Yossi Sarid
Haaretz (Opinion)
August 26, 2011 - 12:00am

Until now Israel had supported the occupation of the territories with two pillars: history and security - its right to inherit the land and its obligation to defend it. In recent weeks a third pillar was added, which all these years was hidden under straw and stubble. And maybe it's not a pillar but a snake, whose head must be crushed while it's still small.

According to the school of thought based on history and faith, the Land of Israel was received by the Jewish people from the hand of God, and we are commanded to take all of it by dint of the Covenant of the Pieces that God made with Abraham. That was a nice big gift, we have to admit, stretching from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates. It was granted on various festive occasions not only to Abraham but to his heirs as well. Eventually it was forced to shrink, and now there is really no reason to shrink it further out of choice.

The second, security-based school of thought stipulates that we need virtually all the territories for self-defense. Without them we'll never be able to live in security without feeling threatened. Therefore, if we are ever forced to leave certain parts of the country, even then we'll evacuate only in order to remain, relying forever on temporary "security arrangements," which even social-welfare-oriented MK Shelly Yachimovich will sign.

Sometimes one school of thought overlaps the other and the difference between them becomes blurred. It often happens that members of the security school - people who do not lead a religious way of life - put a knitted skullcap on and then prophesy in the same messianic style. And the opposite happens as well: Rabbis and students bring up reasons in the name of security so as not to rely on the promise alone.

And now, in the middle of the summer, when the social protest is putting the housing shortage at the top of the agenda for a moment, the third school of thought is developing and taking hold. The interior minister - in advance of a Black September of his own - approves the construction of 1,600 housing units for the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, another 624 units in Pisgat Ze'ev and another 930 in Har Homa Gimmel - all beyond the Green Line. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for whom the election threshold is a sharp knife at his throat, approved 277 homes in the settlement of Ariel, may it be established in his day. And 42 MKs are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ease the housing shortage in the country via accelerated construction in the territories.

Suddenly we are short of space here in Israel, which has become full to capacity and needs lebensraum. Every cultured person knows that this is a despicable German concept, banned from use because of the associations it brings up. Still, people are starting to use it, if not outright then with a clear implication: We are short of land, we are short of air, let us breathe in this country.

When we embarked on the Six-Day War did we want to remove a threat or did we want to gain control in order to spread out? That's what happens after 44 years of mire and moral corruption, which distort things and make us forget the original objective and replace it with an entirely different one. We were fortunate when we occupied the West Bank because had we not done so, where would we have come to live? And who knows how high housing prices would have risen? The divine promise is now being revealed in all its ability to prophesy about real estate.

The founding fathers, as opposed to the Diadochi who fought for control after Alexander the Great's death, represented a different approach, for the most part. Between "A little goes a long way," and "Don't bite off more than you can chew," they chose to bite; they even agreed to the 1947 UN partition plan for lack of choice. They believed that all the objectives of rational Ben Gurion-style Zionism could be fulfilled even in "Lesser Israel," which is more complete and more at peace with itself. And it has no need for lebensraum, may God preserve us.


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