Stiff-necked people

Prospect Magazine

Stiff-necked people


How to secure Israel’s future

Israeli paratroopers in a parachute excerise (photo: Boaz Guttman)

There is an ancient maxim from the Babylonian Talmud that reads: “The Land of Israel is acquired through hardships.” The closing months of 2012 once again attest to the veracity of this statement.

Just as a child cannot choose his or her parents, neither can a nation choose its neighbours. We live in a tough neighbourhood, one in which there is no second chance for those who are unable to defend themselves. A neighbourhood which is characterised by uncertainty, instability and hostility. For the state of Israel, true security must be viewed through a many-sided lens.

About 15 per cent of our citizens have spent the last decade under the direct threat of artillery rockets, mortars and missiles, launched indiscriminately by terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. During the recent escalation with Hamas, half of the country was within range of the terrorists’ missiles launched from Gaza (and 1,500 were fired in eight days in November). Without the ingenuity of the Israeli-designed “Iron Dome” system, which intercepted more than 400 of those missiles, and the continued financial support for additional weapons batteries from the US, the loss, in terms both of human life and property, would have been far greater.

In addition to the threat from Gaza, on our northern border, Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist organisation based in Lebanon, has amassed an arsenal of around 70,000 artillery rockets and missiles. The Sinai peninsula has become anarchical while the brutal civil war in Syria has already trickled over into the Golan Heights.

Further afield, Iran remains the chief sponsor of terror, continuing—openly—to arm and fund the terrorist organisations seeking to destabilise the region. Its influence stretches to our doorstep through its support for Hezbollah, while the regime directly supports President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal campaign in Syria. It aspires to be the regional hegemon and continues to develop its military nuclear programme. All the while, we face an incessant threat of jihadist terror from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].

As a life-loving nation, facing this relentless terror, our institutions of national defence and security must be built on a wider bedrock of national resilience; that is the true strength of a nation.

National resilience derives from many factors: international legitimacy, a strong and vibrant economy, social cohesion, solidarity and unity, a sense of purpose, and a common vision regarding the future of the nation. These must be taken into account when formulating operational tactics or recalibrating strategic focus in the new and unpredictable environment of today’s Middle East.

During the escalation with Hamas in November, the people of Israel have once again demonstrated exemplary national resilience in abundance. Israel’s economy remained robust (with only minor fluctuations in the stock market), while the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) retained the support of the overwhelming majority of the population throughout the operation.

Once again, the IDF was forced to deal with the most extreme type of asymmetric warfare, fighting an internationally recognised terrorist organisation which continues to demonstrate a complete disregard for human life. While the IDF conducted intelligence-based precision strikes in order to minimise civilian casualties on both sides, Hamas again implemented its cynical and cowardly use of civilian human shields on the one hand, and launched barrages of rockets at our civilians on the other—a double war crime.

In the face of the great changes in the region, we continue to recalibrate our strategic assessments. Hamas is enjoying the tailwind of Muslim Brotherhood successes, while Iran, as well as its role in Syria, continues to deceive the world in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. This pursuit must be stopped.

On this matter, we, our friends and allies, think alike, and we mean every word we say. A military nuclear Iran threatens the entire world order. It is commonly accepted that it would be the start of a regional nuclear arms race. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and maybe the new Egypt will be compelled to join the race. The leaking of nuclear technology to terrorist organisations, whether Sunni or Shia, becomes almost an inevitability.

The world leadership—with the United States and President Barack Obama at the fore—holds the same view: a nuclear Iran is unacceptable.

It is often noted that the Iranian threat represents a complex challenge for Israel. That is undeniable, but for Israel, this “complex challenge” could become a potentially existential threat. The US understands that only Israel itself will make the call regarding the issues vital to our security and our future.

That security and that future also depend on achieving a just and secure peace with the Palestinians. The answer is a two-state solution; two states for two peoples, the demarcation of a border in the land of Israel. A secure state of Israel next to a viable Palestinian state, the expression of the hopes and ambitions of the Palestinian people.

We are currently witnessing a dramatic geopolitical shakeup, one characterised by both uncertainty and instability. It is in times of such unpredictability that decision makers must lead wherever possible, shaping events, not merely being shaped by them. The challenges before us demand extra vigilance and attentiveness.

