Questions and Answers

(Some responses to questions arising from Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land”) 

Was it necessary to remove dozens of Arab villages to make room for a Jewish state? Is his account of the expulsion of Arabs from Lydda correct? Were Arabs expelled as a matter of state policy or did they leave to avoid being caught in the fighting?

There is no doubt that a number of Palestinian villages were erased when the Jewish State was created. Some of those who left did so out of fear while others were encouraged by the Arab world to do so under the understanding that they would be able to return when the Israelis had been defeated. Such things happen in wars and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is no exception. In the same context, however, we should also recall the Hebron massacre of 1929, which brought the centuries old Jewish presence in that town to an end and the Arab destruction of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Do the Palestinians want a state on the West Bank or do they want all of Israel?

In addressing the ultimate goal of the Palestinians, there is no doubt that Hamas wants the whole of Israel. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the position of the Palestinian Authority is no different. One has only to look at their school textbooks. Their stubborn insistence on the right of return for the descendants of the refugees of the 1948 war is clearly intended to upset the Jewish demographic balance of the State of Israel.

Is the view that there was no such thing as a Temple widespread among Arabs?

It is difficult to know how widespread the belief is. However, when an educated man like Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority, consistently expresses such a view, it is reasonable to assume that his opinion is shared by others

How widespread is the notion Shavit reports that some of the settlers want to “encourage” the Arabs on the West Bank to move, look forward to a Jewish monarchy and want to remove the mosques from the Temple Mount? 

Of course there are some settlers who hold such a view. However, this is the objective of a right-wing fringe, which is not shared by most Israelis irrespective of their religious or political identification.

Do you think there would be a civil war if the Israeli government tried to remove some of the settlements?

Were some isolated settlements to be removed in the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, I doubt that it would lead to a civil war. We have removed settlements in the past in the name of peace both in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip and it could be done again.

What do you think of the dilemma (also expressed by David Brooks in the NY Times) that Israel faces: If Israel keeps the West Bank, it cannot be a democratic state and if it gives it up, it is in danger of a Hamas or Hezbollah takeover?

The dilemma is a real one. West Bank Palestinians living in areas controlled by Israel are not citizens of the Jewish State. That is, of course, a blot on our democracy. On the other hand, there seems little doubt that, were those areas to be relinquished, they would be taken over by Hamas in precisely the same way as happened in the Gaza Strip.

Israel finds itself between a rock and a hard place. However, we are a strong and a resilient people. Visit Israel and sense the vibrancy of its society.

What is more troubling to my mind is the success of the Palestinian propaganda machine in presenting an entirely one-sided and distorted picture. As leaders we have a duty to inform people, so that they have a better understanding of where the truth lies and of the complexity of the situation.

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