Updated: Nov 5
by Ram ben Ze'ev (Conservative Values)
Over the past seven and a half decades, the State of Israel has encountered numerous challenges and complex geopolitical realities, with none more serious than the atrocities its citizens suffered three weeks ago. However, upon retrospect, it becomes evident that Israel's approach towards its enemies, particularly in the Middle East, can be characterised as one of appeasement. That narrative truly commences prior to the formation of the modern state of Israel.
Great Britain's failure to fulfill its legally binding obligation under the British Mandate to establish a Jewish state can be attributed to a combination of political, strategic, and socio-economic factors. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 called for the creation of a "national home for the Jewish people." This commitment was later incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate [for Palestine], which was drafted from mid-1919 until July 22, 1922 and became effective on September 29, 1923. That mandate was ultimately repealed on May 15, 1948, the day after David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. On the same day, May 14, 1948, U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognised the new nation.
Before then, however, the British government faced significant challenges in implementing its commitment. “Palestine is costing us 6 millions [Pounds] a year to hold,” wrote the generally enthusiastic Zionist-supporting War Minister, Winston Churchill, to Lloyd George in June 1920, “The Zionist movement will cause friction with the Arabs. The French… are opposed to the Zionist movement & will try to cushion the Arabs off on us as the real enemy. The Palestine venture… will never yield any profit of a material kind.” Churchill had been warning for some time that British Parliament would not make sufficient funds available to hold the Middle East, arguing that Britain would not have enough troops available for the task. And so Churchill appointed Grand Mufti, al-Husseini, an Islamist hater of Jews, as leader of the Arab community in the region.
The Arab population in the region vehemently opposed the establishment of a Jewish state, leading to widespread conflict and violence. To maintain order, the British consistently adopted policies favouring the Arab population over the Jewish community.
Over time the strategic interests of the British Empire had shifted. With the rise of Nazi Germany and the looming threat of World War II, Britain sought to maintain good relations with the Arab countries in the Middle East, which were rich in oil resources. This led to a more appeasement-oriented approach toward Arab demands, further impeding the creation of a Jewish State. So, economic and demographic factors played a role. The Jewish community in what would become the modern State of Israel was not as organised as the Arab population, making it difficult to establish a self-sustaining Jewish state.
In sum, Great Britain's failure to fully implement the promise of a Jewish state under the British Mandate was a complex interplay of political, strategic, and economic factors, ultimately resulting in significant tensions and a complete failure of its obligations.
What followed was a story of Israel's birth that is intrinsically begun with and tied to appeasement, with the Jewish nation being encouraged to be grateful for whatever [we] could get, rather than what [we] were legally entitled to receive.
In 1947, the United Nations voted in favour of the partition of the region, leading to the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948. This move was supported by Western nations who had a sense of responsibility towards the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. However, it also led to resentment among the Arab nations in the region. This initial act of appeasement by the British government and the resulting appeasement by the new Jewish State, set the stage for decades of conflict, as Israel's neighbours rejected the presence of a Jewish state in the heart of the Middle East.
In the early years, Israel sought to coexist with its Arab neighbours. The Jewish state extended an olive branch a number of times by emphasising peaceful coexistence and offered an open-door policy for Arab refugees as further acts of appeasement. The other Arab nations, however, remained steadfast in their rejection of Israel's existence, leading to a series of conflicts in 1948, 1956, and 1967.
The 1967 Six-Day War marked a turning point in Israel's history. Faced with threats from multiple Arab states, Israel initiated a pre-emptive strike, leading to a swift and decisive victory. While the Israeli government declared its willingness to exchange territory for peace, this move was met with the famous "Three No's" from the Arab League: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. Israel's territorial gains in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights became contentious issues that persist to this day.
Amid the backdrop of the ongoing conflict, the 1993 Oslo Accords emerged as a symbol of hope for peace. Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, engaged in direct negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. The Oslo Accords represented a significant shift in Israel's policy toward appeasement and the pursuit of peace.
(Excluding the most recent atrocities)
Terrorist attacks and a lack of consensus on core issues like borders, refugees, and Jerusalem have hindered the peace process. Israel's approach of giving concessions in pursuit of peace has often met with criticism from within its own borders, as well as from international quarters.
In 2005, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implemented the Disengagement Plan, which involved the withdrawal of Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. 21 Jewish communities in Gaza were unilaterally dismantled, and the Israelis residing there were forcefully evacuated by the IDF, some at gunpoint. This act was portrayed as a gesture of appeasement, aiming to improve security and promote peace. However, the withdrawal did not lead to peace and stability in the region. Instead, Arab terrorists took control of Gaza, and the area has since become a hotbed of conflict and violence.
This conflict and mounting violence came to a head on the 7 October 2023, during Shabbat and at the conclusion of the seven-day-long festival of Sukkot, we, the Jewish people, were tragically reminded that our government's experiment with the Arab terrorists in Gaza, Judea and Samaria was still gathering data. Exactly 50 years after the start of the Yom Kippur War, thousands of Arab terrorists in Gaza launched an unprovoked attack against Israel, resulting in the loss of more than 1,400 innocent Israeli lives (השם יקום דמם) and severe injuries to over 4,000 Jewish people.
These Arab terrorists murdered men, women and children. They raped women and girls and they beheaded children and infants and this brutal assault spared no one, including the elderly and survivors of the Shoah. Shockingly, 224 Israelis, including small children, have been kidnapped and are now being held hostage in Gaza by these savages, and one can only imagine the depth of suffering experienced by these captives.
Throughout its history, Israel has formed strategic alliances with various countries, particularly the United States. These relationships have been instrumental in Israel's security and diplomacy, but they have also shaped its approach to appeasement. American support, both financial and diplomatic, has at times allowed Israel to maintain a tough stance in negotiations with its neighbours, but have always come with strings attached that required further appeasement by Israel.
Over the course of 75 years, Israel's policy of appeasement has evolved and adapted to the changing geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. The nation has faced complex challenges, negotiated with various neighbours, and navigated the turbulent waters of the region. While appeasement has been a fundamental aspect of Israel's diplomacy, it has also been a source of contention both domestically and internationally.
As we reflect on more than 75 years of Israeli appeasement, it is clear that the road to peace and stability in the Middle East remains long and fraught with challenges and now, atrocities. The future will undoubtedly bring new obstacles, but the lessons of the past, particularly, the most recent massacre, should finally put an end to this cycle of appeasement by the Israeli government.
It is truly unfortunate that so many Israelis had to lose their lives at the hands of Arab terrorists in order to foster hope for a change in this policy.