A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
April 25, 2001 - 2 Iyar 5761 - Special Yom Haatzmaut Issue
Issue number 323
Thursday April 26, 6:30pm
Solidarity March for Israel from Earl Bales Park to Beth David Synagogue.
State of Israel Bonds Canada mission to Israel. Visits to various sites, including Efrat. Price Cdn$1,350 PLUS US$1,000 bond. For info call (416)789-3351
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called upon the leaders of Jewish communities around the world to defend Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. Sharon said this evening that Jerusalem belongs to world Jewry no less than it does to Israelis, Israel Radio reported. Sharon added that Jews need to act so that by the year 2020, the majority of the world's Jewish population will be situated within Israel's borders. (Jerusalem Post Apr 23)
Oslo Architect: Agreement Was Based on Mistaken Assumptions
Dr. Ya'ir Hirschfeld, known together with Ron Pundak as one of the architects of the Oslo Agreements, said Monday that the agreement was based on the anticipation and hope that the interim agreement would lead smoothly to a permanent-status agreement, "but this did not happen." (arutzsheva.org Apr 24)
Thoughts for Yom Haatzmaut...
Rav Kook :
Eretz Israel is not something apart from the soul of the Jewish people; it is no mere national possession, serving as a means of unifying our people and buttressing its material, or even its spiritual, survival. Eretz Israel is part of the very essence of our nationhood; it is bound organically to its very life and inner being. Human reason, even as its more sublime, cannot begin to understand the unique holiness of Eretz Israel; it cannot stir the depths of love for the land that are dormant without our people. A valid strengthening of Judaism in the Diaspora can come only from a deepened attachment to Eretz Israel. The hope for the return to the Holy Land is the continuing source of the distinctive nature of Judaism. The hope for the Redemption is the force that sustains Judaism in the Diaspora; the Judaism of Eretz Israel is the very Redemption.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan :
When a Jew says, "Next Year in Jerusalem," it is more than just a prayer that he may visit the Holy City, or even that he should settle there. It is a prayer for the entire future of the Jewish People, and for the world in general. So closely is Jerusalem tied with the ultimate future and coming of the Messiah, that saying "Next Year in Jerusalem" is nothing less than a prayer for the inception of the Messianic age... It was this messianic optimism that led to the rise of Zionism, as a movement of national liberation - the first such movement in the world. The Jew knew that things would eventually have to improve and that the redemption would have to come - G-D himself had promised this - and if it did not come through miracles, it would have to come about through human effort. Maybe some did not realize it, but the people who led the rebirth of the Holy Land were taking part in the first stages of the Messianic drama, which includes the rebuilding of the land. Perhaps Jews believe that, as the time of the redemption drew near, G-d sent a spirit of enthusiasm of the Jewish people, impelling them to return and recultivate the Land of Israel. (Jerusalem: Eye of the Universe)
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin:.
Dear Mom, Thanks for the "New York Times" article that you wanted me to read about Israelis who've left that States, where the going is supposed to be a lot easier. I know that you gave it to me hoping I would wake up before it's too late and realize that I may be making a mistake since, after all, Thomas L Friedman, the reporter, was only telling you what you yourself had been saying all along from the moment that Vicky and I and the children, would be moving from New York to a hill you never heard of: how could I give up a tenured rabbi's position in the culture capital of the world for an unpaved mountaintop in the middle of Yennemsville? You called it "Lubin", the small town (Yiddish:dorf) in Poland which you left at the age of 3 for your promised land, America. How could I leave Lincoln Square to go back to Lubin? Moreover, why was I willing to send your grandchildren into an army if in America they would likely never have to fight? "Reconsider, Steven, before it's too late."
First of all, Efrat may indeed be a lot smaller than New York, but right here is where we are able to fulfill the commandment in this week's Torah reading, "and you shall take possession of the land and settle in it,.... (Numbers 33,53). About the "New York Times" article, I'm sorry Friedman didn't talk to me. Without sounding too mystical, I would've told him that when the alarm clock sounds at six in the morning to the recitation of the Sh'Ma on the radio dial, it's a far cry from when I woke up in Bedford- Stuveysant to the sports news on the Dodgers game the night before. The Sh'ma is a shocker. Get out of bed, it cries to me in-between syllables, now, while you realize that your life as a mortal has a purpose, a mission, that G-d's plan for Efrat, Fresh Meadows and the rest of the planet is still incomplete at 6:01...
