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Israel at war – surrounded by enemies, how can it survive?


Nothing has provoked such a division of opinion as the current Israel/Gaza war – on the background to it, its execution and resolution. Today we publish two considered but different perspectives on these issues and the necessary or inevitable conclusions each leads to.

HOW can Palestinians who have a genuine grievance against Israel as usurpers of their homeland be expected to abandon anti-Semitism when it is universal everywhere, including the West which constantly preens over the moral superiority of its liberal worldview? 

How can Jews, who have encountered lethal anti-Semitism for centuries everywhere they have lived, be expected to trust the word of anyone that their future safety can be guaranteed if they will only trust their enemies?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the perfect expression of the Gordian dilemma which can be solved only by wielding the sword of injustice at the expense of either Israel or the Palestinians.

President Biden urges a two-state solution while Benjamin Netanyahu insists that there must be a single state which is unequivocally Jewish, despite the fact that such states are an anomaly in a world of mass migration and the mixing of peoples.

As a result of migration and the multiculturalism it has entailed, entire countries in Europe and the United States are gradually but surely losing their historic identity to incomers who bring their own customs and religions with them together with irrefutable demands for equal rights. This is precisely the fate that Netanyahu and leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who prize national homogeneity, want to avoid.

The difference is that the issue is existential for Israel. After October 7, Israelis know that they can rely only on themselves for the survival of their country and of themselves as a nation rather than as a diaspora.

The wandering Jew of the 21st century is not a nightmare scenario.

The country is surrounded by irreconcilable enemies including the missile-armed Houthis as far away as Yemen. Once Iran has deliverable nuclear weapons, the countdown to Israel’s annihilation can begin at the convenience of the mullahs. Teheran will not hesitate to sacrifice the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as the price for Israel’s elimination. Iran itself is large enough to survive any Israeli nuclear retaliation.

The hi-tech Israel Defence Forces swarming through Gaza look strong but it’s a Potemkin illusion. Israel is weak compared with its enemies. If all of these, led by Iran and Hezbollah, attacked at once, it could mount a strong defence and retaliation but it would be a one-off affair with the surviving Israelis abandoning their flattened country to save their lives.

The odds of Israel surviving the 21st century are slim however this war turns out. 

Just as Biden and our own government do not explain how we get to a peaceful two-state solution from where we stand today, Netanyahu does not describe the one-state option which does not include the Palestinians. 

There are almost six million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. What is to happen to them if these areas become part of Greater Israel? This is not 1945, when millions of people in central Europe could be uprooted and pushed east or west at gunpoint by the Allies. Given their history of violence and difficulty to assimilate, the Palestinians are not wanted by other Arab countries.

But they would have to go somewhere under the Netanyahu plan, which Israel’s many enemies at the UN could portray as resembling Jews doing to Arabs what the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe. Israel is not remotely waging an all-out campaign to exterminate Gazans. There are no reliable independent figures for the numbers killed which break down the difference between civilians and Hamas. But according to former British army colonel Richard Kemp, who is covering the war via X (formerly Twitter) as an observer, the ratio is two fatalities for every Hamas fighter killed – and this is low by standard of modern warfare. However, even this increasingly incites the squeamishness of the West despite its acceptance that the way the war is fought has been forced on the IDF by Hamas.

The truth is that the Palestinians, for all their own failures and those of the Arab countries who declared war on Israel in 1948, are a wronged people which is why their cause survives every vicissitude and lurch into blind violence. The UN created Israel as part of the world’s manumission of conscience for the Holocaust but did so at the expense of the Palestinians, a classic case of two wrongs not making a right.

We owed it to the Jews to compensate them for what they suffered in the Nazi camps and now we owe reparation to the Palestinians but we have no idea how to do it. The Americans have said for years that the road to peace in the Middle East lay through the Palestinian question and the massacres of October 7 proved them right. The Palestinians can turn this conflict on or off at will. 

There are a number of proposals for a post-war settlement which I won’t go into here other than to say that there must be some form of international separation between Israelis and Palestinians that guarantees the security of both and that we must be prepared to sustain it for as long as it takes.

The alternative could be the unthinkable – seeing a nuclear Iran deciding unilaterally to impose its own final solution on Israel.

We publish Philip Van der Elst’s view in the next article.

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Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

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