It has been a while since I last wrote in this column. The reason is that I was out of the country for a period of time speaking and teaching in different places. Orit was able to join me and she had opportunities to share about the work of A Future and A Hope. While the trip enabled us a sweet time of fellowship with many, we continue to suffer somewhat from jet lag, even as we try to get back into the swing of things on this end.
On the Friday before our return, all three of our children were involved in an automobile accident, while on the expressway going to a conference. They all walked away from it, but our daughter, Hannah (Hanni) suffered a fractured sternum and one of our sons had abrasions all along his arm. The car was totaled. We are truly thankful that our children are alive and that Hanni is on the mend. Still, we would appreciate your prayers for her full and complete healing.
During our absence, events continued in Israel, as we seem to race towards the end of the year, with many prophesying disaster for 2014. In the meantime, we’ll consider briefly the events of the past week.
The candles were lit for Hanukkah, but …
We finished celebrating the Festival of Hanukkah, which began the week before. It is an 8-day event, commemorating the Hasmonean (Maccabean) victory over the Greeks under Antiochus IV, whose forces were occupying Israel and who had defiled the Temple in Jerusalem. Like most people, I love a good story, particularly a Biblical one, where God intervenes to save Israel. According to the story that I grew up with, after the victory, while cleansing the Temple from its defilement by the Greeks, a cruze of oil was found that was expected to last for one day, but instead it lasted for eight days, as the Temple was rededicated to God. It’s a great story about a great miracle. The only problem is that we celebrate Hanukkah for the wrong reasons.
The victory over the Greeks and the liberation of the Temple did, in fact, take place. It was hoped that the battle to liberate the Temple would be over by the time of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Hag HaSuccot). But, the battle continued for several years before victory was finally achieved and during that time, the Feast of Tabernacles had to be celebrated in caves in the mountains. Thus, after the victory and the rededication of the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar, another celebration took place – like that of the Feast of Tabernacles, which also lasted for 8 days. The remembrance of that victory with a similar celebration was decreed to take place each year at the same time. However, with the passage of time, as embellishments were added to the actual events, the story took on a character that was more in keeping with the present tradition than with the facts. We need to celebrate God’s victory over those who invaded the land, who defiled the holy sanctuary and tried to force Jews to violate the Mosaic Law, as well as to celebrate the rededication of the Temple, in cleanliness and purity for God’s service (see 2 Macabbees 10:1-9), as we look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
This should bring us to ask whether our own “temples” reflect God’s presence and holiness. Maybe we need to clean out that which defeats and defiles us and rededicate ourselves for God’s service.
Still negotiating, but for what?
With the 9-month negotiation process slightly more than half way through, and despite the desire to keep the contents of the discussions “secret”, some information was forthcoming this week, as once again, Secretary of State John Kerry came for a visit. As usual with visits from U.S. Secretaries of State, this one is accompanied by more pressure and threats, not only implied, but actual, if the present “negotiations” fail to produce an agreement. According to a recent poll conducted here, the vast majority of Israelis do not believe that the present negotiations will lead to a peace agreement.
It appears that both sides are failing to budge on some of the core issues of the negotiations, among them security arrangements and the status of Jerusalem. This impasse has led Kerry to present a “bridging proposal” intended to help both sides to get over the difficulties in these areas and to move on.
Regarding the issue of Jerusalem, Israel’s position is that the city remain undivided, while the “Palestinians” want to establish their capitol there. The bridging proposal essentially favors the “Palestinian” position, in that it would refer to Israel’s ancient Capitol as “Greater Jerusalem” and would allow a “Palestinian” capitol to be set up in the eastern part of the city, where the neighborhoods are primarily Arab.
Security arrangements, according to the bridging proposal, would “define” continued the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley as “temporary”, as opposed to Israel’s insistence of maintaining a permanent force there. The “Palestinian” position is that there be no Israeli military presence in their future state.
Progress, or lack of progress, on other issues, such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and the return of Arab refugees – whose descendants now number in the millions – borders of a “Palestinian” state and infrastructure, among others, are still kept from public knowledge. Apparently, the issue of the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in Israel’s heartland is not a matter of negotiation, but is now the ultimate goal. The negotiations are focusing on “how” and “where” such a state will be able to conduct its affairs.
Kerry’s public comments include the following: “We have always known that this is a difficult, complicated road, and we understand that… I believe we are making some progress, and the parties remain committed to this task…I join with President [Barack] Obama in expressing to the people of Israel our deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel and to the need to find a peace that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state [and] recognizes Israel as a country that can defend itself by itself.”
Those comments are really political double-speak, which relates to two core issues that will be extremely difficult to bridge: the first is the absolute security of Israel and its need to be able to defend itself, i.e., without dependence on the U.S. or other Western powers; the second, a recognition by the “Palestinians” of Israel as a Jewish state. These are fundamental issues necessary for Israel, which its “negotiating partner” will have a very tough time agreeing to.