Next time you come, Mom, we'll walk along and try to imagine what it might have been like for Abraham and Isaac to ascend together toward Mount Moriah and the eventual binding of Isaac on the altar. I'm sure that Abraham's mother couldn't understand why he left the bustling metropolis of Ur Kasdim for that unknown nomad's land on Canaan merely because some G-d pointed him in that direction. Certainly, she must have been upset at what almost happened to her grandson.
The truth, I realized, was that I had come here not so much to teach as to learn; to absorb the lessons of courage, devotion, loyalty, to see how dreamers of Zion live their dream in life and in death. but even as I am humbled by those who hallow their memories, I can understand well, how so many soldiers, tired of fighting war after war against those who would replace the Sh'ma on the radio dial, cry out for a pause, a few years in which they can pursue a business, a job or a career without their yearly reserve duty, a period which taxes not only their own energies but those of their wives and children.
The people who leave are human, but the people who are determined to stay are heroes. They're willing to put the lives of their children on the line for the cause of Jewish independence. No, mom, we didn't move back to Lubin. We moved to Efrat so that there never would be Jewish communities like Lubin that could be destroyed by gentile terror.
The road to redemption in Jewish History has taken many twists and turns since its origin in Derech Avot, and who is to say that in the second half of the twentieth century it isn't winding its way along Horace Harding Boulevard in Queens waiting for you and Dad to pack your suitcases and join the dreamers, especially those who love you. (Baltimore Jewish Times)
"... And so here I am in front of the Western Wall watching a Moroccan rabbi in the costume of a Polish Hasid speeding through an ancient Hebrew blessing over the head of an Indian bar-mitzvah boy being pelted with candy by women dressed in saris while speaking modern Hebrew - and it is evidently all too much for me. The Jews are too much for me, the mystery and wonder of their ingathering in this country are too much for me, their diversity and their unity as a people are too much for me, and to my amazement, and embarrassment, I feel tears coming to my eyes and spilling over onto my cheeks." (Commentary, December 1995)
A Time for Unity By Rabbi Berel Wein
There is no word that is so often used as a symbolic goal for the Jewish people generally and for the State of Israel particularly as the word unity.
But for Jews, unity has always proven to be an elusive goal. Two Jews, three opinions, is not just an ironic joke; it usually represents a factual description of the events. The nature of the Jewish people from our ancestral origins as 12 distinct tribes till today makes it most unrealistic to expect utopian-like unity within Israel.
And that is not as negative a situation as may at first appear.
The rabbis of the Talmud long ago came to the conclusion "that just as no two people are exactly alike physically, so too no two people hold exactly the same viewpoints and opinions on matters."
It is perhaps this very diversity of ideas and opinions that helps to produce the progress and improvements in human life - individually and communally - for which every generation strives. In fact, I am convinced that unity should never be confused with conformity and, unfortunately, in many instances this confusion of terms and values does take place.
All of the above profound wisdom having been said, there is nevertheless a limit to disunity in national and communal affairs. The well-known metaphor of drilling a hole only under one's own seat in a boat carries a great deal of truth to it. There is a line between legitimate disagreement, strongly held opinions and beliefs, a devotion to ideals and values, on one hand, and, on the other hand, actions which are clearly damaging to the society as a whole. The reckless behavior of some that endangers the entire nation and society is not justified simply because those people truly believe in their opinions and points of view.
It is one thing to disagree, to dissent, to speak up and out on issues, even if that speech is currently unpopular or politically incorrect. It is another matter to act upon one's own beliefs to the detriment of the majority of the society. In short, one does not have the right to drill a hole under one's own seat in the boat unless the boat is so hopelessly evil and corrupt that it deserves to sink.
Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Saddam's Iraq are, in my opinion, examples of such boats that should drown. But I do not believe that the Jewish society and/or the State of Israel comprise a boat worthy of being sunk.
