Every now and then, we need to step back and take a break from the daily grind. It helps us to gain a fresh perspective regarding the things that are going on around us and often enables us to get a handle on how those things impact our lives. So it was for me these last few weeks. So much was happening in and around the Middle East, I decided to watch things unfold and observe how so many news columnists wanted to express their opinions about almost everything that related to the renewed “peace talks”. In their frenzy to fill their word quota, many were verbally tripping over one another, but most of them, in my opinion, missed the big picture concerning the so-called “peace talks”, Israel and the Jewish people.
Pressure Politics, the “Peace Process” and Israel, blind and deaf
Over the last three weeks, I watched the news, read the newspapers and saw a strong, independent nation, established in line with Biblical prophecy, once again yield to outside pressure. I watched as our nation’s leadership caved in to the pleadings and threatenings of the international community, particularly the United States, and almost beg those who hate us to talk with us, so that we could give them a huge chunk of our land. We were the ones with the “upper hand”, yet we pleaded to be allowed to cut ourselves open and give away our heart, thinking that the rest of our body will be able to function properly and effectively without it. And, if that were not enough, we were willing to release many terrorists, whom we captured, convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms for their willful murder of our people and attempts to destroy us as a nation, all as part of still another “goodwill gesture”. The major difference from similar “gestures” in the past is that this time, we did it for the singular purpose of getting our enemies to agree to sit down and talk with us, so that we could do even more to create national, self-inflicted wounds. A form of blindness, deafness and madness has taken hold of the upper echelons of our national leadership.
“You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.” (Isa. 42:20) These words of the prophet Isaiah are as valid for us today, as the day that they were written. We could ask the simple question: “Is anyone here paying attention?”
Before the first round of talks, which took place in Washington two weeks ago, and even before the cabinet vote concerning the resumption of the so-called peace talks with the “Palestinians”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an open letter to the citizens of Israel, with these words:
“From time to time, prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion — when the matter is important for the country’s well-being.
Prime ministers are not needed to make the decisions that the public already supports.
At the present time, I believe it is of the utmost importance for the State of Israel to enter a diplomatic process. This is important both to exhaust the possibilities of ending the conflict with the Palestinians and to establish Israel’s position in the complex international reality around us.
The major changes in our region — in Egypt, Syria and in Iran — not only pose challenges for the State of Israel but they also present significant opportunities for us. (bold underlines, my emphasis)
For these reasons, I believe that it is important for the State of Israel to enter a diplomatic process for at least nine months — to see if it is possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians during this time.
But despite placing a great deal of importance on the diplomatic process, I was not prepared to accept the Palestinians’ demands for withdrawals and [settlement building] freezes as preconditions for entering negotiations.
Neither was I prepared to accept their demand to release Palestinian prisoners before the start of negotiations. I did agree to release 104 Palestinians in stages after the start of the negotiations and in accordance with the circumstances of their progress.
This is an indescribably difficult decision to make, it is painful for the bereaved families, it is painful for the entire nation and it is also very painful for me.
It conflicts with a value of incomparable importance, the value of justice.
It is a clear injustice when depraved people, even if most of them have sat in prison for over 20 years as in this case, are released before they have finished serving their sentences.
The decision is difficult for me seven-fold because my family and I personally know the price of bereavement from terrorism. I know the pain very well. I have lived with it every day for the past 37 years.
The fact that previous Israeli governments have released over 10,000 terrorists does not make it easier for me today, and did not make it easier when I decided to bring back Gilad Schalit.
Gilad Schalit’s return home required me to make an incredibly difficult decision — to release terrorists. But I believed that the value of bringing children back home required me to overcome this difficulty.
People in positions of leadership are forced to make complex choices and sometimes the necessary decision is the most difficult one when the majority of the public opposes it.
Thus I decided to end Operation Pillar of Defense after the elimination of archterrorist Ahmed Jabari and after the severe blows the Israel Defense Forces dealt to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.
I made the decision to end the operation even though most of the public supported continued action, which would have required entering the Gaza Strip on the ground. As prime minister, I thought that the goal of deterrence had been mostly achieved by the determined actions that we carried out.
