The following article presents the history, issues, and proposed
solutions for the Arab-Israeli conflict in a concise, light, and
readable format. It is useful as an educational tool to stimulate
thought and discussion.
King Arik was the ruler of a country that was only a tiny sliver
of land, barely 21,000 sq. km. It was so small that it was hardly
visible on a map of the region. Though small in size, the Land of
Israel was great in accomplishments. It was a recognized leader
in science research, health care, military technology, agricultural
science, and water conservation. It was often described as a land
flowing with milk and honey. The Bible in Deuteronomy also
referred to the Land of Israel as A land of wheat, barley,
vines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey. For seven months
of the year, the land was blessed with warm weather and clear, blue
skies. The five cooler, rainy months enabled the land to bring forth
an abundance of crops. So much was harvested that the Land of Israel
was able to export produce to much larger countries far away. The
lush grapes and fruit that were grown were used to make fine wines
and liqueurs that were known the world over.
Unfortunately, all was not well with the Land of Israel. It was
surrounded by vicious enemies: twenty Arab-Muslim countries with
600 times the land mass and 50 times the population of the tiny
Land of Israel. These Arab countries made repeated efforts to destroy
and conquer little Israel, but failed each time. Yet, they were
still determined to destroy Israel no matter how long it would take
and by whatever means available. They would employ a combination
of military, economic, demographic, and diplomatic methods to weaken
the fortitude of the people of Israel and force them to flee the
country. The turbulent conflict had been going on for 60 years and
showed no signs of abating.
The people of Israel were weary of the conflict. They were worn
from the burden of heavy taxes, military duty, security searches,
and repeated terrorist attacks that destroyed thousands of innocent
lives. They cried out to King Arik, We cant take this
anymore, we need peace. Were willing to make sacrifices and
painful concessions, but bring us peace. Were weary of war,
death, destruction, and economic hardships.
One night, King Arik couldnt sleep. He was troubled by the
cries from his people. Not only were there conflicts with the Arabs,
but there were conflicts within the people: religious against secular,
right against left, moderates against extremists. So King Arik called
in his attendant to read him a story that would relax him. The attendant
chose to read about Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the
Speckled Band. After hearing the story, King Arik got up excitedly
and called to his attendant, Elya, get Silvan in here. I want
him to call Tony to get this fellow Holmes over here. I think he
can help me.
So the next morning, the famed British sleuth, Sherlock Holmes,
boarded an El Al plane en route to the Land of Israel. Upon arriving
at the Kings palace in Jerusalem, Holmes got right to work.
He approached King Arik and said, First, I would like to thank
you for that First Class airline ticket that you sent me. It sure
beats the horses and buggies that I used when I started out in this
business over 100 years ago. Now, I beg that you lay before me everything
that may help me in forming an opinion upon this matter. So
King Arik told him of his problems and worries.
I was born and raised in this wonderful land. I joined the
military underground before independence when I was only 14 years
old. That began a long and distinguished career as a military commander
and strategist. I was involved with every major battle that our
country fought with the Arabs. After 25 years of service, I retired
from the military in 1973 with the rank of Major-General. Then I
began my diplomatic career. I held a number of important and successful
positions in the government until the people made me King in 2001.
Now I am reaching the end of my days. I am getting old and am grossly
overweight. When I go to the other world to meet my friends David,
Golda, Moshe, Menahem, and Yitzhak, I want to be able to tell them
that I finally brought peace to our land. But the people are now
against me. They are calling me a traitor and asking for my resignation.
There are even threats of assassination. All my life, I was defending
the lives of Jews, now for the first time, security steps are taken
to protect me from Jews. I dont know what to do. Can you help
I think I can, but first I need to search for clues. Ill
need some basic maps and geography texts, like you use in your high
schools. I would also like to tour the territories in YESHA.
That will be fine, responded Arik, Why dont
you rest here tonight and everything you need will be ready for
you tomorrow morning. An armored car, driver, and military escort
will be at your disposal.
After three days of searching for clues, Sherlock Holmes returned
to King Arik. The King was eagerly awaiting his arrival, So
Holmes, can you help me with my problems?
I think I understand your difficulties, my dear Arik, and
Ill try to help you, but this is by far my most difficult
Im willing to entertain any reasonable suggestion.
The internal turmoil is becoming unbearable. I must find a solution.
First, my dear Arik, you must understand the problem.
What do you mean? I have 60 years of experience with the
Israeli military and government. I know this country inside out.
No one knows it better than me.
You may be a skilled military strategist and shrewd diplomat,
but youre a poor educator. Your people dont know the
facts, thats why theyre against you. Ask your young
people if they can list the accomplishments of Golda Meir, Moshe
Dayan, Menahem Begin, or Abba Eban. Youll be surprised at
But my country has one of the finest educational systems.
