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The Late Great State of Israel

By: Aaron Klein

Date: Wednesday, May 20 2009

It has been four long, thrilling years since I first arrived as a journalist in the Middle East. I’ve reported for months on end from the rocket-battered Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip and the war-torn Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian borders. I’ve stood in the trenches during massive nationalist protests and Israeli evacuations of Jewish homes.

I’ve observed from the plenum intense Knesset sessions and have entered the viper’s den of Palestinian terrorism, conducting extensive in-person interviews with some of the world’s most dangerous jihadists. I’ve traveled throughout the Middle East and have had the privilege of interviewing some of the region’s leaders and newsmakers as well as its ordinary citizens.

I’ve conducted extensive investigations and have forged trusted sources across the political and defense spectrums. I’ve dodged rockets and mortars and have broadcast from some far-off, remote locations.

Four years of this work have led me to a frightening conclusion: Israel is teetering on the brink of destruction.

After following Middle East events as closely as I could from the sidelines in America, I found the decision to become a journalist focusing on Israeli-Palestinian affairs more or less forced upon me in the spring of 2004. That was when the Israeli government, led by aging warrior Ariel Sharon, decided on a total retreat from the Gaza Strip and began uprooting the territory’s Jewish communities, treating its long-sacrificing Jewish residents as outcasts, and evacuating all Israeli military personnel stationed there.

The warped picture coming from the news media about Gaza overwhelmingly painted Israel’s Jewish communities there as fundamentalist settlements built upon stolen Arab land, while welcoming an Israeli withdrawal as a major step toward regional peace.

Actually, as I was soon to witness firsthand, the true story was far different.

* * *

In the summer of 2000, after walking away from U.S.-brokered negotiations and an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state, Yasir Arafat returned to his perch in the West Bank to launch his

intifada, utilizing extreme violence and targeting civilians to “liberate Palestine.” Suicide bombers detonated themselves in Israeli buses, cafés, hotels, and nightclubs. Their fellow jihadists shot Jews on the highways.

Just months later, the 9/11 attacks rocked the U.S. and changed everything we thought we knew about terrorism. Or at least they should have.

The news media continued to insist that terrorism was just a local, regional issue. The U.S. government continued to push for agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, creating a separation between terrorism against Jews and terrorism targeting everyone else. The Israeli government persisted in its drive to give away territory, this time in hopes of separating itself from the Palestinians by retreating from the Gaza Strip.

To my eyes, the chasm grew between the reality on the ground and the news media’s portrayal of events. It became clearer to me that this was true not only of Israel’s retreat from Gaza, but of a host of other key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I relocated from the U.S. to open a news bureau in Jerusalem, initially traveling frequently to Gaza’s Jewish communities, where, in a tree-lined neighborhood under constant rocket attack, I lived until Gaza was ethnically cleansed of Jews – by a Jewish government.

And now, following a slew of willful retreats and military losses, Israel faces disaster.

Its enemies grow more emboldened than ever, while a maniacal Iranian regime, on the brink of going nuclear, rants about Jerusalem’s annihilation. Israel remains committed to negotiating a Palestinian state with a “peace partner” whose official institutions indoctrinate its citizens with intense anti-Jewish hatred and violence; whose gunmen make up one of the deadliest anti-Israel terrorist groups; and whose leadership is weak, corrupt, and at serious risk of being overthrown by radical Islamists.

Israel is also under relentless pressure from an international community that favors terrorist gangs over a forward-looking Westernized democracy; that balks at any assertion of Israeli self-defense; that pressures the tiny Jewish state to evacuate vital territory; that perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by artificially maintaining a festering “refugee” crisis; and that provides legitimacy, and at times money, weapons, and advanced training, to Israel’s terrorist foes.

Israel itself is ruled by internationalist politicians, some of whom seem more interested in making a quick buck than saving the country they are supposed to lead. Most of them are hell-bent on pursuing the same failed policies that have resulted time and again in large numbers of Jewish deaths and the handover of strategic land to terrorists, fueling a worldwide perception of Jewish weakness.

But the greatest threat, the one that magnifies all others exponentially, is that only a few in Israel or abroad are aware of the real extent of the dangers facing the country both from within and without. This is due in part to an international and Israeli news media so entrenched in their accepted narratives that they will completely invert the truth or blindly repeat proven falsehoods, even when this requires covering for the terrorists.

At times, the Israeli and U.S. governments are just as guilty of distorting the truth, suppressing the disastrous results of their failed policies and actions, and masking the murderous ways of their Palestinian or Arab state “partners.”

Few have any idea how the country is being torn apart by an Israeli war against the “national religious” – a battle of Jew versus Jew in which those in power who want the country to resemble a secular, Europeanized state suppress a significant segment of the population that wants to keep Israel a Jewish country defined by its profoundly Jewish history, traditions, and character.

Most don’t know how the Hamas terrorist organization actually blasted its way to control over the Gaza Strip and how the pre-takeover stage of that same process is being played out now in the West Bank – territory slated for evacuation despite its proximity to Israel’s population centers and the country’s international airport.

Most don’t grasp the true ramifications of Israel’s 2005 retreat from Gaza, of its mismanaged 2006 war in Lebanon, of its failure to achieve its goals during the 22-day confrontation against Hamas in Gaza earlier this year, or of its longstanding negotiations to hand over more land to a weak and corrupt Palestinian regime.

There are other crucial stories that have yet to see the light of day: how the U.S. knowingly funds Palestinian terrorism; how Israel and the international community legitimize the jihadist Hamas movement; how the Jewish state has already essentially forfeited the holy Temple Mount, Judaism’s most venerated site; and how, scandalously, the Israeli government has allowed hundreds of thousands of Arabs to live illegally on Jewish-owned land in Jerusalem that may, as a result, shift parts of Israel’s capital to future Palestinian control.