Like it or not, we are engaged in a war against the Palestinians, a war that we did not initiate or desire. We may disagree as to how best to pursue that war, and we are entitled to express our thoughts on the conduct of this war, but sending aid and comfort tor those who shoot at us is not acceptable behavior in my opinion.
All of these meetings with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat by the politicians of the Left, all of the statements that he somehow is still our partner for peace, all of the statements that there is no military solution, are severe breaches of the minimum unity that our situation so badly deserves now.
It is ironic by far that it is the extreme Left and the extreme anti-Israel Satmar/Natorei Karta who alone amongst Jews march with Arabs. They still don't get it that Arafat means them as well. Marching with Arabs is not only an act of disunity, it is an act of foolishness, naivete and grave danger to the very cause of peace and brotherhood that these "true believers" espouse.
I also think that the same idea applies to the religious/ secular/ pluralism debate that flickers on and off in the Jewish world and here in Israel. Taking unilateral steps that drill a hole in the bottom of our collective boat in the name of "progressivism" is contrary to the very ideas of unity and equality that these advocates of "pluralism" claim to represent.
There has been no greater act of disunity in the Jewish world over the past century than the idea and practice of patrilineal descent in determining who is Jewish. I never understood how one Jewish group could always claim to be for Jewish unity and demand full equality as representing Judaism while at the same time undermining any chance for Jewish unity by reckless and provocative acts of change that only guarantee its being viewed as disloyal to Judaism's traditions and values. There are moments that demand a modicum of unity in Jewish life - not conformity, but unity. I think that we are now living through one of those moments. (Jerusalem Post Apr 20)
Is the Establishment of the State of Israel a Mitzva?
By Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
The Ramban (Nachmanides) writes: We are commanded to inherit the Land [of Israel]. and we are forbidden to abandon it to any other nation . as the Torah says, "And you shall establish yourself on the Land and live there" (Ramban, Annotations to Rambam (Maimonides), Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Mitzva 4). According to the above, one of the positive commandments in the Torah is Israel's possession and sovereignty over Eretz Israel. That is exactly what the State of Israel is - the Nation of Israel ruling over the Land of Israel. Therefore, according to Nachmanides, the State of Israel is the fulfilment of this commandment. Possession of Eretz Israel is a collective mitzva that is the obligation of the whole nation, similar to the mitzvot of appointing a king, building the Bet HaMikdash, or declaring war. It cannot be fulfilled by individuals.
Likewise, the Torah does not prohibit individual non-Jews from owning tracts of land in Eretz Israel, as long as two conditions are fulfilled: 1) That they are loyal to the State of Israel; 2) That they observe the seven Noachide Laws, or at least do not worship idols. They then have the status of "ger-toshav", and are permitted to dwell in Eretz Israel (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim, 6:1, 8:10; Hilchot Avodah Zarah 10:6; Ra'avad op. cit.). Moslems today have a similar status. They may be allowed to live in Eretz Israel provided they are loyal to the Israeli Government, have no nationalist aspirations, and are not idolatrous (Rav Kook, Mishpat Cohen).
In any case, Eretz Israel must be a sovereign Jewish State. Although the Rambam does not count sovereignty over Eretz Israel as one of the 613 mitzvot, he does count the mitzva to appoint a king over the Jewish Nation in Eretz Israel (Hilchot Melachim 1:1). This obviously must refer to a king of the sovereign Jewish State in Eretz Israel, and not to a foreign ruler.
So, too, today, the establishment of a Jewish Government in Eretz Israel is one component of the mitzva of establishing a true "Malchut Israel" (Mishpat Cohen, p. 337-8), and part of the necessary groundwork for this mitzva. Ideally, Eretz Israel should be ruled by a king of the House of David (Hilchot Melachim 1:7). However, a king of different ancestry may rule temporarily, as did the Kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who were appointed by prophets (ibid. 8-9), and the Hasmoneans (Rambam, Laws of Hanukkah 3:1).
