“…never send to know for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee.”
I’m standing on the edge of the Roman Forum, by the Arch of Titus. This is the marble structure built by the Empire to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple about 1941 years ago. Legionnaires are shown carrying off the Menorah and other items from the sanctuary. The inhabitants are sold into slavery, The Jews are finished.
Well, not really. Today, the great empire has long vanished and Israel is not just a living country but by every social, economic, and security standard a successful country.
In the late 1960s, more than 40 years ago, the Palestinian and Arab leaders were certain that Israel would not survive. The fact that they were completely wrong has not prevented a whole new rash of contemporary speculations.
The PLO view, shared by virtually all Arabs at the time, was very clearly defined. The two main points boil down to the following. First, Israel would not survive because there was no real basis for such a state and people. Second, the Arabs would destroy it using various strategies.
Here is the ultimate quote from Yasir Arafat in1968—that’s 43 years ago–on why this would work:
Terrorism would “create and maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel….The Israelis have one great fear, the fear of casualties….”
The PLO’s attacks would “prevent immigration and encourage emigration….to destroy tourism, to prevent immigrants becoming attached to the land, to weaken the Israeli economy and to divert the greater part of it to security requirements.” This would “inevitably” prevent Israel’s consolidation and bring its disintegration. The final step would be “a quick blow by the regular armies at the right moment” to finish Israel off.
All of these things failed. More immigrants came than expected and were successfully integrated. People weren’t frightened into fleeing. Casualties were absorbed and limited. The country became economically successful and militarily victorious. Thus, today Israel is stronger—far stronger—than ever.
And who were the biggest losers in this conflict? Naturally, Israel has lost a great deal, especially in lives. But the biggest losers have been the Arabs who wasted resources, lost more lives, faced repeated humiliations, and ended up with dictatorship and stagnant societies. And they will be the biggest losers if they spend the next 60 years playing the same game.
And if Arab states that were relatively united and had a superpower sponsor couldn’t destroy Israel in 60 years how are they going to do so today? With Israel outpacing its neighbors on every index of social and economic development, with so much oil money spent without really advancing Arab societies, who has the advantage today?