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Tel Aviv University
[TAU Physics] Rebuttal to Elia Leibowitz's "The Moshes' mistakes"

Editorial Note.
Like many radical-leftist academics, Elia Lebowitz tries to sustain the "narrative" that blames Israel for the failure to achieve peace by misrepresenting the real problems of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Leibowitz, the son of the famous philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, uses out- of -context quotes and other rhetorical devises to prove his point.  His notion that Moshe Dayan wanted to hold on to the territories at all cost is baseless.  Dayan was part of the Israeli political and military elite that offered the Arabs to trade the territories for peace in July 1967.  As is well known, a month later the Khartoum Conference rejected the proposal with the famous three nos: no negotiation, no recognition  no peace.
During the 2000 Camp David Summit, Israel unveiled a historic deal, subsequently improved by the so-called Clinton Parameters.   Accordingly, Israel offered to withdraw from some 98 percent of the territory; the remaining percentage which included Ariel and Gush Etzion were to be compensated for by a swap. The Palestinians were to receive  East Jerusalem and a joint control of the Holy Basin.  The negotiations broke down over the Palestinian demand of the Right to Return to Israel proper. 
Leibowitz is right that "no sane person"  would want to control Sharm al Sheikh rather than enjoy peace with Egypt;  sadly though, recent developments have shaken the faith in the territories- for-peace formula.  After the IDF's unilateral withdrawal, the Gaza Strip- under control  by Islamists and their Iranian masters since 2007 - has been turned into a launching pad of terror and missile attacks.  The current Egyptian rulers are either not willing or not capable of stopping  a plethora of terror groups from utilizing the Sinai to launch deadly attacks on Israel. Most worrisome, there are more than a few voices in Egypt which  demand the abrogation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Only time would tell what the new political forces would do.
Rather than being treated to a repetition of shopworn arguments, Leibowitz's readers would be well- served by a honest discussion of these problems

Published 02:48 29.08.11 Latest update 02:48 29.08.11

The Moshes' mistakes
The price the State of Israel paid, and especially the personal price paid by many thousands of its citizens, for Dayan's strategic error was too heavy to bear. But that price will be dwarfed by the full price the country and its citizens will pay for Ya'alon's mistake.

By Elia Leibowitz

Israel has had three Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff named Moshe: Moshe Dayan (1953-1958 ), Moshe Levy (1987-1983 ) and Moshe Ya'alon (2002-2005 ). After their demobilization from the army, the first Moshe and the third Moshe entered politics in a big way. Dayan served, among other things, as defense minister and foreign minister; Ya'alon is currently the minister for strategic affairs and vice prime minister.

By virtue of their status, the statements such people make represent the worldview of the government to which they are a partner. By virtue of their prestige as former chiefs of staff, they also influence public opinion, and to a large extent determine the prevalent worldview in broad sectors of the population.

For example, Moshe Dayan is remembered for saying: "Better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh." Today there is no need to reiterate the extent to which this statement has been disastrous for the State of Israel. It embodies two fatal mistakes - in terms of values and in practical terms. History proves that both parts of this statement were indeed wrong.

The mistake with respect to values concerns the identification of what is good: It is doubtful whether there is even one sane citizen today who thinks the situation of the State of Israel would better if the IDF or a Jewish settlement were now in Sharm el-Sheikh, embroiled in a perpetual battle with Egypt, even on a "low flame."

Dayan's second mistake was the assumption that Israel was capable, militarily, politically, socially and economically of holding on to Sharm el-Sheikh forever. History showed the magnitude of that mistake within just six years.

The country is now in the horns of a dilemma that is equally or possibly even more fateful for the state than Dayan's. The dilemma now facing Moshe Ya'alon, the government and all the citizens of Israel is nearly identical to Dayan's. One must only replace Sharm el-Sheikh with Ariel, and ask: Is Ariel without peace preferable to peace without Ariel?

Ever since the city in the West Bank was founded, all the governments of Israel and, in fact, everyone coming out with a publicly expressed opinion on the subject has come down on the same side as Dayan: Better Ariel without peace. Moshe III expressed this very well, when according to a report on January 24, 2011, he said: "They [the Palestinians] are trying to push us into an agreement that is not peace        and is not the end of the conflict, but we must not budge from a single millimeter of territory."

In this statement Moshe III made the same two fatal mistakes as Moshe I: He too assumes that it is within Israel's power not to budge from a single millimeter of the territory for all eternity. Although this assumption has not been refuted as quickly as Moshe Dayan's declaration, many Israelis have already been its victims - never mind the vast amount of money invested in realizing it over the course of the past 30 years, which is all destined to go down the drain. Ya'alon's second mistake is identical to Dayan's mistaken assessment in identifying what is good, and is evident particularly in what he did not say.

Judging by the aggregate of actions, statements, economic steps, military deployments and diplomatic moves Israel has made, there is no doubt that the government, in which Moshe III is a vice prime minister, has declared in principle that Ariel without peace is better than peace without Ariel. And this is despite the attempt that has been made, for example, by Ya'alon, to blame the decision of the government on the other side of the conflict.

The price the State of Israel paid, and especially the personal price paid by many thousands of its citizens, for Dayan's strategic error was too heavy to bear. But that price will be dwarfed by the full price the country and its citizens will pay for Ya'alon's mistake. Of Moshe I it can at least be said that he presented the alternatives with understanding and his decision was made with honesty.

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