Israelis are a stiff-necked people. We must be strong and open-eyed; extending one hand out perennially to feel for any potential opportunity for peace. The other hand, however, as is imperative in our tough neighbourhood, must remain firmly on the trigger, ready to protect our citizens should the necessity arise.

  1. December 21, 2012

    peter holland

    This is the usual smug Israel government line. Since 1948 it has sought to seize the whole of Palestine. Settler activity renders an Arab state impossible. It denies to Iran weapons it itself possesses. Only when the West withdraws its support will any lasting resolution be possible.

    • December 28, 2012


      This is the usual smug anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propganda.
      “Settler activity renders an Arab state impossible”: Israel has a large Arab population and Arabs in their Parliament. The PA wants to make their land “judenrein”. Why can’t they accept an agreement to live peacefully with Jews within their territory? The answer is that they are as anti-Jewish as Mr. Holland.
      “It denies to Iran weapons it itself possesses.”: When was the last time Israel threatened to wipe another nation off the map? If they have weapons, it’s for defense, not offense.
      “Since 1948 it has sought to seize the whole of Palestine.” Israel accepted the partition plan; Arabs did not, and asked their people to flee so that they could throw all the Jews into the sea and then they could come back to their homes. Had they accepted the parition plan back then, there would be a thriving Arab and Jewish land over there.
      Some people can’t be confused with the facts and Mr. Holland is apparently one of them.

      • December 29, 2012

        peter holland

        In the 1920s the majority of the population of Palestine was Arab.
        The Zionist movement decided to take over this land and remove the current inhabitants.
        Plenty of Israeli writers have described how they went about it.

        • December 30, 2012

          David S

          It hardly matters what happened back then.. You have your story, which I believe to be grossly inaccurate but so what? Even if I granted every premise it still would not matter because the only solution to the problem is revenge, not justice. The situation is that Israel now has a thriving society in its parcel of land. It can only be reversed through even more suffering. That would not be justice…that would be revenge. Think about that when you recall that every single country without exception was founded on the bones of some dead race. Should White Australia (yes they used to proudly call it that) be destroyed in order to reverse the fact that white colonists stole the land? Should the United States be destroyed because it stole its land from the Indians? No of course not. Neither should Israel be destroyed because it elbowed its way (mostly legally) into its ancient territory that was underpopulated and underutilized. No, facts on the ground matter. It would be unjust to move backward. Forward movement requires Arab countries and Palestinians to recognize that that time will not go backward and that they will not get what they really want without more injustice.

        • December 30, 2012


          Dear Mr Holland,
          In 1920s the majority of Jerusalem’s population was Jewish. This did not prevent the Mufti of Jerusalem (Hitler’s buddy) from staging a massacre to rival Kristallnacht. Arabs were able to travel freely through the previous Ottoman Empire (eg for work) including into Palestine, but the British Mandate stringently limited Jews access, because they were afraid of inciting Arab conflict.
          In the narrative of the Palestenians paying for the holocaust, you fail to consider that Israel absorbed approximately the same number of Jews from Middle Eastern countries (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco) as there were “Palestenian refugees” created. The difference is that there are 1.5 million Arab citizens in Israel, with full equal rights, but the Muslim countries mentioned are Judenreit. Incidentally, the Israeli Palestenians are themselves threatened by the Palestenians in Gaza and West Bank, as perceived collaborators.

    • December 28, 2012


      Yes, yes, Peter, just regurgiate the propoganda. Israel accepted a napkin of a state and celebrated. The Arabs, with 100 times or more land said no and that is where we are. If the Arabs put down their guns today, there would be peace. If the Israelis put down their guns today, they would be slaughtered. it would make Auschwitz look clean. Please wake up. There is no solution.

      • December 29, 2012

        peter holland

        The Palestinians are paying the price for genocide by Germans and others in Europe.
        By seizing a national home for themselves, the Israelis have denied one to the Palestinians.

    • December 28, 2012


      Your comment reflects ignorance pure and simple; you have an opinion like many Americans, yet no clue about this situation.

    • December 28, 2012


      Yah. What else is new. ? The UN approved a partition not the arabs. And so forth. Remember that eventually from the Ocean to the River, From Latani River to the Suez it will be Jewish. YAH. !

