Whose bayonets?

by Maskil on 15 May 2008

I am not a fan of Moshe Feiglin and his Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) movement. I have no choice, however, but to agree with his analysis in a recent article “Shamir’s Blunder” in The Jewish Press, in which he says:

From the end of the War of Independence in 1949 until the Gulf War in 1991, Israel’s civilian population was out of bounds. Israel had created a balance of fear, making it clear to the world that shelling Israel’s civilian population was not an option and would lead to all-out war. When the Syrians shelled Israeli towns in 1967, Israel retaliated by conquering the Golan Heights.

But in the Gulf War, under intense pressure from Israel’s Left, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir overturned two strategic principles that Israel had carefully preserved until then. The first principle was that only Israeli soldiers would be responsible for Israel’s security. The second principle was that any attack on Israel’s civilian population would be completely unacceptable. When Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Israel’s cities, Israel opted to hide behind the broad shoulders of the American and British soldiers, moved U.S. Patriot missiles into strategic locations – and instructed its citizens to cover all windows with sheets of plastic and masking tape.

Ultimately, Israel will have no choice but to restore the power of deterrence that it lost in the Gulf War. But in the meantime, Israel has a two-pronged strategy for dealing with the threat to its existence. First, it rolled out the red carpet for the American president so that he will be kind enough to protect Israel after it surrenders Jerusalem. Second, it has provided its citizens with a glossy pamphlet explaining which room to hide in when the missiles strike.

These strategic principles go all the way back to at least the early 1920s, and were best framed by Jabotinsky as “an iron wall of Jewish bayonets” in his fundamental “On the Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)”.

All of us, without exception, are constantly demanding that this power [the Mandatory] strictly fulfill its obligations. In this sense, there are no meaningful differences between our “militarists” and our “vegetarians.” One prefers an iron wall of Jewish bayonets, the other proposes an iron wall of British bayonets, the third proposes an agreement with Baghdad, and appears to be satisfied with Baghdad’s bayonets — a strange and somewhat risky taste — but we all applaud, day and night, the iron wall. We would destroy our cause if we proclaimed the necessity of an agreement, and fill the minds of the Mandatory with the belief that we do not need an iron wall, but rather endless talks. Such a proclamation can only harm us. Therefore it is our sacred duty to expose such talk and prove that it is a snare and a delusion.

[Jabotinsky, V., “On the Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)”, in On the Way to Statehood (Hebrew), pp. 258-259.]

Many things may appear to have changed since then, but the need for an iron wall of Jewish bayonets to protect Jewish lives (and the sanctity of Jewish life) in Israel has never gone away.

From all that I have read and heard, the man in the street in Israel, the centre or Middle Israel understands this well enough. Now we need our Israeli leaders to catch up with their constituencies.


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