) see the slightest chance of removing that "blight" from their midst, no offer, no proposal will be accepted that doesn't include that removal. Not withdrawal to the '67 borders, not withdrawal to the Partition segments, not withdrawal to Tel Aviv. Certainly, they'll accept unilateral "disengagements" and "redeployments." But there will be nothing provided in return until and unless they understand, once and for all, that the Jews simply are not going to go away.
In many ways, the Six Day War was a great victory for Israel, and for Jews all over the world. But I wonder, in the long run, who really won. Jordan and Egypt divested themselves of a troublesome population they didn't want anyway, and acquired that mighty stick of the Occupation, which has served them unimaginably well. Egypt ended up getting back the Sinai in exchange for basically nothing. Syria was the only real loser.
Am I suggesting, then, that the answer is to leave Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan? Of course not. It's not 1967. That clock can't be turned back. And, again, didn't Barak basically try (much of) that at Camp David? No, my imaginary world is just that -- a fantasy. Because hostile but non-combative co-existence was never an option for Israel's neighbors. The only alternative to the actual outcome of the Six Day War was not my happily-ever-after scenario but the obliteration of the State of Israel. No thanks.
Well, if you're still reading, thanks for sticking it out. This has been a long ramble and I'm not even going to edit it. Much. So up it goes, warts, inconclusiveness and all.