At first glance the question appears ludicrous. After all the Jewish people have a state, and have made great sacrifices to establish it. Israelis continue to sacrifice themselves in its defense, and pay the highest income tax in support of the highest per capita military expenditures in the world. Jews in the Diaspora volunteer their treasure and their energy defending Israel’s right to exist.
On further examination, however, the answer to the question of whether or not the Jewish people really want a state is not as obvious as it first appears. Recent Jewish history raises serious questions about our willingness to accept the responsibilities inherent in state power. We must ask ourselves: Why after 60 years has Israel never declared her borders? Why after five major victories Israel sues for peace as if she were the defeated party and proves unwilling to resist a single demand of a significantly weaker Palestinian foe? Why in her most recent war in Lebanon did Israel fail to achieve victory against so weak an enemy, and why did Israel’s government refuse to order the army forward after a month of deadly unprecedented bombing of Israeli cities? Why does Israel continue to allow the bombardment of her towns and slaughter of her citizens around Gaza as she has done for six years? Why within a Gaza completely surrounded by, and dependant on Israel, is Gilad Shalit still held hostage without consequence to the enemy? Why does Israel place her capital city up for negotiations and why within her own sovereign territory does the Jewish State allow her enemies to physically destroy the holiest sights in Judaism.
The only possible answer is that the Jews do not really want a state, or to be more precise, they do not want the responsibilities of power that come with it. Yes, we enjoy the benefits of having a Jewish State. We relish seeing coins and stamps with Jewish themes. Jews everywhere are glad of the status and acceptance that come with having a Jewish State, but only if there is not a single voice raised anywhere in opposition. So unsure are we of our rights to our land that individual Arab objections prompt the Israeli Supreme court to order a protective border fence costing billions of dollars, destroyed and moved, not once but four times! For 60 years, Israel has avoided declaring its borders so as not to offend enemies openly seeking her destruction. So as not to offend anyone, the Jewish State stands by mutely, while Jewish holy sites like the Temple mount and Jacob’s tomb are physically destroyed, her cities rocketed, her citizens taken hostage and massacred.
Two hundred years ago John Stuart Mill wrote about an America then still struggling for her sovereignty:
“A people may prefer a free government, but if, from indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice…they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it, if they will not fight for it when it is directly attacked…they are more or less unfit for liberty: and…unlikely long to enjoy it.”
Americans today enjoy the benefits of liberty only because they stood their ground and fought for it for two centuries. They fight for it still. On the other hand, nations that value peace over liberty enjoy neither. Having a Jewish state means not only enjoying and learning about our land, it means declaring her borders and defending them, even if the enemy objects, even if the entire world prefers otherwise. Having a state means that we do not put our capital city, our Holy city, up for negotiations. A state does not exist in the ether. It exists on land with a defined border, a capital city and sacred sites that are non-negotiable. A state educates and produces a citizenry ready to defend its sovereignty against all opposition. The State in turn holds the life and liberty of its citizens sacrosanct, does not allow them to be taken hostage, bombed and slaughtered with impunity.
Unlike past threats to our existence, the Jewish people today do not face an enemy of overwhelming power. Rather we face our own unwillingness to shoulder the responsibilities of power. The Jewish People need to search their collective soul and ask: Are we ready for the responsibilities inherent in state power, or do we prefer to return to the more familiar moral purity of powerlessness? The Jewish people must decide, if we want a state or not, and we must do so quickly.