Regrettably, most of the comments from Kerry are general, for example “I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve and yearn for.” (emphasis mine) This is meant for a much wider audience – “all of the people of this region” – the vast majority of whom are not involved in the negotiations. What the other peoples of this region “yearn for” is the removal of Israel from here, so that an Islamic caliphate can be established to bring in an Islamic messiah.
Another such comment of Kerry’s focuses on the willingness of the U.S. to “support a final status agreement that makes both Israel and the Palestinians safer than they are today.” Again, the comments are generalized to include both sides, when the reality is that the safety is what Israel needs. The “Palestinians” are the ones that blow themselves up in Israeli malls, throw rocks at passing cars and continue to fire missiles into the south of Israel, among other things.
Speaking at the Saban Forum on Saturday, Kerry added: “On this visit, I spent most of the time focused on Israel’s security concerns because for years and years and years, it has been clear to me from every prime minister that unless a prime minister can look the people of Israel in the eye and make it clear to them that he has spoken for Israel’s security to a certainty, you cannot make peace. It is a prerequisite…Every time I visit, I can feel in my gut, and I see it as well as hear it firsthand, just how vulnerable Israel can be and just how important it is for the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security to remain ironclad,…’President Obama and I … remain deeply committed – indeed, determined – to ensuring Israel has the ability to defend itself, by itself’.” (emphasis mine)
It is difficult to reconcile Kerry’s last statement with President Obama’s appointment of retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen (who comes along with a team of some 160 “analysts”, as well as defense and intelligence experts), to help deal with security challenges that Israel would face after the establishment of a “Palestinian” state. On the one hand, the U.S. wants Israel to be secure and to be able to defend itself. On the other hand, the U.S. sends us “analysts and experts” to help us deal with security problems after the creation of a “Palestinian” state, which the U.S. is pushing us to help get established. Could it be that U.S. politicians speak with a “forked tongue”?
Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon put a damper of Kerry’s optimism on Saturday, December 7th, saying that we did not have a “Palestinian” partner for peace, adding that Israel is “in a world surrounded by a raging storm; the Middle East is boiling…The West’s mistake is democracy by election. Whoever thinks that that’s the method is simply mistaken. If one doesn’t value life — and the societies around us sanctify death – how could we possibly talk with that person about human rights? Women’s rights? This is a long process. It starts with education, not elections…The other side doesn’t have, there’s never been since the dawn of Zionism, a leadership willing to recognize us as the state for the Jewish people. We don’t want to rule over the Palestinians. We won’t talk about a millimeter if we don’t see a partner who recognizes us as the Jewish state, who relinquishes the right of return and ends such demands. When will we be convinced that we have someone to speak with? I’ll have to look at their textbooks. When they stop educating [their children] to strap on explosive belts, when Tel Aviv appears on the map, then we’ll have something to talk about. Security starts with education”.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is back in politics after being acquitted of corruption charges by a 3-judge panel, added pepper to Ya’alon’s statement: “There’s zero trust between Israel and the Palestinians”, adding that negotiations with the “Palestinians” must begin “from some simple thing I call trust, confidence, credibility.” Speaking at the Saban Forum this past Friday, Lieberman stated: “I don’t believe that it’s possible in the next year, this year, to achieve comprehensive solution, to achieve some breakthrough…Trust between the two sides is about zero…Without trust and credibility [a deal is] mission impossible.”
Then he tried to set the historical record straight: “Our direction on the “Palestinians” is wrong; we need to take some time out for a policy review. My feeling is that there is a lot of desire [to make peace] but I’m not sure that it is possible. I don’t see any occupation. And to speak about occupation is not to understand the history of this region, and the facts. “Palestinian” Authority and “Palestinian” state didn’t exist before 1967. From 1948 to 1967 what we call today the “Palestinian” Authority was divided between two countries, it was under full Arab control. Judea and Samaria was part of Jordan and Sinai Peninsula was part of Egypt. And I don’t remember that from 1948 to 1967 they established any “Palestinian” state. Today to speak about occupation is a misunderstanding of the history of this region. I don’t recall a “Palestinian” state existing anytime in history. We are really ready to share this small land, and all of Israel today is 21,000 square kilometers, and we are ready to share with our neighbors and to sacrifice. I think only Israel has made real steps to establish peace in this region. We gave up Sinai, we gave up Gaza Strip, we gave up half of Judea and Samaria, and I think that we’ve proved our real desire to achieve peace. To speak about occupation is really a prejudiced, biased approach to this problem. It’s not a problem of territory. I will never accept the argument that this is the obstacle to peace…[I don’t]see a chance to achieve a comprehensive agreement. … We are at a dead end…We had Ehud Olmert in Annapolis, Ehud Barak in Camp David, and even Benjamin Netanyahu at Wye Plantation take great risks [for peace with the “Palestinians”]. But despite all these efforts, and of course all the efforts of the American side, we are still in deadlock…The other mistake is that up until today we signed agreements only with the rulers and not with the peoples. I think that we must achieve real, comprehensive solution with the “Palestinians”, not with their rulers…To say that settlements are an obstacle to peace is a real misunderstanding, a misrepresentation.”
