Moshe Arens, Netaniyahu's mentor, writes in HaAretz today and reveals something I didnt know: during Israel's War of Independence in 1948, Eretz Israel was not liberated because there was not enough Jews left alive to people it. I had pondered before the strange borders of Israel, why after defeating the Arab Legion, the Hachemite Kingdom was left occupying the West Bank and all of the East Bank of the Jordan. The answer I had received from the people in TAHAL who had actually fought the war was that the yishuv was too exhausted having lost about 10,000 people and needed peace. Although this surely is true, it never sounded right to me, since the yishuv was full of vitality in 1948 and only 8 years later attacked and fully defeated Egypt. Arens writes:
In the minds of some, the establishment of the State of Israel is linked to the Holocaust, or even seen as a direct result of the Holocaust. U.S. President Barack Obama, probably unaware of the history of the Zionist movement, implied as much in his speech in Cairo last year.
But the truth is almost the exact opposite. The extermination by the Germans of six million Jews during World War II came close to putting an end to the dream of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The reservoir of Jewish immigrants to Palestine was decimated. Vladimir Jabotinsky, in his testimony before the Peel Commission in London on February 11, 1937, spoke of the aim of Zionism as the establishment of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River in which there would be room for "the Arab population and their progeny and many millions of Jews." At that time, the Jewish population of Palestine was no more than 400,000.
By the time the war had ended, millions of Jews had been exterminated in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor and the killing fields of Russia. To Zionist leaders, it became clear that not only were there not enough Jews to constitute a solid Jewish majority, which was the condition for establishing a Jewish state, on both sides of the Jordan River, but that Jewish immigration would not even suffice to establish such a majority in the entire area west of the Jordan.