Today, almost one year after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, we are witness to the quietest situation in the south in over a decade. Of course, this quiet can fall apart at any minute but my policy remains clear on all fronts: We will, to the best of our ability, thwart the threats against us in a timely manner. We will react strongly to any attempt to harm our people.
In the next nine months, we will consider whether there is a Palestinian element on other side that, like us, truly wants to end the conflict between us.
Such a conclusion will be possible only under conditions that will ensure the security of Israel’s citizens and our vital national interests.
If we succeed in achieving such a peace agreement, I will submit it to a referendum.
Such a fateful decision cannot be made by a close vote in the Knesset.
Every citizen must be allowed to directly influence our future and our fate on such a crucial issue.
The best answer we can give to those murderers that sought to defeat us through terrorism is during the decades that they sat in prison, we built a glorious country and turned it into one of the most prosperous, advanced and strongest countries in the world.
I promise that we will continue as such.
In all fairness, let me give credit where credit is due. Netanyahu (for whom I voted more than once) has been responsible for a number of diplomatic achievements, as he indicated. However, like the true politician that he is, the above “open letter” leaves open many questions. For example, in the language emphasized above, we are left to wonder what the possibilities would be after the nine months are up and there is still no agreement. Will we be expected, or will it be demanded of us, that we extend the time to give birth to an agreement for peace that will cut pieces from the State of Israel, because by then “we will be so close”? That question was answered on August 1st by Tzipi Livni (chairperson of the HaTnuah Party), Israel’s left-wing Minister of Justice and chief negotiator with the “Palestinians”: “All the parties involved have an interest in reaching a settlement”, adding: “Time is less important. If we require more than nine months, of course we’ll continue, and if the negotiations will not be serious – then even nine months will not necessary. My impression is that the ‘Palestinians’ are serious, this is a test for them. Anyone who enters the negotiating room knows more or less how it should end.”
And, how will our entering into negotiations “establish Israel’s position in the complex international reality around us”? Could it be that Israel is trying to buy time to finalize taking military action against Iran, with or without assistance, which cannot be counted upon, of the U.S.? If so, we need to remember that with all of the worry and concern about the possibilities of a nuclear Iran, with the uprisings in Syria and in Egypt and the turmoil and oppressive regimes in other places around the world, most countries, particularly those in the European Union, are fixated over the resolution of the Arab and “Palestinian” – Israeli conflict. They are operating under the delusion that bringing this issue to an end, one way or another, would also bring an end to the multitude of other problems now facing the world. Blowing Israel off the face of the map is only one of the desires of Tehran. Another is its expansionist vision to reclaim the territory and the glory of the former Persian Empire. Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not end the fighting between Shiite and Sunni Moslems. Nor will it end the public revolt in Egypt, or remove the threat of a nuclear North Korea, or provides jobs or economic security or wipe out diseases, or end the desire of Islamists for Islamic supremacy over the rest of the world, and so on.
The release of prisoners with “blood on their hands”, just to get the “Palestinians” to sit down with us in the same room and talk, is not only immoral, it is also setting an extremely dangerous precedent. Let’s think for a moment how assured this really is. In order for the “Palestinians” to be willing to talk peace, they want us to release murderers, whom they were responsible for sending out to kill us. But, they not only want “Palestinian” murderers released, they also want Israeli Arabs released from prison with them. Agreeing to this request gives a tacit understanding and approval to allow the “Palestinian Authority” to be the legitimate representative of Israeli Arabs, as well as those from their own community. We have released some 10,000 terrorists over the years in exchange for a total of a handful of Israeli soldiers, some of whom were returned to us dead, within the framework of a peace agreement. Many of them continued their terrorist activities, because their ideology demands it. And, as expected, many return to try their terrorists stills again.
Over the years, from the time when Arafat would say one thing, in English, for the international press and another thing, in Arabic, for the “Palestinian” people, Israeli politicians made considerable efforts to pass off comments in Arabic as meaning something other than what was really said. Nothing has really changed. The “Palestinian” mindset remains the same as it was. Releasing murderers is viewed as a victory for them and a clear message that terrorism is a valid means to achieve their ends, namely, the destruction of Israel. Their release allows them to pursue their goals with more terrorism and even to use the issue of release of terrorists as a means of affecting the “peace process”.
