Want to Understand Israel?

(Huffington Post) David Harris - I believe that anyone who genuinely seeks peace should consider four key factors that inform the Israeli worldview. First, geography. The throwaway line these days is that geography no longer matters in an era of long-range missiles. Not so fast. Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey. To put it into a Middle East context, Egypt is approximately 50 times larger than Israel, Saudi Arabia a hundred times. Until its 1967 war for survival, Israel's borders, which were nothing more than the armistice lines, were 9 miles at their narrowest point, near the country's midsection and most populous area. Topography matters too. When the towering Golan Heights were in the hands of Syria before the Six-Day War, for example, Jewish villages and farms below were regularly targeted by Syrian shelling. Second, history. Notwithstanding Arab claims to the contrary, the Jewish people have been linked to this region for over 3,000 years. The bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is central to the historical narrative. The metaphysical and physical link between the Jewish people and its wellsprings of history and holiness must be acknowledged. Third, psychology. Some dismiss Israel's preoccupation with security as obsessive. But Israel has a history. So do the Jewish people. And it teaches that there are those who wish to do harm and mean what they say. They are not to be neglected or minimized. That history also teaches that, all too often, Israel and the Jewish people have stood largely alone in facing the danger. Pledges of help are more often made than kept. So yes, Israel has every right, indeed obligation, to take Iran's nuclear ambitions seriously -- just as it has every right, indeed, obligation, to take seriously the 40,000 missiles in Hezbollah's arsenal in Lebanon and the desire of Hamas in Gaza to emulate Hezbollah's example. And fourth, yearning. The survivors of the exiles, the pogroms, the inquisitions, the blood libels, the ghettos, and the death camps don't need lectures about why they should seek "normality." When it has credible, committed partners in the search for peace, as history has amply shown, Israel will go to great territorial lengths, even at risk to its own security, to achieve a solution. The writer is the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee.

2011-08-22 00:00:00

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