Eldad: PA’s Abbas not a moderate
The former Senior Commander and Chief Medical Officer of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), current Member of Knesset on the National Union list, and former head of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital’s Burn Unit at the height of the ongoing Palestinian terror war, Brigadier-General Arieh Eldad, delivered the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Bob Guzzardi Distinguished Lecture this week in New York. Speaking to an audience of 400 at New York City’s beautiful Congregation Edmond J. Safra, on the topic of “Israel at 60: Where Are We Now?, Gen. Eldad explained the background to his decision to forsake the world of medicine and enter politics, recounting the story of a failed suicide bomber who came to Israel from Europe and suffered massive burns to his body when his explosives detonated early. The bomber, who had a wife and children, was not from an impoverished background and spoke at length with him during his hospitalization, which “taught me some very important lessons about the conflict in the Middle East.” This included the realization that Arabs will never agree to Israel‘s presence, even though radical leftists continue to work for the absorption of Jews into the Arab world. Continuing to treat hundreds of victims of suicide bombings, Gen. Eldad concluded that he should enter politics to deal with the situation causing death and injury to hundreds of Israelis since, “as in other fields of medicine, preventive medicine is the most cost effective to practice. Vaccination rather than antibiotics, but this is best done in the Knesset, not in the emergency room.”
Gen. Eldad reminded his audience that Yitzhak Rabin, in his autobiography, written before he embarked on the Oslo process, stated that a Palestinian state can only be created on the ruins of the state of Israel. (Rabin, in his last address to the Knesset in October 1995, said that the Palestinian entity to be created would be “less than a state”). Eldad also said that his experiences had taught him that “the conflict between Jews and Arabs in land of Israel is not a territorial conflict,” and that this fact invalidates the idea that sharing the land between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs can of itself bring a solution. Eldad revisited all the past attempts at sharing land the 1922 excision of Transjordan, the 1937 Peel Commission plan, the 1947 UN partition plan all of which led to ¾ of the land given to the Arab side, without that ever being enough to placate it.
Gen. Eldad quoted Einstein’s well-known definition of insanity as consisting of repeating the same experiment while expecting different results to describe the on-going, current efforts to again divide the land by handing it over to a Palestinian partner who still does not accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. To those who advocate this course, territory possesses no strategic significance, but the results of the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza has shown the falsity of this idea when it comes to the security of Israel and its citizens. He also discussed the failure of the Israeli education system and its present inability to educate the public as to its own historical, religious and legal connection to the land.
Gen. Eldad also repudiated clearly the notion that Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas is some sort of moderate who ought to be strengthened so he can fight Hamas, when in fact he “can’t even prevent a car theft in Ramallah.” Moreover real Palestinian moderates remain unfortunately irrelevant, since they have no power or influence in Palestinian society, whereas most Muslims see Israel as a waqf, a Muslim land over which infidels like Jews may not rule. Failure to understand this has produced Israel‘s policy failures, because “when you misdiagnose, you have only a very small chance to prescribe well.” Yet, when Yossi Beilin and his associates “introduced Arafat into our body and reduced the immunity of the Israelis by intoxicating them with false hopes of peace, that is when the weakness of Israel became the main characteristic of Israel we see today.”
On the demographic threat to Israel that many have pointed to as necessitating Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Gen. Eldad debunked some of the oft-heard claims of an impending Palestinian majority, pointing out how many politically-motivated demographers, keen to push Israel towards a path of concessions, counted twice the Arabs of Jerusalem, incorrectly extrapolated population forecasts and accepted uncritically Palestinian figures that had been deliberately inflated. These matters have been dissected in detail by Bennett Zimmerman and others. The demographic problem is real, but not urgent in the way many think and in any case not solvable by renouncing the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria. To applause, Gen. Eldad said, that “If we have the right to live in Tel Aviv, certainly we have the right to live in Hebron.”
General Eldad continued: “I believe that Jordan is a de facto Palestinian state. I believe that if we are able to resettle the bulk of the Arab refugees and their descendents, we could solve much of the problem. In the last 60 years, your tax dollars go to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] which means going to incitement to kill Americans and Jews all over the world. Even in east Jerusalem, which is under the Israeli state, the schools teach the Palestinian state curriculum.” Gen. Eldad said that with $35 billion, it would be possible to resettle 1 million refugees in ten years an achievable goal, whereas other plans like two-state solution ignore the refugee problem. Yet, as long as it exists, they’ll be more potential fuel for this conflict. “We will not have peace with the Arabs, but we can reduce the friction.”
Gen. Eldad also recounted how he had submitted in the Knesset a ‘Land of Israel‘ bill, which many in Likud opposed. Eldad showed them afterwards that every line of his bill was copied verbatim from the Likud platform. He also told of his efforts to found a new party, Hatikvah, which is a party neither religious nor secular aimed at representing that large part of the Israeli population which opposed concessions to the PA but which does not feel represented by the current mix of religious and nationalist Knesset lists.
During question time, Gen. Eldad noted that, as commander of the field hospital in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide, he had seen how one million refugees had been resettled within 9 months, whereas only the Palestinian refugees are maintained in a holding pattern for decades. He added that U.S. pressure alone could succeed in reforming UNRWA and altering its mandate to conform to that of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which deals with, and solves, all other refugee problems. He also proposed a three-step process for dealing with the incessant continuing rocket fire directed at Sderot, Ashkelon and other Israeli cities: first, to disconnect Gaza from Egypt by Israel retaking control of the Philadelphi Corridor, seeing that Egypt does not fulfill its obligations under the 1979 peace treaty to prevent terrorism and infiltration from Egyptian territory. This will cost Israel lives, but he warned there is “no way for Israel to exist in the Middle East without paying the price, because refusing to pay the price now means paying a very much higher one later; second, Israel should take over the northern buffer zone and rebuild and restore the three flourishing communities that it destroyed; and third, retake Gaza by military force and clear it of all armed Palestinian groups. Failing to do so will only increase the risks and losses over time: “we are going to have katyusha missiles on Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat, then missiles that reach Dimona and Tel Aviv as well.”
Gen. Eldad also noted that it is crucial for the U.S. to cut aid to Egypt if it hopes to have any change in Egypt‘s policy of doing nothing to stop terrorism into Israel and failing to co-operate more generally in the war on Islamism. As to the possibility of Israel’s Arab population constituting a fifth column, he said that reading the statements and documents of Israeli Arab MKs, and various Israeli Arab representative bodies show that they really reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The solution is for every Israeli citizen to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish democratic state: whoever does not would lose the right to vote: “They will be residents, not citizens.” For the Knesset to deal with this, however, there must first be electoral reform so that Knesset members become answerable to the public and constituencies, not just party whips: at present, Israelis vote only for party lists, not individual candidates, who represent no electoral district to whose constituency they are accountable. This impedes scrutiny of the conduct of individual MKs and thus reduces accountability to the electorate. It would also be necessary to have judicial reform, especially of the appointment process for judges to the Supreme Court. At present, the judges are not appointed by the Knesset, but by a panel in which unelected judges and lawyers are the majority. This serves to perpetuate the stranglehold on the court by radical, left-wing activist judges. Gen. Eldad also addressed the issue of political corruption in Israel and how the corruption of officials has even extended to prime ministers who in turn become susceptible to blackmail and who therefore may pursue policies not in the national interest in order to appease the media and to provide a distraction.