A Letter to an American Jewish Friend

Uri Dromi is the director of publications at the Israeli Democracy Institute, Jerusalem

Dear Friend:

Recently, you tell me, you have been concerned about my opinions, which are becoming too "leftist." You refer to my idea of freezing settlements and separating from the Palestinians. You wonder if this is not giving up the Zionist dream, if this is not just yielding to terror and to the Arab long-range plan of destroying Israel piecemeal.

First, let me assure you that I deal with these issues not out of any ideology or political inclination. I am attached to every acre of Judea and Samaria, which I consider to be the cradle of the Jewish people. Giving it away will break my heart. However, I am looking at the hard facts, and I am trying to figure out what's best for Israel.

When the early Zionists declared that "a people without land is returning to a land without people," they were mistaken: There were Arabs living here. Their Palestinian descendants today amount to 3 million, compared to the 5 million Jews who share the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea with them. Demographers tell us that within 20 to 30 years, their number will equal that of the Jews.

I know, you believe that they should go and live in one of the 21 Arab states, and not covet the only state that the Jews have. Yet, holding illusions has never really helped Jews. Therefore, we're stuck with the dilemma: If we keep all the territories without giving the Palestinians their full rights, this will cease to be a democracy and will soon become an apartheid state. If, on the other hand, we keep all the territories and we give them full rights, in due course Israel will not be a Jewish state anymore.

Of course, everything would have been different had you and the other 5 million American Jews packed up and moved to Israel. That would certainly have changed the demographic balance in our favor. However, we both know that nothing of the sort will ever happen: A meager 2,000 of you make aliyah (immigration to Israel) every year, and only half stay.

But why bother you with aliyah, when you hardly even come and visit? And when you do, in times of trouble you're the first to cancel your trips. Look at the Maccabiah Games, the Jewish equivalent of the Olympic Games. It stands for Jewish physical strength and perseverance. Indeed, what a boost it could have been to the morale of the Israelis to have this magnificent show of solidarity in such demanding times. Yet the Maccabiah was almost canceled because more than two-thirds of the athletes (mostly North American) decided not to participate.

The U.S. Reform movement, always trying to gain a foothold in the Israeli religious scene, canceled all its youth summer programs here, thus adding to the devastation of Israel's tourist industry. To the Israelis, the message is clear: We seem to have fair weather friends only, and when push comes to shove, we're on our own.

In sum, my friend, you'll have to bear with us if we are forced to draw the conclusions and adjust our policies to our numbers. We'll have to separate from the Palestinians and gather our brothers and sisters from the settlements into Israel proper. That's the only way to maintain a Jewish and democratic state of Israel.

I wish we could arrange that through an agreement with the Palestinians, but in light of their rejection of Ehud Barak's unbelievably generous offers and their current violent conduct, maybe we'll have to do it unilaterally.

If they interpret that as a weakness on the side of Israel, I think they will have a bitter surprise. Indeed, Israel might be smaller then, but quite paradoxically, it will be stronger: armed not only with its superior military might (which is now curbed by the nature of the current conflict), but also with a just cause, and if threatened, with the unwavering will of all Israelis to fight.

Hey, in such case, maybe we'll be able once again to give you the kind of victories you like so much, like the Six-Day War and the Entebbe raid, instead of the frustrating intifada, which doesn't look good on television.

Shalom, Uri

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