Furthermore, we deduce the laws concerning rebellion against a king from Joshua 1:18 (Sanhedrin 49a; Hilchot Melachim 3:8), and Joshua was the leader of the Nation, but not formally its king. Nevertheless, he possessed a king's authority. So, too, today, although we are not governed by a king, and certainly not by one of the House of David, our government has some of the authority of a King of Israel (see Mishpat Cohen, ibid.), and is a first step towards fulfillment of the collective mitzva d'oraita of establishment of the rule of the Messiah.
Therefore, on the fifth of Iyar, the Nation of Israel fulfilled a wondrous mitzva on behalf of the whole Jewish People by establishing a Jewish State of Israel in Eretz Israel. When performing a mitzva, we recite the blessing, "Who has sanctified us by giving us His mitzvot." Although we do not recite this blessing every time we perform every mitzva, the day on which this mitzva was fulfilled for the first time in almost 2000 years has sanctity. (In a similar vein, a young person celebrates a Bar/Bat Mitzvah upon first being privileged to be commanded to perform mitzvot. See further Kiddushin 31a; Yam Shel Shlomo, Baba Kama 7:37.)
Thus we see that Israel's Independence has religious significance. We celebrate this day as a holiday - the day we first fulfilled the mitzva of renewing our sovereignty over Eretz Israel. (Ateret Cohanim, Tal Chermon)
Rav Aviner is one of Bet El's two Chief Rabbis and heads Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim in Jerusalem.
Happy Independence Day Anyway By Herb Keinon
Unlike years past, the country doesn't much seem like celebrating this Independence Day. And justifiably so. Buses blowing up in Kfar Saba, mortars falling on Sderot, gunfire on the roads in Judea and Samaria has a tendency to kind of suck away that celebrative urge.
And, unlike the religious holidays, there is no divine imperative to celebrate. It's not like Purim or Simhat Torah where Jews are commanded to be joyous, regardless of what is happening around them.
This is a secular holiday, and as is the nature of secular holidays, if you feel like celebrating, celebrate; if you don't, don't. And, because of the country's heavy mood, because of the current war of attrition, because of all the warnings of more attacks on the way, it does indeed become tough to sing and dance and grill hot dogs amid so much pain, anger and frustration.
Three years ago, when Israel was celebrating its 50th anniversary and the country was in a furor over a dance removed from the jubilee program because of alleged religious coercion, many were the pundits who wrote that the ferocity of that very debate showed that Israel had entered its "normal phase." According to this line of reasoning, if the country could afford the luxury of arguing so vehemently over an unperformed dance, it indicated that existential questions were replaced by others, and that Israel was no longer dealing with the "if" of its existence, but rather with the "how." Much was written then about a lack of joy in the air around Independence Day, something that was largely interpreted as a sign of normality.
Independence Day, it was said, lost its luster and became routine because of the feeling that Israel was losing its luster and becoming routine; that it was becoming accepted and normal. And in lusterless, routine, accepted, normal lands, Independence Days are not such big deals.
Those words proved premature. The events over the last year - beginning with the Nakba (catastrophe) Arab riots last May which called into question Israel's legitimacy, continuing with Yasser Arafat's refusal of a generous deal in exchange for an end of the conflict, the Palestinian insistence on the right of return which seems a euphemism for ending the Jewish state, and the violence which has unleashed a hatred toward Israel in the Arab world that many thought had disappeared - have disabused much of the country of the notion that Israel's physical existence as a Jewish country in the Middle East is in any way a given.
Fifty-three years after its founding, we woke this year to discover that we are, in a sense, still fighting our War of Independence.
In schools, the country's history is often taught around its military struggles. The signposts are the War of Independence; the Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon War, Intifada I.
Giving the military campaigns different names allows one to compartmentalize. But it also creates an illusion that these were all independent little wars of the type that all nations fight in their infancy. Just as the Americans had the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, and the War with Mexico in its early years, so we too have had our wars. But America's wars were at least with different foes, over different issues. The American Revolutionary War did not continue for 50 years. Sadly, Israel's Independence War has.
Israelis and Jews everywhere who were born and grew up after the establishment of the state, have understandably taken its existence for granted. We have grown up with the belief that Israel will always be here, as if it is a natural part of the universe. As if we have finally reached safe shores.
But from last Independence Day to this one, many have come to the conclusion that the safe shores have receded.
