In Defense of Benny Begin

By DANIEL TAUBER
Monday Dec 06, 2010

Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin
LAST FRIDAY, the Jerusalem Post ran a great interview between the Post’s editor-in-chief David Horowitz and Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Begin. The interview at once highlighted Begin’s pragmatism and dedication to principle, his attention to facts and details, as well as his frugality when spending the public’s money.
Begin’s assessment that the 90-day limited nonrenewable freeze will create a situation of extreme pressure on Israel (especially as all the benefits, including the F35s and the one year of Security Council vetoes, are contingent on reaching an agreement) was several steps ahead of many in the security cabinet.

Overall the interview portrayed a man whose potential greatness for leadership is perhaps limited only by his own humility.

The headline of the article said something quite different: “The Bleak logic of Benny Begin.” It was headline hit-job. It was as if to say, those who are for the Palestinian state are agents of hope, while Benny Begin is an agent of despair.

Why? Because Begin, who holds the fifth spot on the Likud list, pointed out the obvious: that the Palestinian Authority cannot and probably does not want to make peace with Israel.

During the interview, Begin cited fact after fact evincing this state of affairs:

  • * The Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate until the last month of the settlement freeze and then leaving negotiations because the freeze ended a mere month later;
  • * The Palestinian’s rejection of Ehud Olmert’s offer (which they now claim should be the legitimate starting point for negotiations);
  • * The fact that these refusals were from the Abbas-led Palestinian authority, and not only from Arafat’s era (recalling Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s offer);
  • * A recent poll showing that 60% of Palestinians believe that “the real goal should be to start with two states but then move it all being one Palestinian state” (the poll also showed that 66% believed that “over time Palestinians must work to get all the land for a Palestinian state back” while only 23% said “Israel has a right to exist as a permanent homeland for the Jewish people);
  • * The PA recently endorsed a study stating that Jews have no claim to the kotel;
  • * Mahmoud Abbas recently visited a Palestinian stone factory where he received and raised up in triumph a stone carving of Palestine (or Israel);

In fact, it was not Begin but a Jerusalem Post editorial last week which discussed the most damning evidence of all – the Palestinians’ explicit refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist – expressed in the declarations of the recent Fifth Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah. According to the Post’s report, the council had released the following statement:

The council affirms its rejection of the so-called Jewish state or any other formula that could achieve this goal . . . . The council also renews its refusal for the establishment of any racist state based on religion in accordance with international law and human rights conventions.

This is not Benny Begin being bleak. This is the supposedly “moderate” Fatah, declaring that it will never make peace with Israel, because it wants to see the Zionist enemy eliminated. These are bleak facts of life, which no one can deny.

Towards the end of the conversation-interview with Begin, Horowitz pointed out what most supporters of a Palestinian state do when confronted with the facts. He said: "I worry about our legitimacy internationally, and I worry about the demographics. And therefore, even if one shares your conclusions, what are we going to do about it?" 

Begin answered these legitimate concerns with a question of his own “Can we afford the alternative?” The alternative is a state which would arm and shelter terrorists, would likely be taken over by Hamas and/or be a gateway for Iran, would (and already does) churn out anti-Jewish propaganda in amounts which on a per capita basis probably rival that of the Nazis and views Israel’s destruction as an ultimate goal. As a “state” all of this would be done under the cover of international legal rights afforded to states.

Because the core problems will not be solved with a Palestinian state, but will instead be exacerbated by it, Israel will continue to face crisis after crisis. The good old days when Israel enjoyed universal support and legitimacy will not return (if they ever existed at all).

But that doesn’t mean there is no hope and that things cannot get better. There are ways to afford the Palestinians control over their own lives and retain the Jewish character of the state and secure borders. The method for this is to provide the Palestinians with “autonomy,” which in varying forms has been the longstanding Likud position.

Under the autonomy plan, which Begin discussed in a 1992 article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Likud Vision for Peace,” the Palestinians will have complete authority over their own lives except the ability to create a military, control borders or immigration, or make treaties, the essential characteristics of statehood. This is essentially what Yitzchak Rabin had envisioned with the Oslo Accords - the creation of an entity which would be “less than a state.” (See also this interview with Time Magazine where Rabin said he opposes a Palestinian state). 

With autonomy, Arab residents can have their cultural self-determination fulfilled by their own institutions, but Israel can retain control of the borders, with all the land in between open for settlement and development by all inhabitants, as envisioned by the Declaration of the Establishment of the State.

But as with all peace plans, this one on its own cannot resolve the crux of the problem, the Arab refusal to live in peace with a Jewish state, in the hopes of its eventual destruction. That’s the bleak logic of our enemies – not Benny Begin.

This article was originally published as a blog posting for the Jerusalem Post.

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