Peter Beinart’s Zionism
Israel needs to use “fire” as well as “water.”

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism


At present, it is hard to disagree. For the better part of 64 years, Palestinians have rejected Israel’s right to exist, and even now they accept Israel only under the precondition that it lose its Jewishness. Beinart may scoff and call it crazy, but at a time when most of the Zionist establishment predicted Arab and Jewish coexistence, Jabotinsky displayed remarkable foresight. His rhetoric about an “iron wall” is outdated and extreme, to be sure. But his lessons can be applied to the current conflict nonetheless. After all, when Beinart clamors for an independent Palestinian state, he too is calling for the separation of Arab and Jewish populations.

Though his expression of them is questionable, Beinart’s concerns for Israel and the future of Zionism are legitimate. Israeli occupation of the West Bank is unhealthy for both Israel and the Palestinians. That admission should not, and does not, disqualify any from the mainstream of the Zionist movement, so long as they recognize — and Beinart does not — the downside of the Israeli military’s leaving the West Bank and granting complete authority to the Palestinian leadership.

How can Israel’s security be reconciled with Palestinian independence? How can Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians when there are not enough Palestinians ready to receive it in peace? It would be wise to recall once again Jabotinsky. At a congress of the Revisionist Zionist movement in 1932, he argued for reconciliation among his fellow Zionists:

Someone said that redemption will be brought about by blood and fire, not by water. Why not water? In order to build the Jewish State we need fire and water — everything is sacred. Let no one say, “I will work with water, therefore you are forbidden to work with fire.”

That lesson should be applied to the current conflict. Fire is needed when thousands of Palestinian terrorists are armed and financed by regimes that threaten to destroy Israel. Only brute force can repel them. On the other hand, many Palestinians want peace and are willing to oppose the violence of their fellow Arabs. Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, responding to the recent terrorist attacks in Toulouse, called for an end to terrorism. “Extremists must stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.” Clearly, Fayyad and those he speaks for should be met not with fire but with water.

If Beinart is uncomfortable applying lessons from Jabotinsky, let him look to the Bible. Isaac had two sons — Jacob, who was righteous and learned, and Esau, a hunter, who understood force. In the account in Genesis, Jacob disguised himself as his brother and approached their father to receive the blessing of the firstborn. Isaac, who was blind, touched his son’s arm and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” Sometimes the smooth words of Jacob are what is needed, but when Israel’s security is at stake, the strong arms of Esau must be employed.

— Noah Glyn is an editorial intern at National Review.