I don't envy Benjamin Netanyahu, and the other members of the government. He is not only being pilloried by Barack Obama, but by the entire Israeli media elite. They all want concessions. They want Israel to give up the store, even before the direct negotiations start. They are desperate to see Jerusalem divided, a withdrawal to the 1949 ceasefire lines and an abandonment of the Golan.
I actually understand Obama. He is a Post-American, multi-culturalist who looks for validation to the Third World only. He really believes that Jews only deserve (if they deserve) a country because of the Holocaust. He really supports the Palestinian agenda, that the Arabs were unjustly forced to pay for the crimes of Christendom (as he believes that all Third World Countries must be avenged on the Europeans), and naively believes that if they receive a state there will be world peace. That's why he has no patience for Jewish claims to Jerusalem, or to our presence in the Biblical hinterland of the Land of Israel. He is deep in denial about the underlying, religio-cultural animus that drives the Muslim World (though he should know better).
Far more problematic are the Israelis who are egging him on. Last week, the papers reported that opposition leaders predicted a blowup over Jerusalem, two weeks before VP Biden arrived. I'm not a conspiracy buff, but I know that the Israeli Left (from Haaretz on down) would do anything to bring down Netanyahu and to maintain its hegemony over Israel. As a well informed friend observed today, Israel is growing ever more Jewish in culture and identity. You see it everywhere. It's the most blessed development in years and it is more important security wise than any weapon.
The Israeli Elite (media, academia, judiciary, business) is terrified of this development, and loathes anything to do with Judaism or Jewish identity (as my encounter with Yuli Tamir bore out). Thus, they advance the idea of a "state of all of its Citizens,' advocate divesting the State of its Jewish symbols and cannot wait to be rid of Jerusalem (and a fortiori access to Israel's Biblical heartland. Don't believe me? read Amos Oz.)
Like the Virginia Planters who opposed Andrew Jackson, the alienated progeny of many of those who founded the state) have tried to keep Israel as their private fiefdom through manipulating the Judiciary and the media. There is every reason to suspect that they are willing accomplices (at least, post factum) in facilitating this gross violation of Israeli sovereignty by the United States.
I firmly believe that the Jews of Israel, almost across the board, reject Obama's demands. We've seen too many die after making gestures to appease our enemies. We are a Jewish country, and this Land is our ancestral homeland; since Time Immemorial. As a result, there must be red lines. There is room for concessions. There is room for negotiation. There is room for compromise.
Jerusalem, however, is a Red Line. Here, we need to stand fast and show some backbone. Indeed, that's what Ben Gurion did.
At the Yom Iyyun for first year semikha students in 1978, Rabbi Norman Lamm recounted how he once had the occasion to read through Yiddish papers that were published in the early to late thirties. He was struck by the purple prose, and the giant headlines, as different Jewish groups duked it out on many sundry internal issues. Most of these were Orthodox organs, so you can well imagine the type of issues that were discussed: kashrus, Zionism, Qitniyos etc.
What struck Dr. Lamm, he noted, was that other items were modestly posted in smaller letters: 'Hitler becomes Chancellor' 'Nurenberg Laws Passed in Germany' etc.
I was reminded of this story, upon considering the types of undeniably important issues that have been fiercely debated recently within the Orthodox Community.
However, things need to be placed into proportion. President Obama's artificially created, but no less real, diplomatic crisis poses an existential threat to the State of Israel. He is, apparently, hell bent on imposing a 'solution' to the Arab-Israel conflict, in time to ensure his re-election. That 'solution' requires withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines and the division of Jerusalem. Since, according to him, the Palestinians are the injured party, they need not concede anything.
The problem runs deeper. First, by stressing Jerusalem in the first stage, Obama is willy nilly making it impossible for the Arabs to compromise on anything (including the Kotel). This is because the emphasis on Jerusalem focuses upon the specifically religious aspect of the conflict which is insoluble, by definition. Second, even if a formal scheme is worked out, does anyone really believe that it will be honored by the other side? Third, Obama has consistently advocated the Palestinian narrative that Israel is a payback for the Holocaust and that, by extension, Jews have no natural right to a state here. In other words, he is striving to undermine our very legitimacy.
Predictably, the press in Israel has already started beating on the drums of concession, as part of its ongoing campaign to liquidate Israel as a Jewish State. Israel has become far more Jewish in the past few years, but I'm never sure just how long we can withstand the kind of brainwashing that the media dishes out.
From my vantage point, the situation in the United States is equally grave. Most American Jews don't seem to care about us here. Even official leaders (did someone mention the leading Reform rabbi?) seem to have naively accepted the essentially racist position that if we only give the Arabs more, they'll be nice to us. (The position is racist, because it ignores what the Arab and Muslim world says to our faces, and assumes they think just like enlightened westerners.)
Of course, while we rely first and foremost upon HaQadosh Barukh Hu, it seems that the Orthodox community is our only human ally. It is critical that that community be mobilized to pressure Democrats, especially, to stand up for Israel as it's being bullied by an ideologically driven, Palestinian ally (backed by his inevitable Jewish advisors).
I am not an alarmist. However, this is potentially a matter of life and death. The Arabs have waited for decades for the US to abandon us. All of our neighbors are sitting on Islamist insurgencies, which could easily force them to war. They are also well aware of the global rise in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment (especially in Europe), and that the American Jewish community is slowly dissolving any national sentiment it might have.