This, ironically, may provide more of a reason to celebrate now than in the past. Last year Independence Day was no big deal because we thought that everyone - including our neighbors - had come to terms with our existence here as an independent Jewish state. But after a harrowing year, that premise no longer seems to stands. Israel's existence is not a given, meaning that every passing year is indeed a marvel, indeed a reason for thanks, and - especially in times like these - indeed a cause for celebration. (Jerusalem Post Apr 25)
What Will Be the End? By Amotz Asa-El
At a meeting with tourists some time after the Six-Day War, an elderly American Jewish woman asked Moshe Dayan: "So tell me: Vus vet zein der soyf?" Surely, if that question could be asked in those heady days, then what are we to say of these perplexing days, with last year's peace-in-our-time vision petering out like the smoke billowing from a Gazan mortar?
Indeed, as Israel's ongoing war enters its 54th year, Jews around the world are asking, for the umpteenth time, like that old lady: What will be the end? How much longer are we going to skirmish, like Jacob on Canaan's threshold, with an enemy whom, the more we fight, the less we understand?
Tragically, only months after the conventional wisdom held that a peace deal, good or bad, was imminent, the consensus now is that no Israeli leader in the foreseeable future will risk being mocked and betrayed the way Ehud Barak was by Yasser Arafat. So swift has been the shift from euphoria to depression that mainstream Israelis now refuse to even hear the term "peace process." Who in his right mind would want to touch, even with a 10-foot-pole, a "process" that began with pompous sloganeering next to a Norwegian fireplace, only to culminate in shooting attacks on Jerusalem and Kibbutz Nahal Oz?
This perplexity grows further when coupled with what on the surface seems like the decline of the Zionist ethos.
It's easy to lose hope in an Israel that not only revisits 1950s-style terrorism, but also sees the once-mythological kibbutz lose its ideological fervor and economic edge; it's difficult to fathom Herzl's ideals in an Israel where teenagers who once would be mobilized by magnetic youth movements to pioneer on the borders and help the weak at home now spend their time gazing at MTV, roaming malls and doing Ecstasy; its tempting to eulogize an Israel where orange orchards - once a national trademark - are routinely uprooted in order to make way for shopping centers; it's difficult to recall the Mitla Pass, Entebbe or Ammunition Hill tales of heroism in an Israel where reserve duty, once a symbol of social solidarity and national resourcefulness, is being challenged by combat soldiers furious at those who serve less, not to mention those who don't serve at all; and it's excruciating to consider the gathering of the exiles, once a simple-to-comprehend Zionist raison d'etre, and now a chaotic Tower of Babel mixing thousands of non-Jewish Russians and Ukrainians with second-generation foreign workers from Thailand, Nigeria, Brazil and elsewhere.
Back in '69, Dayan said: "The question 'what will be?' never left our nation's lips for 4,000 years; in fact it became an organic part of our national character."
In Dayan's view, the timeless Jewish question was not "what will be the end?" but simply "what will be?"
"The emphasis in this Jewish question," he explained, "is not on the destination, but on the path." The age-old Jewish quest to dwell peacefully in the land, he added, was always more ambition than reality.
The "what will be?" question originated, as Dayan saw it, with Abraham, who was commanded to stake a claim to the entire Promised Land while struggling with no fewer than 10 nations. Faced with this daunting challenge, the patriarch asked God "what will be?" and was answered: "Fear not, Abram."
Rather than seek absolute and final solutions for all our problems, explained Dayan, and rather than write up a schedule for obtaining the ever-elusive "peace," the only fundamental answer with which we can respond to the question "what will be?" is: "we will continue to struggle."
This insight can also shed new light on our current travails.
First, the current crisis is not the result of a failure on our part, but is a continuation of our ancestors' endemic lack of peace. Because of their size, location and dispersal, an inherently vulnerable Jewish people has always had some of its communities at odds with their neighbors while others thrived. Our generation is no different; Jews in Christian regions are at peace with their neighbors the same way that Jews in Moslem lands were while European Jews were embattled. The difference is that today's single embattled Jewish community - Israel's - is fighting, and doing so efficiently.
