Sunday, June 10, 2007

40 Years and Counting

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War's final day. It was Israel's greatest victory, but its aftermath was also Israel's greatest mistake. Israel should have unilaterally pulled out of all the territories it had captured within a year, when it still had a chance. It would have been even better to give the lands back in exchange for peace, but the Arab League's "three nos" of Khartoum (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel) made that option impossible in the short run.

Israel needs to get out of the territories, but unlike 40 years ago, it cannot pull out unilaterally. That was the wrong approach in Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Negotiations won't magically fix things, either. After all, these are our enemies who would rather see us gone. Nevertheless, negotiations are better than nothing. We must start talking to Syria, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. So far, Olmert has only talked about the possibility of talking to them but isn't showing signs he actually intends to seriously negotiate.

40 is a typological number in Judaism, a recurring number with special cultural significance (like 7 and 12). According to the old testament, the Israelites wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years. Many rulers ruled for 40 years, and at the end of many events in the Book of Judges, there was peace for four decades. Noah spent 40 days in his ark, and the 12 Israelite spies were in Canaan for 40 days.

Forty years of occupation - what an unholy number (not that I believe in holiness). Let's hope it doesn't take another 40 years to get rid of it. I'd be happy if we could end it peacefully in 40 days or 40 weeks, but I don't see that happening. Maybe within 40 months.

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