Incredibly, while Israel is beset from all sides (both by putative friend as well as foe), the country is in an uproar over....bones.
Briefly, Barzilay Hospital in Ashkelon was a direct target of the rocket attacks during the Gaza Operation. It is also the hospital closest to the other areas directly affected by Hamas rockets. Unfortunately, its building isn't fortified. So, the government authorized the construction of a fortified emergency room and underground operating theatre. So far, so good.
Then they found ancient bones on the site. Immediately, the Hareidi organization 'Atra Qadisha' sprang into action and screamed that the graves can't be moved because the bones might be those of Jews. The Haredim in the government threatened to bring down the coalition over this, and the government gave in. It authorized NIS160 million to move the planned extension to a different location on the grounds. There are people dying from disease, because the Treasury has no money for their medicine. There is a critical lack of hospital beds in Israel, for which there is no money. There is, however, money to leave the remains of a few ancients in their place.
Who are these ancients? According to all responsible experts, there is no way that these are Jews. They are either Canaanites, Philistines or Hellenistic pagans. Jews never lived in Ashkelon, at least no where near the archaeological level at which these bones lie. Furthermore, even if they were Jews, there is absolutely no reason not to reinter them (with all due dignity), in order to save lives. On the contrary, the Talmud states explicitly that if a grave is a public menace, it can be removed (Sanhedrin 47b).
In this case, not moving the bones of our ancient enemies is: 1) a Hillul HaShem, and a farce under the guise of Torah 2) an act of actual bloodshed because it robs people of life giving medical care and delays the building of a desperately needed facility 3) an act of outright robbery of public funds(for those of us who pay taxes).
I just don't understand. Is there something in the water that makes intelligent, religious Jews do and say things that besmirch everything we believe in? (And here in the land of 'no one ever takes responsibility for anything,' the Haredim are accusing the whole world of Haredophobia.)
(I ended up speaking about this alot over the last few days on the radio and in the press. You can get more information from the links.)
Jeffrey Goldberg spoke with White House officials today and posted this report.
So what is the goal? The goal is force a rupture in the governing coalition that will make it necessary for Netanyahu to take into his government Livni’s centrist Kadima Party (he has already tried to do this, but too much on his terms) and form a broad, 68-seat majority in Knesset…
Obama knows that this sort of stable, centrist coalition is the key to success. He would rather, I understand, not have to deal with Netanyahu at all — people near the President say that, for one thing, Obama doesn’t think that Netanyahu is very bright, and there is no chemistry at all between the two men — but he’d rather have a Netanyahu who is being pressured from his left than a Netanyahu who is being pressured from the right.
So here we have on record the Obama administration saying 1) that it is trying to topple the government of a democratic ally (if only we could try this in Tehran!) 2) that it believes it has such mastery of Israeli politics that publicly bludgeoning Bibi will result in such a shakeup, and that 3) even if the hoped-for new government is formed, the White House thinks it’s a good idea to go on record stating that the Prime Minister they will have to deal with is stupid.
This is pretty amazing. And it’s more evidence that not only is Obama ignorant of how Israel and the Middle East work, but that he refuses to do any on-the-job learning. He is pushing forward with his failed strategy of a year ago, only this time with a bigger hammer. He appears to be unconcerned with the importance to the Israeli public of his reversal on the terms of the settlement freeze, which the White House was praising just a few months ago. He clearly does not understand one of the basic lessons they teach in Peace Process 101 — that Israel does not take risks for peace when it feels threatened, especially not when it feels threatened by the United States. Obama clearly doesn’t understand this, although I remain skeptical that all of this is really about the peace process.
So, Obama has made new, unrealistic demands; Netanyahu has rejected them; and now the world waits to see what Obama is going to do in response. Meanwhile, he has chased the Arabs even further up a tree, encouraging them to raise their demands while undermining Mahmoud Abbas’s ability to join talks. Lesson definitely not learned from the previous go-round.
And it’s particularly rich that Obama’s people told Goldberg that they think Bibi isn’t very smart. Remember what the president himself admitted to Joe Klein a few months ago about his management of the peace process?
This is just really hard. … I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.
There is no doubt that it was really stupid to announce the building of 1600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, while VP Biden was here. However, there is also no doubt in mu mind that the American President and his minions were looking for a reason for a drag down, duke it out with Israel. After all, Ramat Shlomo is a long-existing Hareidi neighborhood, which does not impinge upon any Arab area (though it is adjacent to Shuafat). If Biden's people had also done their homework, they would have realized that this is nothing like the situation in Silwan or Sheikh Jarrah. They didn't. They didn't because thet want to force Israel to stop all construction in its own capital; to extend the freeze in Judea and Samaria and to beat the living daylights out of Netanyahu.
Obama needs to feel his oats, and to cover up his long train of failures on every other front. He also has no sympathy or affection for Israel, for Jewish Rights and he loathes our Prime Minister. He's assisted in this by his coterie of Jewish courtiers, who are deeply afflicted with Judische selbst-hass.
By beating up on Israel, they will succeed in the folowing:
They will galvanize the Liberal Jewish Community to attack Israel. (The self-appointed authority, Thomas Friedman, started to bang on the tom toms today.)