Secondly, the burning desire to see peace dawn abruptly, or "to bring an end to 100 years of violence" as Ehud Barak thought he would in a few days at Camp David, is reminiscent of the timeless messianic quest to see the problems of Jewish existence solved not gradually and by normal human action, but suddenly and by divine intervention of the sort that would make dictators voluntarily lay down their swords and shields, seek regional harmony and cultivate domestic prosperity.
The bad news in all this is that Jacob's wrestling match with the angel has yet to end. The good news is that today, in the land that Jacob entered limping, his descendants are so firmly rooted that they made it as attractive an immigration destination as Australia and Canada; that the country's business expansion is fast pushing orchards from the center to the Negev; that Israel's MTV generation habitually produces world-leading hi-tech heroes; that the kibbutzim, having humbly abandoned their Dr. Strangelove urge to reengineer the family, are now transforming themselves into placid suburbs; and that the wrestling, at least for now, is so limited that reservists - who in an all-out conflict would no doubt ask no questions and fight - are still debating the system's flaws.
Yet the best news is that the Hizbullah-PA assumption that Israel's willpower will crumble in the face of a war of attrition is proving unfounded. If anything, it brought out that time-honored Jewish struggle-instinct of which Dayan spoke. Evidently, Sheikh Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat weren't there when that lady asked: vus vet sein der soyf? (Jerusalem Post Apr 19)
Not Ready for Final Status Jerusalem Post Editorial
On television Sunday night, former ministers Haim Ramon and Shlomo Ben-Ami smugly observed that the Sharon government has demonstrated that it has neither a military nor a diplomatic solution to Israel's current predicament. Others argue that, while Defense Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer claims it will not be Israel who "tires first," the Palestinians are showing no signs of tiring either.
The rash of talk that Israel does not have the stamina to defeat Yasser Arafat's post-Camp David offensive is a result of Secretary of State Colin Powell's sharp criticism of Israel's response to the shelling of Sderot, and the instantaneous Israeli withdrawal that this criticism seemingly produced.
Suddenly it looks as if Israel, not the Palestinians, will blink first, resulting in a repeat of negotiations under fire. This perception is very harmful, because in encourages Arafat to continue to take no meaningful action to end the Palestinian offensive against us.
In reality, the US criticism may be a Pyrrhic victory for Arafat, because it will not prevent Israel from continuing to enter Palestinian-controlled areas (Area A) as needed for security purposes. Arafat seems to be running out of ways to attempt to force Israel to escalate its responses.
Arafat's announcement that he was working to arrest those responsible for mortar attacks, however cynical and inconsequential, is a sign that these attacks have not been met with any international understanding or support.
As Sunday's suicide bombing in Kfar Saba and yesterday's car bombing in Or Yehuda indicate, even if Arafat were to eliminate mortar attacks, this would not constitute a substantial reduction in violence. In the past two weeks, for example, there were some 90 armed attacks against Israelis in or from the Gaza Strip, only 10 of which included mortars. The Palestinian Authority did not condemn the Kfar Saba bombing. Instead, the PA-controlled newspaper Al-Ayyam published a photo yesterday of a wall depicting an exploding Israeli bus with the caption, "A child walks by a wall in the Khan Yunis refugee camp with graffiti which vows to avenge the pure blood of the martyrs" (translation by Palestinian Media Watch). At this point, the question is what basis Israel has to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, even if there were a total cessation of violence.
The premise of the peace process in general and the Oslo Accords in particular was a trade of "territory for peace." Israel's territorial down payments were made, but the Palestinian down payments on peace - an end to incitement and commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes - have been flagrantly violated.
The lesson of the Oslo experience, culminating in the worst Palestinian violence just as Israel had become most forthcoming in negotiations, is that ignoring the Palestinian need to prepare for peace does not work. Oslo did not ignore this need, but Israel and the United States failed to take enforcement of Oslo's anti-incitement provisions seriously.
MK Yossi Beilin points out that Israel is required under the Sharm e-Sheikh agreement of 1999 to engage in final-status talks. Yet the last two agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians, at Sharm and Wye River (1998), read today like a cruel joke. Israel has completed both phases of the "redeployment" required by Wye, but what is left of the elaborate sections on "Outlawing and Combating Terrorist Organizations," "Prohibiting Illegal Weapons," and "Preventing Incitement"? About a year later, the Sharm agreement barely even bothered to mention these topics, let alone insist on their implementation.