Also minimized and little understood is how Israel legitimized the tyranny in Syria, ending its isolation even while Damascus plays host to terrorist leaders and furiously acquires thousands of advanced missiles; and how Israel has emboldened Iran to surround the Jewish state, to position its proxies on the regional chessboard such that Tehran now possesses the capability to wreak havoc on Israel.

* * *

I’ve just written a book that is the culmination of four years of in-the-field reporting and research that has brought me to the front lines of the Middle East news cycle. The book contains nearly one hundred original interviews not only with Israeli and U.S. officials, but also with leaders in Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, and even Hamas, including the top chiefs of that group.

I believe readers from all sides of the political spectrum, from those with little knowledge of regional affairs to news connoisseurs who consider themselves in command of the facts, will learn anew about a conflict at the center of the world’s attention.

I intend the book as a wakeup call, written in the hope of stimulating debate on and change to the failed policies that have now led Israel to an existential crisis. Both America and Israel have ushered in leaders who promise change. Meanwhile, Israel’s “peace partner,” the Palestinian Authority leadership, is shaky and could soon be overthrown.

The policies of these new administrations remain to be seen (although, as I document, we can expect the same failed policies to be repeated), but the region’s calamitous downward spiral will be difficult to reverse.

While the Psalms reassure us that “the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” the current leaders of Israel are fast giving away the land and strength with which the Jews have been blessed.

It was with a heavy heart that I decided to name the book The Late Great State of Israel. Just thinking about the possibility of the destruction of the Jewish state – after all it has achieved and after all the odds it has overcome – fills me with urgent concern.

That is precisely the reason for the title: to provoke an immediate reaction; to wake up Israel’s friends and its own citizens from a dangerous slumber; to prod the world into pondering the unthinkable; and to shed light on the scope of the calamitous threats facing Israel and the substantial changes in policy that are required to deal with those perils.

I put the finishing touches on the book just after it became clear that Israel’s new leader would be Benjamin Netanyahu, who ran on a platform stressing Israel’s security needs. Netanyahu has made clear that his primary goal as prime minister will be to halt Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons. He has also made strong statements about defeating Hamas and retaining vital territories, such as the Golan Heights and some of the West Bank.

Yet Netanyahu is known to be a pragmatic politician. From top sources both in his administration and in the Palestinian Authority, I have information about his plans to initiate eventual negotiations with Syria and to try to coax Jordan into working with the PA to take over key West Bank territories.

Careful observers recall that as the ninth prime minister of Israel, from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu established intensive, secret negotiations with Syria in which he offered to evacuate much of the Golan Heights. He also infamously signed the Wye River Accords, which transferred vital West Bank territory, including a portion of the holy city of Hebron, to the control of Arafat and his Fatah killers.

(In partial exoneration, Netanyahu signed the Accords under heavy pressure from President Bill Clinton, whose policies built up Arafat as a statesman willing to make peace with Israel even while the Palestinian leader orchestrated continuous waves of terrorism against Jews.)

From the first, the Wye River Accords were a strategic disaster that gave the Palestinians a physical platform from which to launch attacks, helping to pave the way to the Second Intifada. The word on the Israeli political street was that Netanyahu had caved to Clinton and to the everything-is-negotiable politics of the State Department.

* * *

Now Israel’s returning leader must again contend with a White House intent on pushing the same failed formulas – of building up Fatah and of brokering negotiations in which the Jewish state would be compelled to relinquish most of the West Bank – this time while Hamas quietly prepares to take over the strategic land just as it did in Gaza.

Indeed, President Barack Obama has brought back many of the same personalities whose strategies and influence during the Clinton years helped bring the Middle East to its current destabilized, powder-keg state of crisis.

Obama seems at least as determined as Clinton to travel the “land-for-peace” path, where Israel gives substantial land to its lethal enemies in exchange for a mere promise of no more armed hostilities.

On Syria, the president has made clear he favors dialogue and bringing Damascus out from isolation into the international arena. As Iran’s military partner in the region, Syria provides crucial support for Hamas’s and Hizbullah’s war against Israel. During the 2008 presidential campaign, some of Obama’s advisers asserted they would like to see Israel open negotiations with Syria.

More than on any other issue, the stated views of the new Israeli and American leaders clash most pointedly regarding Iran and its drive to obtain nuclear weapons, which would threaten Israel’s existence and provide Tehran and its terrorist proxies with a nuclear umbrella. Obama’s team claims it can convince Iran to refrain from going nuclear with direct talks and incentives, such as financial aid and international legitimacy.

If Netanyahu decides to oppose Iran or promote a hard-line policy, he will have to contend with an unfriendly White House and State Department. This would likely generate a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations, especially if Netanyahu acts while Obama is in the midst of diplomatic engagement with Iran.

I believe Netanyahu understands that regarding the threat from Tehran, Israel must move to protect its interests. Regrettably, due in part to U.S. and Israeli mismanagement, Iran, as I documented in my book, has been allowed to lay the foundations for yet another costly future war that could wreak havoc on the Israeli home front.

The view from where I sit in Jerusalem is beautiful and dramatic. The oft-rebuilt walls of the Old City serve as testament to the dangers Israel currently faces. While those ancient walls are today only a symbol of the threat, a look just to the east, where the security fence threads its way along the border of Jerusalem, reveals the living resurgence of the age-old danger, stirring the disturbing feeling that history is repeating itself.

I trust and believe that Israel will ultimately survive – against all odds and in spite of the threats from within and without – only through the grace of God. But for now, things don’t look good.

Aaron Klein is the Jerusalem bureau chief for and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs. His new book, “The Late Great State of Israel,” from which this essay is adapted, is available at, Barnes and Noble and other leading booksellers.

Copyright 2008

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