Netanyahu’s comments on the peace talks included: “Israel is ready for a historic peace, and it’s a peace based on two states for two peoples. It’s a peace that Israel can and must be able to defend by itself with our own forces against any foreseeable threat…If this process is going to continue, we’re going to have to have a continuous negotiation…We don’t need artificial crises. I think we don’t need finger pointing either. What we need is not grandstanding, but understanding and agreements, and that requires hard and serious work.” (emphasis mine)
The pressure on Netanyahu is enormous. Yet, he is a seasoned politician and should know better than to continue to make public statements that encourage the “Palestinians” in a “two states for two peoples” scenario. Such a pronouncement gives tacit recognition to the “Palestinians”, who were never a people, without ever getting more than a statement from the so-called “Palestinians” of their willingness to accept a “two-state” solution (without “for two peoples” – i.e., recognition of Israel as a Jewish state). The consequences of completing a peace deal with the “Palestinians” on that basis can only spell disaster for Israel. On the other hand, the consequences of not completing a peace deal could lead to a third intifada and another, serious war with our neighbors. Of course, the Europeans follow the line of Obama of appeasing our enemies, while getting nothing in return. They, too, threaten to impose sanctions upon both sides if an agreement is not reached.
Notwithstanding the considerable pressure on our leaders, particularly P.M. Netanyahu, at some point we need to stop and ask whether the leaders of our government really understand how it was that Israel became a nation after 2,000 years in exile. Do they understand how we have been able to continue to exist, despite repeated efforts to destroy us as a people, “that the name of Israel be no more” (Ps. 83:4)? If they do understand that the God of Israel “lives”, it would appear that they don’t believe His Word, nor trust in His strength and they are not willing to serve Him. If they did, then the present negotiations to divide His land and scatter His people would not be taking place. I would not want to be in their shoes when they stand in judgment before God and have to explain why they failed to act responsibly regarding what has been entrusted to their care. Agreeing to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in our midst will divide the land and place Israel “in the territories” to the north and south of an enemy state in Judea and Samaria. If doesn’t take much to realize how precarious our situation would then become from a defense point of view. Our leaders need our prayers for wisdom and courage, now more than ever.
From the “Palestinian” side, according to a major news station here, officials of the “Palestinian” Authority said that significant progress has been made in the negotiations and that parallel talks were also held in other places. But, P.A. President, Mahmoud Abbas, did not join in the notifications to the western media. It would seem that despite all of the rhetoric, he is not willing to concede on any of his demands and he, Kerry, Obama and most of the rest of the world are pointing the accusing finger at Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu for the lack of progress in the talks. And, it would also seem that this present pressure, which includes active intervention in the negotiations by Kerry and other representatives of the U.S. government, is another effort by Mr. Obama to try to put Netanyahu in his place.
Indeed, more to the heart of the matter, an official from the office of Mahmoud Abbas reported that “President Abbas rejected the majority of clauses in the peace plan regarding security on the borders of a Palestinian state that Secretary Kerry presented.” The Arab media chimed in that officials close to Abbas believe until policy issues are resolved, the “Palestinians” will not be willing to deal with security arrangements. Nothing like putting the cart before the horse. I can’t help but think of all of the “frequent flyer miles” that Kerry must be getting, all while the U.S. is making greater efforts to once again become isolationist in its policies, except, of course, where Israel is concerned.
Iran given a green light to become nuclear – thanks to the West
It is impossible to ignore the recent interim deal concluded between Iran and representatives of the U.S. and the West. It gives Iran a free hand to enrich uranium and develop nuclear capability, including nuclear weaponization. A strategic goal of the Obama administration has been not to prevent a nuclear Iran, but rather to end Iran’s international isolation and create, in a realistic sense, a new American-Iranian rapprochement. Lee Smith, senior editor at the Weekly Standard, summarizes what happened this way:
“The interim deal makes official what Obama has long been pursuing — a strategic realignment integrating Iran into a multipolar Middle East, where once-traditional American allies will no longer enjoy a privileged relationship with Washington. The signs pointing to Obama’s new configuration, downgrading Saudi Arabia and Israel and upgrading Iran, have long been apparent, if incredible.”
If, indeed, that is the case, then Washington has been saying one thing to Israel and the world, while doing something else to favor the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran. In this age of government lying, deception and spying on civilians, can anything good for Israel come out of Washington?
When asked about the Iranian nuclear threat, Kerry maintained the official American stance, saying that the interim deal signed in Geneva is good for Israel and will provide security until a final agreement is reached. “Israel and the United States are absolutely in sync, not an ounce of daylight between us, with respect to the need to make sure that Iran cannot achieve a nuclear weapon, will not in the future be able to achieve it and certainly cannot move towards it without the United States of America and Israel knowing that, and therefore being able to take steps to deal with that.” Maybe after this, they’ll ask us to believe in the tooth fairy.
Well, that pretty much sums up the arguments that are able to be expressed at this time. But, politicians being what they are, they will probably come up with some new arguments this coming week. We need to stayed tuned.
And THAT Was The Week That Was.
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)
Bless, 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