By David Isaac and Shmuel Katz z”l
Where Israel is concerned, the secular New Year is not off to an auspicious start. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently stated that “all matters” would be up for discussion in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. It’s a dramatic break from past Israeli policy, in which Jerusalem was declared off limits. Apparently, Netanyahu has crossed that red line.
According to reports, it’s only one of several red lines Netanyahu has crossed following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on the first of the year in which they discussed ways to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, an outcome ardently wished by the United States.
What would Shmuel Katz say to the latest in what have been a series of collapses that have characterized Netanyahu’s leadership since he assumed power – a leadership which must be a grave disappointment to the Israeli electorate who supported him in the hopes of seeing a leader of firmer resolve.
A prolific columnist, Shmuel never minced words, taking both Likud and Labor governments to task for failing to stand up to international pressure, or make Israel’s case to the world. Likely, he would have decried Netanyahu’s government as one more in a string of administrations that pursued a policy of appeasement.
Indeed, he would have described Netanyahu’s behavior as the very epitome of appeasement. How else to describe the prime minister’s near-immediate collapse in the face of the American president’s call from a Cairo University auditorium to end all settlement construction in Judea and Samaria? Or his most recent signal that he is willing to place Jerusalem on the bloc?
In a pamphlet he co-wrote with Eliezer Livneh, titled “Will Appeasement Lead to Peace?” (available on this site), Shmuel raised the question of whether the prospects of peace would be better if Israel were to retain her borders or hand over territory to the Arabs. The pamphlet, written in the early 1970s, dealt with the possibility that the Arabs would, like Hitler at Munich, “offer a ‘political settlement’ in exchange for the territories they lost through their aggression” – an approach they eventually would adopt 20 years later.
Shmuel warned that succumbing to this stratagem would “restore the enormous strategic advantage they [the Arabs] enjoyed before the Six Day War… The restoration of these strategic advantages to the Arabs will moreover serve as a temptation for renewed aggression. To the Arab rulers it will be a clear indication that it pays to attack us, for if they fail, they can always have their losses returned to them… There is no more certain way of ensuring renewed warfare than by making territorial concessions to the Arab rulers.”
In 2008, Netanyahu spoke at Shmuel’s funeral, recognizing Shmuel’s historic role in the Irgun’s leadership. But what Netanyahu seems incapable of recognizing are the lessons Shmuel taught when he was alive. Rather than move Israel to a position of principle and strength, Israel’s prime minister has chosen to repeat the failed appeasement policies of administrations past.