A senior “Palestinian” official said that the peace talks will further the goal of establishing a “Palestinian” state, which will be the first step of completing the program of defeating the enemy – Israel. Mahmoud Abbas said that when the “Palestinian” state will be established, “we will not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.” So much for a “peace partner”. And yet, our leadership continues to press on with “peace talks”, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the realities on the ground.
Let’s take this one step further: for the sake of discussion only, let’s presume that a “peace agreement” is reached with the “Palestinians”. Then what? According to Netanyahu, he will submit it to a public referendum for the people to decide, because it is too great an issue to be decided by politicians. Based on what has been offered by previous Israeli governments, and rejected by the “Palestinians”, the heart of Israel would be given away. That would entail, in very simple numbers, the uprooting of over 100,000 people. A national referendum approving the “peace agreement” will divide the country and could result in a “Jewish Spring” and civil uprisings throughout the country. If the referendum rejects the agreement, do we start all over again?
But, coming back to present reality, if a referendum is considered important enough at the end of the process, why shouldn’t it be deemed important enough to restart the process, particularly if it requires the release of terrorist murderers? Polls taken regarding the issue of their release show that the majority of Israelis were opposed to such a move. If we opposed release of prisoners, how much more would we be opposed to the uprooting of tens upon tens of thousands of Jewish people from their homes? If the right question is properly phrased in the referendum, the outcome should be clear: Israel will not be divided. Nevertheless, politics, being what it is, can generate untold surprises and, in the end, we could have a nation divided, a people divided, a land divided and enemies on all sides, from within as well as from without.
The release of convicted terrorists is no small matter. Some have already been released and others are slated to be released for the next round of negotiations, to take place in Jerusalem this week. Those who support their release say that it was the lesser of many evils. The “Palestinians” demanded that prior to agreeing to renewed “peace talks”, Israel first had to agree that the talks would be renewed on the basis of the establishment of a “Palestinian” state with the 1967 borders (which, as previously note in TWTW were not borders but cease-fire lines). This demand was rejected. Another demand that was rejected was that the talks resume where they were left off during the time of former P.M. Ehud Olmert. Also rejected was the demand that Israel openly declare a moratorium on settlement construction while negotiations were being conducted. So, why didn’t Netanyahu simply say “no” to releasing terrorist prisoners at this stage? Was this concession that critical? Would it make the “Palestinians” reject their charter that calls for the destruction of Israel? Would it make the rest of the nations love us? Obviously not. We had insisted that talks resume without preconditions. We gave in on that and set an extremely bad precedent for negotiations in the future. Our “yes” should have been “yes” and our “no” should have been “no”.
What should be obvious is that demanding the release of racist murderers and revering them as heroes, is the polar opposite of peace. Making such a demand is tantamount to making a declaration that the P.A. is not interested in peace. When such a demand is made by the head of the P.A., who also denies the Holocaust, we should have responded with a statement that those who truly seek peace would not seek the release of those who are opposed to peace and that by making such a request, Mahmoud Abbas showed himself to anything but a genuine partner for peace, or for that matter, a partner for anything.
And, to make matters worse, the negotiators agreed that the negotiations would remain secret. Only U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would release information about what was happening. But, this relates to Israel and plans that affect Israel always come to light, as nothing is hidden from Him, Who created us and established us for His glory. “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD and whose deeds are done in a dark place. And they say, ‘Who sees us?’ or ‘Who knows us’?” (Isa. 29:15) “You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” (Psalm 90:8) If, according to Tzipi Livni, “Anyone who enters the negotiating room knows more or less how it should end”, then why shouldn’t we know now what they know?
The 9-month period for negotiating a “peace deal” clearly presents a picture of pregnancy. It starts with uncertainty, is followed by a period of nausea, which then turns into discomfort and an inability to move freely without pain and/or discomfort. At the end, a newborn comes forth that no ones knows how the child will look, but who will cry and wail and demand everyone’s attention to satisfy every one of his needs, until he is pacified. Sound familiar?
Following the first round of talks in Washington, Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, stated: “We came here today from a troubled and changing region…We are hopeful, but we cannot be naive. We cannot afford it in our region. We owe it to our people to do everything … for their security and for the hope of peace for future generations…We all know that it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, with ups and downs. But I can assure you that … in these negotiations, it’s not our intention to argue about the past, but to create solutions and make decisions for the future.”