It has been widely acclaimed.
My dear Arik, the young people today arent getting
their information the way we did when we grew up. Today you have
to compete with weblogs, I-pods, MP3s, podcasts, Blackberrys,
PDAs, and video clips sent from cell phones. Theyre
being influenced by misinformation from all over the world, including
your enemies. If you recall my Adventure of the Speckled Band,
the enemy was a member of the same household and the weapon was
a snake. You have a similar problem. You have enemies within your
own people who will use all kinds of sly and devious tricks to make
you do things that are contrary to the best interests of your country.
I know that, but what can I do about it?
First you have to get out the facts so that your people
can speak with one voice. They have to be one people, with
one heart. Doesnt your Torah tell you repeatedly that
you have to teach your children to recall their history? Doesnt
Pirkei Avos say that to know where you are going, you have to know
where you came from? Your people dont know the truth, theyre
speaking out of ignorance.
How can I rectify that?
As King Solomon said so wisely, there is a time for
every purpose under heaven. In your case, there is a time
to be a wily diplomat and a time to be truthful. The people need
to realize that an independent Arab state in the YESHA territories
would be an untenable situation. These disjointed areas total less
than 6000 sq. km, less than one-third the size of the rest of Israel.
You cant have two hostile mini-states with separate passports,
currency, and security forces within such a small area. Take a look
at those two friendly giants, the USA and Canada. In general, they
have very good relationships. Yet, they are always squabbling about
some regional issue or differences in foreign policy. Border towns
such as Buffalo, Niagara, and Toronto have to put up with the nuisance
of border security and different currencies. It would be much worse
with a sovereign Arab state in YESHA. There would be constant friction
and conflict over issues such as security, commerce, tourism, transportation,
utilities, and water rights. It could never work.
I know that. Thats why I proposed my disengagement
plan, to stall or prevent the establishment of such an entity.
But thats an illusion as well, Holmes explained.
You know better than anyone else what will happen as soon
as IDF leaves the area. The Gaza Strip will become open to terrorist
infiltration by land, sea, and air. They wont have to dig
smuggling tunnels anymore; they could just bring in materials and
people by truck from Egypt. You couldnt possibly monitor every
single plane, boat, and truck coming in from Lebanon, Syria, and
Egypt. It would be a disaster.
If they resort to terrorism, then Ill just bring out
my best fighter pilots and commando units and finish them off once
and for all.
While it may come to that, you would want to avoid it. War
means death and destruction for both sides. You dont need
Al-Jazeera showing videos of dead Arabs lying in pools of blood
and women wailing over the loss of their sons and husbands. Also,
as Donald Rumsfeld learned belatedly, war has known knowns,
known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. You never know exactly
what is going to happen.
Then whats left for me to do?
First you have to shatter this myth of the Palestinian people
and occupied Palestinian lands. The Arabs living in the YESHA territories
are not indigenous to those lands. In the 1940s those were
mostly barren lands. Their grandfathers came to British mandatory
Palestine in the 1940s from other Arab countries to seek economic
opportunities. Then they fled to Gaza and the Judean Hills at the
outbreak of war in 1948. They have no more claim to that area than
your people do.
So what can I do to teach people the truth about the myth
of the Palestinians?
The Arab population density in YESHA needs to be reduced.
It is among the highest in the world and contributes to the strife.
You need to send out emissaries to the YESHA provinces and proclaim
that you will offer $50,000 to any Arab household that will move
to another country of their choice. For the same $1 billion that
it will cost you to evacuate 2000 Jewish families, you can get rid
of 20,000 Arab households.
But what if they are threatened and intimidated by the terrorist
groups and Arab countries not to accept the offer.
Thats a real possibility. Then youll have evidence
that they are not really interested in the humanitarian rights
of the Palestinian people theyre only interested in
destroying Israel by demographic means.
What if the opposite happens and 100,000 Arab families accept
my offer. Where I am going to get $5 billion from and who will take
That would be great, just what you need. When you have 100,000
acceptances, you can go the same countries that are donating hundreds
of millions to UNRWA and tell them that if they are really interested
in helping these Arabs they will finance and assist with their voluntary
relocation to other Arab countries. If they refuse, it will reveal
their hypocrisy and anti-semitism.
I can try it, but Im not too optimistic that it will
Listen, my dear Arik, I told you that this was my most difficult
case. I cant give you any guarantees. But I do have a little
good news for you. You dont have to buy me a return ticket
to England. Great Britain is no longer the same as when I grew up.
Ive decided to stay here. After 100 years in this business,
Ive finally concluded that it is time to retire. I found myself
a nice little retirement community in Netanya. I was never married,
but I fell in love with this country. Am Yisroel Chai!
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC
Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.