While some argue over whether to pursue a long-term interim agreement or final-status talks once negotiations resume, the more important question is what lessons have been learned from the experience of previous agreements.
The most glaring lesson should be that the relaunching of final-status negotiations should not be linked to arbitrary deadlines, but to concrete signs that the Palestinians are ready to live with Israel in peace.
Even before the current Palestinian offensive, the idea that it did not matter that no Palestinian map included Israel, or that Palestinian children were being taught to hate and kill Israelis, was farfetched. After the experience of the last year, the idea of rekindling final-status negotiations before there is any Palestinian sign of accepting Israel borders on insanity. For the past eight years, Israel has been intensely called upon to demonstrate its ability to make painful compromises for peace. Any future negotiation must be built upon concrete demonstrations of the Palestinian willingness and ability to do the same. (Jerusalem Post Apr 24)
Desperate for Solutions By Ron Dermer
Appearing this Sunday on a popular prime-time political television show to comment on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's war against terror, Shlomo Ben-Ami couldn't seem to hold back a smile.
True, the tragedy of another suicide bombing that killed one Israeli and injured 60 others was no cause for joy. Yet there are few things more comforting to the human psyche than the idea that its owner has figured out how the world works - and that everyone else will soon come around to his or her point of view.
With the security situation remaining intolerable two months into Sharon's tenure, Ben-Ami no doubt sees vindication for his view that there is no "military solution" to the conflict.
The former foreign minister is just as convinced as he was two months ago - when prime minister Ehud Barak was booted out of office by an electoral landslide - that the only solution to the conflict is a diplomatic one.
In fact, dispelling the myth that there is a "military solution" was how Ben-Ami couched his own objections to Labor joining a Sharon-led national unity government in the first place. While many in his party were rushing to abandon Labor's sinking ideological ship, Ben-Ami, Yossi Beilin and to some extent Avraham Burg, stood their ground.
In effect, they said to their colleagues on the Left that staying in opposition was a historic opportunity to let the Right prove once and for all that it had no credible alternative to Oslo. Ben-Ami understood that as long as the country thought that "the IDF can win," a pervasive view that was a huge albatross around the previous government's neck, a terrorized people would prefer military to diplomatic solutions.
The possibility that the current state of affairs might have come about as a direct result of an incompetent political process was rejected out of hand by men like Ben-Ami, absolving them of the moral responsibility for helping the nation extract itself from its current predicament.
More important was leading Israel as quickly as possible back on the right path toward what they genuinely believe is the only possible solution.
To be sure, the alacrity with which they pronounced the "military solution" dead is somewhat pathetic.
Remarkably, political leaders who spent over seven years grasping at every straw of a false peace, won't give the current prime minister seven weeks to try a different approach. Then again, the impatience of those who hoped to end a 100-year-old conflict in a fortnight at Camp David might have been expected.
What these diplomatic thinkers do not seem to understand is that deterrence, unlike appeasement, is a policy that takes time to implement. A single retaliation or initiative by a Sharon-led government will do very little to rein in terrorism and reduce violence, particularly when it comes in the wake of the most unprecedented display of perceived Israeli weakness that the Arab world has seen in half a century. Rather, deterrence can only be restored over an extended period of time, by maintaining a firm policy that is backed by a strong and stable government. When the corrupt junta that is ruling the Palestinians realizes that they will pay a "disproportionate" price for sponsoring terror and that Israel's government will not risk collapse with each new provocation, violence and terror will inevitably subside.
But if by saying that there is no military solution to the conflict, Ben-Ami is suggesting that no government will be able to completely safeguard Israel from terrorism, than he is indeed right. The unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state remains, as it has always been, the insurmountable obstacle toward achieving any solution in the near future. Yet what Ben-Ami and many others still fail to admit to themselves is that this same intransigence represents at least as formidable an obstacle toward achieving any diplomatic solution. In fact, the real alternative facing Israel today is not whether to choose between a military or diplomatic solution, but whether or not to believe that any solution is possible for now. By making a nation obsessed with finding an immediate resolution to its conflict with its neighbors, Oslo's harried race toward an illusive peace trampled a steely determination and enduring resiliency that has long been the real hope of Israel.