She then turned to Saeb Erekat, the “Palestinian” negotiator, and added: “You know, Saeb, we all spent some time in the negotiations room. We didn’t reach [a] dead end in the past, but we didn’t complete our mission. And this is something that we need to do now in these negotiations … a new opportunity is being created for us, for all of us, and we cannot afford to waste it.”
At a press conference following the first round of talks, Tzipi Livni said Israel entered the negotiations with “open eyes” and that we must act to preserve our security interests, as well as act for the sake of future generations.
As expected, the Middle East Quartet was enthusiastic about the resumption of talks, stating its hope that the “renewed negotiations will be substantive and continuous and set a clear path towards a two-state solution, the end of conflict, and lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Giving away about 98% of Judea and Samaria was not completed. Now, our chief negotiator wants to finish what was started. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing the present negotiator with a new one. At least I’m not alone in my thinking. In light of her statements and willingness to “finish” what was started to create a “Palestinian” state, many in the Knesset are wondering whether Livni is the right person to bring the cows home. Her mandate is not clear and, in fact, it is not even known how far she can go and whether she will be the one suggesting what the future borders of a “Palestinian” state should be. The other negotiator for Israel is Yitzhak Molcho, who is not a politician, but a lawyer. There is no doubt that the top celebrity of the “peace talks” is Tzipi Livni. I can’t wait to hear what the next round of talks will bring forth. Actually, I can wait, because if this is the way we started, it can only get worse. And this last statement is coming from an eternal optimist.
The Real Issue
As mentioned at the outset, it seems that the discussions about holding “peace negotiations” based on a 2-state formula miss the point and are damaging to Israel. Any process of negotiation should be based upon the principle of “peace for peace”. Our emphasis needs to be our “right” to all of Israel, based on law, morality and history. The latter aspect establishes who we are, how we came to be, what we, as a people, have accomplished and contributed to the world, not the least of which is The Book of Books, The Bible, the foundation for every moral code in so-called democratic countries. Our history establishes how we came here and how we came to possess territory “from Dan to Beersheva”, including Judea and Samaria, which shows that we are not occupying land that belonged to someone else, but land that is part of our historical heritage. Negotiation, therefore, from an Israeli point of view, should press the issue of our legitimacy in and to all of the land, including Judea and Samaria. It should focus on the legitimacy of Zionism (after all, God is a Zionist – there are 500 references to Zion in the Scriptures), which began as a movement to get Jews from around the world to return to our ancient homeland, irrespective of the world’s attempt to equate Zionism with racism and apartheid. If we focus on borders and security issues, instead of our right to be here – even if our claim is rejected – and we agree to be redefined by narrow borders, we will yield our legitimacy to claim our historical link to this entire land and will justify “Palestinian” claims that we are, after all, nothing more than occupiers of “their” land. Maybe we should again suggest the possibility of the “Palestinians” trying to set up their tents in Jordan. After all, many Arab residents in East Jerusalem already hold Jordanian, as opposed to Israeli, passports.
But, alas, we may have missed the opportunity argue truth, if we argued amiss along the lines of borders and security. We can negotiate all that we want and the “Palestinians” will happily sign whatever is ultimately agreed to. If our most recent history has taught us anything, it is that they have no interest in living at peace with us, but rather, they want us removed from the region.
Setting the Record Straight
The Prime Minister wanted the Knesset to pass the controversial “referendum law” as a basic law (the equivalent of a constitutional law), that would make mandatory a national referendum regarding any peace deal that would require territorial withdrawals. During the debate on the law in the Knesset, MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly – an Arab party) claimed that inasmuch as the bill referred to “occupied territory”, it was irrelevant “what applies is international law; the referendum should apply to the nations of the world.”
MKs from Habayit Hayehudi responded to Zahalka, saying “You are the foreigners in this land”, to which he replied: “We were here before you and we will be here after you.”
At that point, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to be allowed to respond to Zahalka’s statements from the Knesset podium, where he said: “I did not plan to speak but I heard what MK Zahalka had to say. You said ‘We were here before you and we’ll be here after you’re gone.’ The first part is not true and the second part will never take place.” The P.M. slammed his hand on the podium and then left the hall to the applause from many members of the Knesset.
