On September 10, Benjamin Netanyahu pulled off one of his famous political masterstrokes when he made a dramatic announcement one week before a contentious national election in which it looked far from certain that he would hold onto his record-breaking office as Israel’s Prime Minister.
The polls were showing a tight race between his Likud Party and the Blue & White Party with neither showing the electoral ability for form a coalition government.
The master tactician had to find a way to break the Gordian knot by applying his version of Dale Carnegie’s famous book. How to win voters and influence people.
With the aid of maps to highlight his statement, Netanyahu told the Israeli public if you want Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea you have to vote for me and give me a mandate big enough to form a coalition government to immediately carry out this commission.
In one fell swoop he looked into the television camera and tested every voter, “It’s up to you!”
The second election in 2019, and possibly not the last in a long chain of elections, became one in which the elector, every Israeli citizen, was given the choice of having a sovereign Israel paced in their hand.
And how did Israelis react?
From the response I have been received, very cynically.
There are those who have told me that they don’t trust him, that he could have made this commitment and taken steps to enact sovereignty during his many years in office, but he didn’t. That is was just an election ploy to get people to vote for him but then he would make excuses to delay his plan to annex important parts of Israel into full sovereignty. That was the level if disenchantment being felt in Israel heading to the polling stations.
A number of people reminded me that Benny Ganz, head of Blue & White, had also pledged to include the Jordan Valley in any peace deal, so what was different with Bibi’s promise, they insisted, rather than asked.
Some on the left said it was a typical Bibi move to win over voters from the far right party, but was it a right wing tactic?
Benjamin Netanyahu was simply echoing a left wing Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, who declared, in his final speech in the Knesset on 5 October 1995, that “The borders of the State of Israel…will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.” Rabin was not called a “right wing hawk.” At this moment in history he was being hailed as Israel’s greatest peacemaker. He went on the make this declaration, “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley in the broadest sense of that term.”
In essence, Netanyahu was saying nothing new. It was already out there stated, noted, and agree by everyone in the international community, except the Palestinian leadership.
A lot of people abroad were perplexed when Bibi spoke about the Dead Sea area. They included many who have stayed at the Dead Sea during their visits to Israel. Almost all of them have driven from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea resorts. They had all assumed that the Dead Sea was an integral part of Israel. They were shocked to discover that it is still considered as “disputed territory,” or as Israel’s opponents would say, “occupied Palestinian land.”
The Israel deniers are ignorant or ignore the history of Qumran where the Jewish Essenes from the Second Temple period lived and wrote the famous Dead Sea Scrolls about the battle between the Sons of Light over the Sons of Darkness, an enigma for today’s battles.
Such a battle was brutally, tragically, heroically, symbolically, played out on the heights of Masada, a once magnificent desert palace and fortress built by the Jewish King Herod, at which the last Jewish resistance to Roman conquest and destruction was played out until its dramatic conclusion.
In the year 73 CE, when all hope was lost, the last surviving Jews, just under a thousands in number, pledged and carried out a communal mass suicide rather than be slaughtered or carried into slavery by the foreign invaders.
The historical shock of this epic event left its impact in the soul of the Jewish people. “Masada Shall Not Fall Again!” has become the battle cry for the Sons of Light.
Thus has been the fate of the Jewish Sons of Light at the hands of the Sons of Darkness for the two millennium of Jewish history since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the fall of Masada in Israel’s Dead Sea region.
This is the way that Israeli Jews, and the majority of Jews globally, see the world today. Too many Sons of Darkness desire nothing more than extinguish the Jewish Sons of Light.
It cannot be denied that it is Israel, and only Israel, in a very dark Middle East that shines the light of freedom, democracy, progress, human rights, and Tikun Olam - Heal the World- and none does that better than Israel.
Yet sadly, tragically, as predicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we too often have to fight to prevent that light from being extinguished, surrounded as we are by Sons of Darkness.
Hence the importance of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea to the people of Israel.
In a few days, Israelis have the opportunity to declare “Masada Will Not Fall Again!” as they head out to vote.
It remains to be seen if Israelis are ready to take up that challenge by taking the fate of our country into our own hands at the ballet box.
Barry Shaw, International Public Diplomacy Director, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. Author of ‘Israel reclaiming the Narrative.’