    • December 28, 2012

      Abe Froman

      Israel have every right to exist, the last thing we need in the region is yet another arab state that does not respect the right of free speech, the right to religious freedom,
      that treat women like property, and that refuses to condone such cowardly acts as “honor killings” and suicide bombing coffee houses and public transportation.

      Israel is right to wish to deny Iran the use of nuclear weapons, because iran’s
      leadership are religious extremists, the kind of people that sent waves of
      suicide bombers against iraq, and believe they would be doing the will of allah
      by destroying the jew, even at the ultimate cost of their own lives.

      Anyone who supports these people is a fool, or an enemy to civilized
      society. Hamas’s actual slogan, as can be found on their own official website,
      is “we love death more than the jews love life”.

      do you really have to say any more than that?
      Whenever i come across someone who purports to support the
      “Palestinian government” from now on, after a brief attempt to bring them to common
      sense, i will henceforth commence to simply punch them repeatedly in the face.

      • December 29, 2012

        peter holland

        So much for free speech. Someone whose response to argument is physical violence has little confidance in rationality.

    • December 29, 2012


      If Israel sought “The Whole Of Palestine” why did it rip its citizens out of Gaza? For Rockets?

    • December 30, 2012


      For your information – there is no “Palestine” it is a country “created” in the British Foreign Office in the early 1900. Jews on the other hand have had a continuous presence in the biblical land of Israel for the last 3700 years.

      Remember it is the millions of Arabs who have been abandoned by their Oil rich Arab cousins of Saudi Arabia also a creation of the British who are being used as pawns in this ugly mess.

      The Jews will live forever despite Hitler despite Rome despite Greece despite ancient Persia and despite modern day Iran.

      Live with this fact!

  2. December 28, 2012


    And your comment, Mr Holland is the usual smug sentiment of those who support murderers. As you cannot possibly support them with a straight face, your only recourse is to criticize their intended victims.

  3. December 28, 2012

    erica dyson

    Couldn’t disagree more with what you say Peter and it flies in the face of facts. Israel accepted partition in 1947 and the boundaries in 1948. Israel gained territory in a war which it did not start in 1967. The territories are in dispute. We await a mutual recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and stated end to the conflict.

  4. December 28, 2012

    Peter Vardon

    Israel is surrounded by peoples in a genocidal rage committed to its extinction. The rockets that are fired indiscriminately against its civilians, the suicide bombers and the WMD that were and are developed to be used to exterminate the people of Israel are war crimes and crimes against humanity. The war crimes committed against Israel from areas that Israel recently relinquished render another Arab state impossible. Israel’s military posture is defensive and its nuclear arsenal was not created and has never been used to commit genocide or other war crimes, which is a crucial difference between Iran and Israel. Israel’s critics that ignore the enormity of the crimes against her and that ignore the defensive nature of Israel’s military actions are the usual pious frauds that are well beyond smug.

  5. December 28, 2012

    Mike Berger

    To Holland: The only lasting resolution that you would enjoy would be the destruction of Israel. Israel exists partly because in response to people like you and it is sustained by Jewish pride and Jewish creativity and Jewish courage, not by Europe. Get used to it.

    • December 29, 2012


      Bravo Mike!

    • December 29, 2012

      peter holland

      On the contrary, the only lasting solution is not a Jewish state but one which is shared equally by Jews and Arabs.

    • December 29, 2012

      peter holland

      This is a general response to various posts about mine,
      I made my 1st post a week or so ago. My views have developed over the last 10 years as a result of extensive reading. I am not anti-Jewish but I am anti-Israeli. I recognise that Jewish people have faced persecution and worse over the centuries culminating in the Holocaust. It was a logical response to seek their own state. However, Palestine was not an empty land and the inhabitants` rights have been sacrificed. A similar thing occurred in the Americas and Australia where native people were dispossessed. Just as I feel sympathy for those people, I also feel concern for Palestinians in refugee camps or facing daily oppression in occupied land.
      I am dismayed at the reaction to my 1st posting. This is my final comment on this issue, as heat rather than light has been the result.