It should be noted that in 2012, when Netanyahu spoke at the U.N. General Assembly, he said: “The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Even after most of our people were exiled from it, Jews continued to live in the land of Israel throughout the ages. The masses of our people never gave up the dreamed of returning to our ancient homeland. Defying the laws of history, we did just that. We ingathered the exiles, restored our independence and rebuilt our national life. The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again.“ (underscored emphasis, mine)
In light of this last statement, how can we negotiate to give away our land? Maybe a “give-away” is not considered “uprooting” from a political point of view, because it is voluntary. But, how voluntary is it really? Maybe what we need to do is to ask the citizens of Israel, who will be required to leave their homes as part of a “peace agreement” whether their definition of “uprooting” is the same as that of our present government.
New Iranian President – not so moderate about Israel
Two days before inauguration, Iran’s new President, Hasan Rouhani, who took part in a pro-“Palestine” rally, said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed”. In so stating, Rouhani’s comments followed the lines of his predecessors, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as of other Iranian leaders.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded quickly to Rouhani’s statement, saying, “The real face of Rouhani has been exposed earlier than expected…The president’s words need to awaken the world from the illusion that some have been under since the elections in Iran.” At the weekly cabinet meeting that took place thereafter, Netanyahu added that even though the president in Iran had changed, the goal of the regime had not: to develop nuclear capability and weapons to destroy Israel.
Turkey Released alleged “Mossad Agent”
A while back, Egypt claimed that it caught a shark off the coast of Sinai and said that it was a spy for the Israeli Mossad. Iran also claimed that the vulture that it captured was a Mossad spy. Now, authorities in Turkey said that it detained a kestrel (bird) on suspicion of spying for Israel, because it has a metal ring on its foot with the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel”. But, after submitting the bird to a series of x-rays and being convinced that it was not embedded with surveillance equipment, such as microchips or bugging devices, they let it go. And that ended the saga of the “Mossad Falcon”.
Israel’s National Insurance Institute will run out of money in less than 30 years.
The National Insurance Institute, Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. Social Security System, could run out of funds by 2042. As a general matter, every working Israeli citizen is required to pay national insurance. NII Director-General Shlomo Mor said even small steps could improve the situation, adding: “The [financial] report is a warning to Israel. If we take small or moderate measures today to ameliorate the current situation, we can avoid taking drastic measures in the future, which could damage recipients’ quality of living.” Some are asking whether they should put money into a system that is designed to provide for their future pension, when that system is expected to reasonably fail by the time they expect to receive benefits from what they are now putting in.
A Little Language Levity
The Jewish Press reported on August 1st about a give-and-take between an orthodox Jewish, Member of Knesset and an Arab MK, who were able to encourage one another in their mutual opposition to a new law that would make it more difficult for small political parties to enter the Knesset. Yisrael Eichler, a member of United Torah Judaism, and Ahmed Tibi, a member of Ta’al and a staunch supporter of the establishment of a “Palestinian” state, gave speeches in the Knesset opposing the passage of the law. Eichler spoke to Tibi in Arabic and the latter showed responded in kind, speaking to Eichler in Yiddish, stating how much he appreciated the Haredi (ultra orthodox) support for “democracy”. Only in Israel!
The brief article can be found at: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/brotherly-love-haredi-mk-speaks-arabic-arab-answers-in-yiddish/2013/08/01/
Israeli Ingenuity, from Haifa
The number of Israeli inventions and devices that have improved the lives of people around the world, including those of our enemies, is too numerous to mention here. But, we might all want to take a quick look at one system that was developed by Elbit Systems at the Haifa Scientific Industries Center (Merkaz Ta’asiyot Mada, or “Matam”) and be thankful for it the next time we plan to board a plane. Don’t you wish you lived here?
And THAT Was The Week That Was…and a little more.
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)
“The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.” (Psalm 87:2) “Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.” (Psalm 125:1) “The LORD bless you from Zion and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (Psalm 128:5)
Be blessed and be a blessing.
Have a simply great week.
p.s.: In case anyone missed prior updates of The Week That Was, copies of updates that were sent out from the end of January, 2013, until now, can be viewed at: http://www.twtw.co.il