Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Poet Naftali Herz Imber's handwritten text of Hatikvah
Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley is a key issue for the Israeli right, and exercising that right may just swing the vote for Netanyahu in the upcoming March 2 election, the third this year after two other elections failed to yield a clear majority. President Trump, meantime, is staying Bibi’s hand, telling him he can’t do this sovereignty thing quite yet. “We are going to do this with the agreement of the Americans, because this can’t be a one-sided act. We want US consent and we have it,” said Netanyahu.
But we don’t. If we did, the deed would have already been done. And Bibi would not now be walking back the promise he made that he would declare sovereignty before the March 2 election.
To me, this is not a complicated situation. Netanyahu, to his credit, is not using the “A” word, “annexation.” He speaks of exercising sovereignty as a right. It is Israel’s right as a sovereign nation, to declare sovereignty over the indigenous territories that we recaptured during defensive wars, such as in 1967. It is the media that uses the “A” word (annexation), even suggesting they are quoting from Netanyahu, as in this Jerusalem Post article from February 10: Netanyahu: We want to annex settlements with US support, not without.
What is absolutely uncomplicated is that Netanyahu believes these are Israel’s sovereign territories, as does a large sector of the Israeli people. If Israel is a sovereign country, we do not need Trump to give us permission to do what is necessary to implement our territorial rights, to protect what is ours. It is disturbing to me that we would once again wait for permission from America, to do what we need to do. Which is not about taking something from someone else, but exercising our right to what we already have—what we already earned and inherited.
Doing the American president’s bidding is something Israel is always being forced to do, like not responding during the Gulf War, because America asked us not to do so. That move turned us into sitting ducks (and disrespected victims). It was NOT a good move for Israel and Israelis, but rather a move that Israel made for the sake of its relationship with the U.S. The move hurt, rather than help Israel. It affected our standing, the way people see us. It turned us into a nation lamed, or on a leash.
This is far beneath the basic goal of Zionism, which is for the Jewish people to be sovereign in Jewish indigenous territory.
What will waiting on Trump’s pleasure achieve? The Arabs will not be happier if Israel waits a few months to make this important and necessary move. They will respect Israel far more if Israel grows a pair, and goes ahead and does what should have been done long ago.
There will of course be diplomatic fallout when Israel declares itself sovereign over all its territory. There always is. Because everyone loves to hate Israel, and bully it and shove it into a corner so the Arabs won’t miss when they target us. Or for whatever reason is expedient to those nations that tell us what to do.
But isn’t real Zionism about Israel asserting itself and doing what is best for Israel?
And about this deal of the century: Isn’t it time we stopped agreeing to give away bits and pieces of our land and our sovereignty, betting on the fact that the Arabs will once again say no? What happens when the Arabs finally wise up and say yes? Would we really gamble away any part of we’ve fought so hard for on the basis of hope and conjecture and probability: that the Arabs will probably say no once more?
Is that the meaning of these lyrics from Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, the hope?
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope that is two-thousand years old,
To be a free nation in our land,
The Land of Zion, Jerusalem.
Is the hope that we have “not yet lost,” the hope that the Arabs will keep on saying no? Or is the real hope, the one that allows us to be a free nation in our land—the real Hatikvah—the hope that all other entities—including the president of the United States—will finally recede into the background as Israel at last determines its own fate and future?
I vote for the latter. Though neither Israeli prime ministerial candidate even comes close to offering us the hope that this will ever happen.
At least not in March, or in the otherwise foreseeable future.

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