      • December 29, 2012

        Mike Berger

        Very briefly: The Zionist project is now an integral part of the broad Jewish identity despite a small minority of dissidents. In particular, no state (nevermind Israel formed in the crucible of long oppression and genocide) will willingly give up its identity. So your lasting solution in reality resembles the Nazi final solution. But Mr Holland your reading was clearly undertaken to reinforce your pre-existing prejudices. The settlement of Israel was not driven by the same motives responsible for the USA or Australia and unlike the indigeneous peoples of those countries, the Palestinians were not decimated (except of course by fellow Muslims) but have thrived mightily. I have little doubt you will defend your prejudices to the bitter end, since simple inspection of current reality through ideology-free spectacles would disabuse you of your fantasies which has not yet occurred.

  6. December 29, 2012


    How about we address the main issue rather than our own issues? I am referring to the future. I think almost all agree that the current situation is truly an internecine struggle.

    I will get it started with a constructive idea.

    Taking my chosen path, that of two independent states, equal in stature, how about:
    1) return to ’67 borders (the international legitimacy Ehud Barak refers to above)
    2) some of the biggest “most permanent” settlements stay by leasing (50 or 100 yrs.)
    the land from the Palestinian gov’t.
    3) The Palestinians lease (on equal terms) an equal amount (in sq. km or value) of land to connect Gaza and the West Bank (both sides highly incentivized)
    4) Fair compenstion for other lands appropriated

    Simplistic? Yes, but the principle is sound. Hamas would have to sign on and so would the farther right in Israel. Put it to the people to decide.

  7. December 29, 2012

    Richard Cornell

    Ever study war. It is a nasty subject. Full of blood andguts being spilled. Israel is in a bad place. Syria has chemical and biology weapons that could if it /when falls into the hands of the rebels will either be used against Syria army or be used against other countries including that of Egypt. Isreal if attack by any of these countrieswill have little choice as to send their weapons of mass destruction against the foes.
    There is reported that in a very large dam in Egypt that Russia left a nuclear bomb built into the structure. Size unknown. It is similar to that in Iran that size is unknown. Place there by Russian Jews.
    India and Israel are very close both have a similar enemies and have exchange information to help each other country. They also have exchange troops.It also seems that other African countries also have a interest in both Israel and India since an yellow ore from that country is sold cheaply to each country.
    When it comes to having America getting involed in the Middle East helping do not whole your breath. Israel has figure that President Obama will sit this one out. The Arab countries have said that if he gets involed with any war in the region price for oil will hit $500 per barrel.
    President Obama as president would face the wrath of the American public.
    When it comes to those in Gaza or the West Bank they are as well as like in the rest of the Arab world as a heard of sows.

  8. December 30, 2012


    Mr. Holland has purportedly studied history but “forgets” that hundreds of thousands of Jews in Arab lands were either murdered or displaced and evicted from homes that they had owned for hundreds of years. They were forced to leave without any of their possessions, which were seized by the Arab governments in their respective countries. Israel took them in and gave them homes, education, jobs and a future. They could have languished in refugee camps as pawns in the struggle, but Jews don’t do that to fellow Jews. Where is his sympathy for those hundreds of thousands of people? There are many Arab countries in the region who could have taken their fellow Arabs in and absorbed them – in fact, Jordan was CREATED by a mandate and became an autonomous state around the same time that Israel became a state (thousands of years after Jews had already inhabited the land and always had a presence there) of mostly Palestinians and given to the Hashemite kingdom. Mr. Holland says that Arabs were displaced – they wouldn’t have been had they just stayed in their homes and ignored the calls of the Arab leaders to leave while they killed out the Jews. They suffered the consequences of their own hatred for Jews. Don’t be so naive as to believe that the Arabs will ever agree to a 2-state solution. The Muslim Brotherhood and their satellite entities believe as a religious principle that there must be no Jews or other infindels in what they see as “Arab lands” . They have stated this unequivocally many times, it is in their charters and the more Islamic they become, the more vocal they are about it.

