By David Isaac
This quip by American journalist H.L. Mencken contains a profound truth, particularly where the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. There has been no end to plans to ‘solve the problem’. Many never get off the ground. Those that do – think Oslo – end in predictably awful results. As Shmuel writes:
A nation cannot fight wars against an enemy aiming at its destruction while its leaders are occupied with fatuous flights of fancy about peace and formulae for negotiations. (“Flight of Fancy,” The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 6, 2005)
The reason the conflict is unsolvable is one side isn’t interested in solving it. To put it another way, one side offers a kind of solution – annihilation of the other side. As Shmuel writes in “False Prophets won’t Face the Facts” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 1986):
[W]e all are caught in a problem to which there is no ready solution in sight. The Arabs have not given up their purpose of dismantling the Jewish State and gaining sovereign control over the whole country – whether in two stages or in a one-stage war; and the only rational prospect of their abandoning that purpose is that they have no hope of achieving it.
Those who don’t shy away from obvious and unpleasant facts will scratch their heads in puzzlement at Israel’s repeated efforts to seek peace with an enemy bent on its destruction. Shmuel said that this behavior was the result of Jewish history and its centuries of exile. In “Lessons the Arabs Taught” (The Jerusalem Post, February 1, 1985), Shmuel writes:
[It represents] a mood, indeed a mode of thought, that has coloured Jewish political action ever since the days of deep galut.
Among its main ingredients is wishful thinking, a recoil from harsh reality, a retreat into delusion. …
Since 1947, it has found expression in the illusion that the Arabs are, in fact, interested in peace with an existent Jewish state, and that only the failure to find the formula for its size prevents such peace. Hence the acceptance of the grotesque partition proposal of 1947 and, ever since, the repeated offers of “compromise,” a giving-up here, a giving-in there, a giving back elsewhere.
A small, but telling example of this ‘retreat into delusion’ is apparent in a June interview with Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli Chief of Staff, and now a minister in Israel’s government. The interviewer, a left-wing journalist, recoils at Ya’alon’s remarks about the hopelessness of seeking a solution.
Ya’alon said, “In the present situation ‘solution’ is a dirty word. … There are problems in life that have no solution. And at the moment the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a problem with no solution. Anyone who suggests a solution now – of one kind or another – is not suggesting a true solution but a false illusion. A golden calf. Self-deception.”
This is too much for the reporter. He says to Ya’alon, “I understand what you are saying, but it is impossible to live with what you are saying. All you are offering me is a wall, an iron wall, a determined stance. There is no hope in your words. No latitude. No movement toward some sort of horizon.”
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made the Sunday talk show rounds on Sept. 16, insisting that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Islamic video, even as Libya’s president contradicted her, saying the attackers had spent months preparing to strike on the anniversary of 9-11.
Clearly, the amateur video was just an excuse for the Islamists to rile up their base. The real reason for the attacks is rooted in the Islamic belief system, which holds that there is a region of peace (Dar al-Islam) and a region of war (Dar al-Harb), and that Islam must spread throughout the world and that those who do not submit must be forced to submit. These facts are frightening. They don’t lend themselves to an easy solution. A YouTube video is a much more manageable problem.
Unlike America, Israel doesn’t have the luxury to ignore the truth, and frankly less excuse, having repeatedly been attacked by the Arabs. As Shmuel writes, “[W]e should have learned from bitter experience time after time since 1948.” Retreating into delusion no doubt has its pleasures but it’s the willingness to face unpleasant reality that offers Israel real hope to resist its would-be destroyers.
Shmuel’s words in his aptly named 1982 monograph “No Solution to the Arab Problem” ring as true today:
At this time — objectively, and notwithstanding the theoretical acrobatics indulged in by persons of good will and by various professors of political science — no solution looms on the horizon for the “problem,” however it may be defined.