You Get One Mistake
I have a good friend who served in Israel’s fledgling army during the 1948 War of Independence. He was fresh from Europe, after having successfully run the Nazi gauntlet in Poland as a disenfranchised Jewish war waif. He arrived in Israel just in time to learn that now that he had reached his homeland, he was in a new fight for survival. As the new inductee stood before his commander, along with a group of scruffy-looking youngsters still wearing the ashen faces forged in the death camps, he heard some intriguing words.
“You have been specially chosen to serve your country in a capacity asked of no one else in the army. Your job,” the officer said, “will require you to be perfect every time. You will be trained to remove land mines and disarm other dangerous devices. One thing you must never forget: In this job, you are allowed only one mistake. Do it right every time, or you won’t get another chance.”
I once asked my friend how he managed to “do it right every time” through five wars and live to enjoy his grandchildren with all of his body parts intact. “First,” he replied, “I learned that I could never move too fast. Many made that mistake and are not with us today. Then, I always watched my next step. I wanted to know what I would be standing on. Finally, I understood how my enemy thought and what patterns he was apt to use in planting the mines.”
I thought of my friend’s formula for survival while going over some news releases from the Middle East recently. Yasser Arafat was pleading for international arbitration to force the prime minister to give up the 450 Jewish residents in Hebron and withdraw Israeli forces to areas unacceptable to Israel. The central issue was Israel’s demand to pursue terrorists who attack Jews in Hebron in areas under Palestinian control. This is Israel’s most forceful option for discouraging such hit-and-run radicals. The chairman was wroth to the point of telling the world that he was on the verge of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state.
An emboldened Hafez al Assad of Syria was playing with fire by placing troops near Israeli positions on Mount Hermon and issuing not-so-veiled threats that he might choose the military option to seize the Golan. Meanwhile, Israel’s defense minister accused Syria of developing the lethal nerve gas VX and other chemical weapons with Russia’s assistance. Bad news indeed, now that Syria possesses longer-range Scuds capable of reaching any point in Israel.
According to the CIA, China is doing its bit for Syria by sending sensitive guidance equipment for the Chinese-made M-11 surface-to-surface missiles.
As if this were not enough, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese are selling massive amounts of arms to Iran, along with making a commitment to build two 300-megawatt nuclear power reactors that carry the potential of being used for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
In Lebanon, the Iranians have delivered huge quantities of weapons to Hizbullah terrorists. These arms, delivered by way of Damascus, are sent to enable Hizbullah to continue harassing Israel from the north while keeping South Lebanese civilians under their control.
And while Chinese and Russian nuclear technology travels the trade routes toward the most radical capitals in the Middle East, resolutions are passed at Arab summit meetings demanding that Israel open suspected nuclear stockpiles to inspection and take the nonproliferation pledge.
The Field of Dreams
The Oslo Accords were forged by well-intentioned Israeli leaders who were sick of war and beguiled by the rising chorus to “give peace a chance.” Thus they moved forward on the premise that if people wished for peace and believed strongly enough that their adversaries felt the same way—it would happen.
I suppose we could say that their desire was reminiscent of the character in the movie, Field of Dreams, who, wishing to cavort with long-gone big league baseball players, built a diamond in the middle of a cornfield. He did it on the strength of a phantom phrase: “If you build it, they will come.” But the Middle East is far removed from Hollywood. It is a land where dreams are more often shattered than realized.
While we may not find fault with the desire for peace, we must also recognize that Benjamin Netanyahu inherited the consequences of a flawed dream and has been charged by the majority of Israeli citizens to deliver a rational alternative—namely, peace with security.
Facts such as the few mentioned here, have demonstrated unequivocally that—peace process or no peace process—there are Muslim states and their terrorist surrogates who also have a dream. It is to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Such is the reality the present Israeli government must live with while attempting to keep formal commitments made by their predecessors.
Time: On Whose Side?
We have heard for years that Israel’s enemies in the Middle East firmly believe that time is on their side. This will be true only if Israeli leaders allow themselves to be propelled toward untenable concessions with the abandon of love-starved suitors rushing headlong into bad marriages.
If we can learn one thing from the history of the Jews, it is that Israel is indestructible. Biblical declaration and historical documentation stand as twin witnesses to this truth. Furthermore, before Mohammed drew a breath or the Christian era was born, Jewish people had established an inextinguishable national imprint on the Middle East and touched the lives of every nation on the planet. Actually, time has always been on little Israel’s side—a fact we would do well to remember.
Therefore, Benjamin Netanyahu and the people of Israel should be encouraged not to waver before the winds of Arab hysteria designed to force hurried agreements. Nor should they bow to pressures from those in the Western world who, with nothing to lose but Israel, counsel ceremonial handshakes and quick decisions.
We in the West do not live in a minefield. The prime minister and the people of Israel do. This being the case, in a more literal sense than any of us may wish to concede, Benjamin Netanyahu may be allowed “only one mistake.” His is a burden no human being should be asked to carry. All true friends of Israel should therefore be supportive of caution over concession and understand the rules of conduct in such circumstances:
“Never move too fast; always watch where your next step will take you; and know what your enemy is thinking.”