The difficulty of moving forward in the Jordan Valley and Area C
One of the major ways our personal lives mirrors the sweep of history is in the realm of decision making.
Both individuals and nations face decisions on a daily basis. Most are mundane and inconsequential.
There are however, those decisions that we, as individuals recognize usually in retrospect, as important forks in the road, the outcomes of which had an outsized, even profound impact on our lives.
Who among us does not remember the willingness to speak with that person, to screw up one’s courage to ask her out, or to accept his offer? To accept that job instead of another offer or to leave where one was comfortably employed? To damn the financial torpedoes and have another child.
And of course, we all have had those “woulda, shoulda, coulda” twinges: the road not traveled, the gauntlet not picked up, the decision not taken. Not to decide was – indeed – to decide.
Nations are no different. Decisions concerning nations are ultimately made by the men and women who control and shape them. They confront the same turmoil; they face the same tests of resoluteness, except their decisions are ones writ large, played out on the world stage, not in the intimacy of our individual lives.
Making decisions, both personal and national, has two important aspects: the goal to be achieved compared with the likelihood of success. The goal is a vision, an aspiration, a dream. Its likelihood of success becomes a cold-blooded rational analysis.
The potential for things to go wrong inevitably looms larger than the possibility of success. Obstacles are often more visible, more quantifiable. The anticipation of negative reactions of from others seems far easier to conjure than the possibilities of acquiescence and support.
Perhaps that is because we are often projecting onto others our own insecurities, doubts and scepticism about the pending decision to be taken. Such projection serves as both a reinforcement and a validation for the wisdom of saying no.
It is precisely because we allow negative or no-go considerations to have such prominence in decision making that we marvel at the willingness of those who elected to proceed, against seeming common-sense, and certainly against the odds.
Many of the seminal decisions in history were made in such fashion. Perhaps because external circumstances have most always been inauspicious, Jewish history is replete with them. We all know them, we celebrate them, but we are reluctant to let them serve as role models for our current decisions.
Avraham listening to a Voice telling him to leave everything and to set out for the unknown, Nahshon ben Aminadav walking into the Red Sea, willing to drown, Esther approaching Achashverosh without having been summoned. All of these were irrational decisions that would not have passed a focus group or a committee.
In more modern days, the willingness of the various American colonies to band together and to declare their independence from mighty England, and of course the decision by David Ben-Gurion to declare independence for the State of Israel are taken for granted.
In their moment, they were made against conventional wisdom, in the face of widespread finger waving and tsk-tsking, and of course, replete with predictions of doom.
Today, the State of Israel confronts a similar decision as to whether to annex the Jordan Valley and to apply Israeli sovereignty and civil law to Area C, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis reside.
THE BENEFITS are many and attractive: vital and irreplaceable security from having the buffer of the Jordan Valley, equity for the residents of Judaea and Samaria, and the realization of the incorporation of an important part of our historic homeland, the Land of Israel, into the State of Israel.
Contrary to this, however, is a daunting litany of concerns, anxieties and specters of doom. Many, frankly, make no sense. Israel will not make such a move without the tacit acceptance, if not the overt endorsement of the US. Since such a step is part and parcel of the Trump Deal, it is unlikely that American negativity – at least with the current Administration – will be a problem.
Then there are the straw dog arguments: finding those who will naturally object to the move, but those are the ones who basically object to Israel’s waking up in the morning. Not only will they reflexively condemn most anything we do, but their objection means pitifully little.
Here we can put the EU, individual Western European countries, the UN, the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority. The common thread linking them all is ineffectuality. The EU will condemn us, but they like our trade, especially in the hi-tech sector and, they have become rather reliant on Israeli intelligence to help them thwart domestic terrorism.
The Jordanians get a huge amount of their water from us. They know we stand between them and forces in the Middle East that would be happy to usurp the Hashemite monarchy. And they can project their maddening control onto the Temple Mount because of our relationship. Do they really mean to lose all of that?
The PA has threatened to walk away from us so many times that no one pays attention to them any more, including, if not especially, the Sunni Arab countries of the Gulf.
Domestically, the decision will not be controversial. This is not to say that many will not support it, but that it will not be a roiling issue, as leaving Gaza in 2005 proved to be.
I do not question the sincerity, concern or good faith of those who see making this move as a mistake. But I do think it represents a misreading of human nature, both on the individual and national levels. Those who will hate this decision by and large hate us already. They will neither hate us more, nor in all likelihood do anything new, different nor more intense about that aversion.
In the meantime, Israel will have created a powerful fait accompli, and powerful, significant and enduring facts on the ground.
Sometimes in life, you have to close your eyes and just say “yes.” If David Ben-Gurion were with us today, is there any doubt as to what he would have done?