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Human beings are limited drastically by our inability to forecast and see the future accurately while we are engaged in the present. There is no question that world history would read far differently if only the assumptions of the present could be judged by the realities of the future. In the autumn of 1914 the German army stood at the gates of Paris and the Kaiser believed that his victory was at hand and that his troops “would return home before the leaves fall." 

The assumption of the Kaiser and the German general staff as well, was that the war could be won by a relatively short and swift campaign. Had the Kaiser and his generals been able to peer into the future and see that the war would last for more than four years and consume tens of millions of people, soldiers and civilians alike, perhaps the Kaiser would not have even entered into his alliance with Austro-Hungary that touched off the Great War.
But his arrogance betrayed him, and convinced of his success he set in motion a chain of events that would destroy Europe over the balance of the century. However, after the battle of the Battle of the Marne, when a French counterattack finally halted the German advance and forced a retreat from Paris, the situation became radically different.
The chief of the German general staff then informed the Kaiser that, in his opinion, the war was lost and Germany should seek the best terms possible in a settlement. The general was prescient in his prediction but the Kaiser ignored his statement and rewarded him by removing him from a position of power and influence.
Not being able to see the future that would destroy his dynasty and his country and plunge the world into a bloodletting of unimagined proportions, the Kaiser was convinced that the present reality – that the German army was the strongest army in Europe – would eventually prevail in his favor. He did not realize that four years down the road the German army would no longer be the strongest army.
I have often wondered what our part of the world would look like today if the Arab nations over the last 70 years would have taken advantage of the peace offers made to it by various governments of Israel. In 1948 before the War of Independence the Arabs had partition lines that were enormously favorable to them and that the fledgling Jewish state had agreed to accept. Instead of accepting those lines the Arab nations attempted to destroy Israel completely and thereby lost territory and resources.
After the War of Independence, the parties agree to armistice lines – today they are called in 1967 lines, but in reality they are the 1949 lines of the armistice treaties between Israel and the Arab states. These borders were more favorable to Israel but still overwhelmingly much more favorable to the Arab population. Again, the Arabs concentrated not on accepting those favorable terms and building a future for their people but rather on fomenting continual wars in an attempt to destroy the Jewish state.
After every war they found themselves in a worse position than they had held before the war. Egypt and Jordan came to this realization and to the agreement that the future was not the destruction of Israel but rather accustoming themselves to the reality of the existence of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, the rest of the Arab world still did not see the future in those terms.
The actions of the present shape the world of the future. In the 70 years of the existence of the state of Israel, actions and policies taken now make for difficulties in somehow arriving at a permanent, fair and equitable peace arrangement. Many mistakes have been made by both sides over the past seventy years.
Most of Israel's mistakes were based on rosy assumptions and the presence of wishful thinking. There is no other explanation for Oslo and the other interim agreements that have been made over the past decades. Their mistake is a fundamental one. Theirs is a belief, as a matter of faith and even of religion, that the Jewish people have no right to a state here in the Middle East and that all sorts of tactics – diplomatic, from terror, propaganda, etc. – will eventually grant them their wish and that the state of Israel disappear from the Middle East. This is a terrible misreading of the future and only serves to prolong the conflict, the pain and cost to all concerned.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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