This week, perhaps we might reflect on how far we have come in the last 53 years without ever having found a solution. On Thursday, as Israel celebrates another Independence Day, let's try to remember that dying for a noble cause is a whole lot easier than living for a humble one. (JP Apr 24)
The Left's Ongoing Oslo Delusion By Daniel Pipes
What do you do when everything you predicted fails to happen?
This is the quandary of the Left and its Diaspora allies. They were sure that if only Israel made extensive compromises, Palestinians would respond by accepting the permanent existence of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East. This certainty inspired the seven-year-long Oslo effort from September 1993 until September 2000 (yes, also during Binyamin Netanyahu's three years), when Israeli governments pursued a policy of niceness.
But instead of winning Palestinian acceptance, Oslo's painful concessions had the reverse effect. The more Israel showed flexibility, the more Palestinians smelled blood and became enraged at the very existence of the Jewish state. This culminated in the violence of the past seven months.
Explaining what went so terribly wrong with their plans, the extreme elements of the Israeli and Jewish Left blame only Ehud Barak; in a full-page Ha'aretz advertisement, Uri Avnery's Gush Shalom faults him for a "total ignorance of the Palestinian narrative and with disrespect to its importance" - whatever all that means. Slightly less extreme leftists blame politicians on both sides: "The government ambassadors have failed," announces a coalition of American Jewish groups in a full-page New York Times advertisement.
The moderate Left blames Arafat, though it cannot quite agree on the reasons for his misbehavior: either he is too set in his violent ways; or he is a bad character ("either stupid, evil or both"); or he engages in "terrible foolishness and recklessness." Despite these differences, the entire Left shares one key belief: that Oslo failed due to the personality and actions of leaders - and not because of its inherent faults. The Left still thinks that Israel making concessions will resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And so it hopes that the Oslo process will soon be resumed, with just some minor adjustments: emphasizing the role of confidence-building measures; treating Palestinian violations of promises with greater seriousness; inviting international monitors; withdrawing settlers; replacing Arafat (the Jerusalem Report urges "would-be Palestinian leaders of vision and guts to stand up and be counted"); waiting until Arafat dies; ignoring politicians and initiating people-to-people exchanges. My favorite is the "Olive Trees For Peace" initiative which calls on Jews to purchase olive trees and replant them in Palestinian villages. These suggestions reveal how astonishingly little the Left learned from the collapse of the Oslo process. Instead of advocating a change in course, it wants Israel to revert to the discredited policy of niceness. If a mistake is worth making once, the Left seems to think, it is worth making again and again.
The Oslo process did not fail because of poor implementation. Rather, its basic assumption - that a policy of niceness would seduce Palestinians into accepting Israel - proved profoundly wrong.
If Israel truly wants to end its problem with the Palestinians, it must adopt the opposite approach: convince Palestinians not of its niceness but its toughness. This means not replanting Arab olive trees but punishing violence so hard that its enemies will eventually feel so deep a sense of futility that they will despair of further conflict.
A historical analogy comes to mind: when World War I ended, German armies remained intact and their capital city unoccupied. Not convinced they had really lost the war, Germans harbored a deep discontent that led to the rise of Hitler. In contrast, Germans emerged from World War II utterly defeated and without any illusions to confuse them. This time, understanding the need for a fresh start, they turned to Konrad Adenauer and built a peaceful, successful country.
The Palestinian Authority is hardly Germany, but the analogy does hold: Palestinians will not give up on their aggressive ambitions vis-a-vis Israel until fully convinced that these cannot succeed. Only then can they build a polity and an economy commensurate with their dignity and talent.
Ironically, then, Palestinians need almost as much to be defeated by Israel as Israel needs to defeat them.
It's time for the Left to recognize the vastness of its error in the Oslo process and adopt the tough-minded policies that will finally liberate Israelis and Palestinians from their mutual conflict. (Jerusalem Post Apr 25)