  9. December 30, 2012

    Frank Adam

    Barak’s Talmudic quote about the: Land of Israel only being acquired with difficulties is straight up the European school tradition, “That the Lord made the Earth but left Holland to the Dutch.”
    The Palestine Arabs are victim of their own illegal breech of international law in breaking UN 181 in 1947. The Palestine Arabs are victim of their own utter failure to erect a Palestiine Arab State in the 1949-67 borders before 1967. The Palestine Arabs are victim of their own historic and iimperialist arrogant fatalism to expect things to happen for them instead of “cultivating their garden” and talking to their neighbours as equals.
    Show us an Arab state that is happy and democratic in its skin and bi-nationalism might make sense but it does not in Ireland! It only works in Canada, Belgium and Switzerland because each group within those countries has aprovince to itself – like a teenager having a bedroom to sulk in – which is why a lady’s boudoir is called a boudoir: French, “bouder” to sulk.
    The West refused Jewish refugees from 1920 onwards which Western government is willing to take in six million Israeli Jews? Enough said ! In two years the US becomes energy independent and Europe could follow2020. When we no longer have to crawl to the Saudis and fellow petro-sheiikhs to keep the lights on, the Arabs revert to their sands in their discontents which are so similar to the Refornation troubles of Europe in the 16th century.

  10. December 30, 2012

    Frank Adam

    Very odd how Palestinistas demand a one nation state for Arabs in Palestine but fob off the Jews of Israel with being at most entitled to bi-nationalism which hardly scrapes by anywhere in the World. Canada, Belgium and Switzerland work – and for that matter the UK – because each nation within, has a province to itself even as a teenager can retire to their bedroom for a sulk, or their music. That is why a lady’s boudoir is a boudoir – French, “bouder,” to sulk. Since 1948 Arabs and their governments killed two million Arabs and other Moslems in civil and interstate wars (Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Saharawi, Lebanon, Kurdistan, Sudan….) so who honestly wants to be bi-national in any existing Arab state when their own citizens are fleeing?
    From 1919 to 1939 and even since 1945 the World refused to take Jewish refugees and still resents all poor refugees as distinct from the skilled. How does Mr Holland and his ilk propose to take in the six million Jews of Israel when the World turns a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing of the Christians of the Arab World?
    Ehud Barak’s Talmudic quote reminded me of the old school tradition… ” the Lord made the Earth but left Holland to the Dutch.” The Palestine Arabs are their own victims of their own arrogance in breaking UN 181; then failing to cut their Arab losses with a peace. The sooner they recognise Israel’s self-determination and cultivate their gardens the better because in two years the USA is energy independent and probably Europe by 2020. When the West no longer needs to crawl to the petro-sheikhs the West no longer has to fund UNWRA and the PA; and the Arab World reverts to the sands.

  11. December 31, 2012

    Eliyahu Konn

    It is a shame that “stiff-necked” is still used as a positive characteristic. Clearly in the context of Torah it is not positive.

    Don’t hide your evil behind the term “stiff-necked.”

    Stiff-necked means unreasonably stubborn, at least in English, so it is never a helpful trait.

  12. January 1, 2013

    peter holland

    I had no particular view about Israel until I began to read about it in 2004.
    The studies I read include:
    Chapman – Whose Promised Land
    Elon – Blood-dimmed tide
    Finkelstein – Image and Reality Beyond Chutzpah
    La Guardia – Holy Land
    Morris – 1948
    Pappe – Ethnic Cleansing 1948
    Prior ed – Speaking Truth
    Wallerstein – Israel and Palestine
    Several of the writers are Jewish.
    They have led me to believe that the take-over of the whole territory was planned; Israeli governments have fulfilled much of that plan, supported by many Jews and evangelical Christians of the USA

