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Moderate Israelis Need Moderate Leaders – Not Messiahs

Israeli leadership and the general public must choose a moderate political path that takes into account Israel’s security interest and image in the world

Two marginal groups jeopardize Israel – the hilltop messiahs and the peace messiahs. Both violently promote a maximalist and utopian worldview. Both do not let reality confuse them. One wants Israeli sovereignty from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and to rebuild Gush Katif. The second calls for a Palestinian state “now,” with a partner that wants a Palestinian state on the ruins of the State of Israel.

October 7 should teach us that closing our eyes and being captive to a concept jeopardizes us. Being captive to a messianic vision is even more dangerous. In these times, Israel needs wise leadership which understands that an immediate radical solution is a recipe for disaster, and only taking a deep national breath and engaging in balanced statesmanship will restore deterrence and security.

I dearly love the vistas of Judea and Samaria. I wholeheartedly believe that they are a part of the Land of Israel. On the other hand, I cannot ignore the 3 million Palestinians who live there. I understand that controlling them costs us a heavy price. Moreover, I want Israel to live in peace with all its neighbors. In view of this complex reality, I understand that applying the dream of sovereignty on the Greater Land of Israel is a recipe for disaster.

In view of October 7 and the long-standing failures of the Palestinian Authority, the terrifying support of Hamas by the Palestinian leaders and public and the massacre that it committed is clear to me. Establishing a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future, which Hamas will control, is an unacceptable risk. I understand, like a majority of Israelis, that both these visions jeopardize us. The messiahs on both sides do not.

Messianism is characterized by a noble vision of the dreamer and the willingness to promote it by ignoring and distorting concrete reality in order to conform to the dream. To achieve the vision, the messiahs are prepared to pay any price and take unreasonable risks. This is what characterizes the messianic vision of “sovereignty now” promoted by the hilltop youths and their supporters, and the “Palestinian state now” promoted by the “peace camp” people, which rose like a phoenix after the Hamas massacre.

The hilltop messiahs have been around for years. Their vision is clear: a Jewish state from the river to the sea, from Metula to Rafah, and they are promoting it with determination, and sometimes violence, while ignoring the law. In their view, the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, as well as in Gaza, are a nuisance to be removed. As far as they are concerned, the purpose of the State of Israel and the IDF is to realize their vision, and they are prepared to encumber economic and security resources to realize their messianic vision.

The peace messiahs have also been around for many years. Their vision in and of itself is noble. Who doesn’t want peace? The difficulty arises when the left ignores reality, and then it becomes a messianic vision for all intents and purposes. The vision of peace with the Palestinians has been around for 40 years. Thirty years ago, it became a reality in the form of the Oslo Accords. In retrospect, the Palestinians thwarted realization of the accords and the establishment of a state. The strategy of unilateral withdrawal and leaving the Palestinians to manage the territory – disengagement – also failed. We are now paying the price of this failure.

The massacre on October 7 and the strong support for its perpetrator, Hamas, among the vast majority of Palestinians has only worsened the situation and increased the risk of establishing a Palestinian state now. But the peace messiahs don’t let reality confuse them. Even though it is clear that if a Palestinian state were to be established in Judea and Samaria it would be a Hamas state, they are sticking to their messianic vision and continue to promote it by dangerous political powers and a willingness to impose on Israel, from outside, a settlement that will jeopardize its security and future.

Most Israelis object – for reasons of feasibility – to either Israeli sovereignty from the river to the sea or the establishment of a Palestinian state now. Israeli leadership and the general public must choose a moderate political path that takes into account Israel’s security interest and image in the world. Do not normalize the messiahs from the left or the right, or use political sophistication in the face of external pressures and determined enforcement in the face of the hilltop extremists.

Published by Haaretz