  13. January 1, 2013

    Frank Adam

    Peter Holland could also try Connor Cruise O’Brien’s “The Siege,” – Arab complaints about Palestine are complaints about the 20th century – and Lord Liverpool’s “Scourge ofthe Swastika”? The ideal time to prevent this grunbling apppendix of World politics was pre 1939 when everybody shut their borders to trade and migration from 1919.
    The best time to prevent the actual Arab War on the State of Israel was in 1947 to back up UN 181 so that the sides had to accept the proposed borders but Britain scuttled instead of a formal hand over; or in 1948 – 67 by pressuring (how?) the Arab parties to cut their losses – but the Cold War and Nasserism stopped that.
    Whatever the superstructures of Mid East politics since 1919 two mainspars of the infrastructure have been Western thirst for oil for which they are willing to kiss the sandals of every clerical fascist petro-sheikh up the Gulf; and Arab nationalism played with for Cold War purposes, recycling petro dollar contracts, and UN votes by both sides. The Israeli right to prevent themselves being burnt again while the World merely tut tuts is almost a side issue by most. For proof qv 1948 at least to the, “First Truce,” Rwanda, Indonesia; and the Arabs have killed over two million Moslems – Arab Iranian and Kurds since 1948 in their intra-state and civil wars!
    One does not have to do overmuch reading to find that the Zionists and Israeli State would have liked all Palestine from the sea to the River Jordan – and the East Bank too; but they repeatedly compromised in 1921 when Britain hived off Jordan in 1937 Peel Report of which Hannah Ashrawi admitted in Nov 2000 on BBC Newsnight, “The rejection of Peel was a mstake;” and in UN 181 and the 1949 -67 Armistice. Even in the week after the 1967 triumph Israel through US good offices offered to return there and then to the Green Line – in return for a peace treaty making it a legal frontier and ending the conflict – hardly excessive demands.
    The Arab reaction was pure silence till the Khartoum Noes of August 67 : No peace! No recognition! No talks! Till Egypt agreed peace in 1977 -82 so admitting its illegal and profitless involvement in Palestine was pointless there was, and has been no compromise on the Arab side, exceptiing Jordan’s peace. Arafat ‘s Oslo feint has been proven so much political ambush since well exposed by the PLO/PA failure to amend its anti semitic and anti-Israel clauses, the Intifada II and the rockets campaigns of Hizbollah and Hamas – HH like Column 88 circles is aas revealiing as any to these people’s intentions?
    Antisemitic because Hamas openly admits it wishes to destroy the World’s Jews as well as Israel and the PLO Charter contains staements about who and what the Jews are in flagrant transgression of their self determination – and pure hypocrisy as only clerics can for denying Jews the self definition of religon while the entire Arab and Moslem Worlds are as hot on their religious self- deternination as any dissident IRA or Spanish and Polish Catholics in contrast to their neighbours geographically and historically.
    Fortunately it is New Year and the season to be optimistic: the USA becomes energy independent on fracked gas in at most thirty months and Europe could follow by 2020 with a bit of spine. Then with petro -prices doewn even if China and India need it – and they too probably have frackable gas the petro sheikhs willl have to come down some pegs and the next US president wil be able to pressure the PA /PLO etc by telling them to pay for UNWRA and the PA themselves which might as the French say, “Calm their nerves,” to calm their nerves.
    Meanwhile it has been known since 1937 if not before that the the Zionist and Israeli response to war has been to settle what they hold, as much as the Arab response to problems is to fight indiscriminately and dig the hole deeper instead of stopping and getting out.

  14. January 9, 2013

    Frank Adam

    The latest President Morsi of Egypt speech reiterates the regular insults of past decades that it does not pay to talk to the decendants of apes and pigs. Since the 1920 and 21 riots the Arabs of Palestine have regularly chanted on their demos, “Palestine baladna! Yahud calabna!” = Palestine is our land and the Jews are [our?] dogs! So, if Israel has slowly moved right since the 1977 Begin election victory and far more so since the second intifada and the 10 000 rockets from Hamastan Gaza, the surprise is the Israeli government and population is by and large still civil with its one fifth Arab minority besides the Arabs of the while the Arab World having ethnically cleansed its Jews in the 40′s- 50′s is now ethnically cleansing every Arab christian shop and family that still has the money to buy a ticket out if not killed on the way. Before anybody throws Bismarck and blood and iron at Israel just check ove rthe Arab World a creation of blood and iron if ever there was – and differential taxes and street violence to suborn conversions. Then note that till May 1945 alll Zionist land was bought which was a lot more than the European acquisitions in the Americas and Australia – at least Peter Holland admits that much; but it is a blind pity he can not see that the Arabs should have cut losses – best in 1949 if not 1937 and that their Don Qixote quibbling about resolutionns Arabs never kept and the state Arabs never erected – unlike Micahel colins Irelland Washington’s America or Ben Gurion’s Israel, leaves then with a lot to answer for – to their grandchildren.

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