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Jewish World Review
April 7, 2008
/ 2 Nissan 5768
Too much deference
Israel is unwittingly helping to fuel the international campaign of delegitimization against it
Whenever I speak abroad about Israel's security situation, I'm invariably
asked: Why doesn't the Israeli government ignore world opinion and do what
it must to stop the terrorism? I always answer by pointing out that Israel
does not manufacture F-16s or most of her other major weapons systems.
Second, Israel's economy is dependent on trade with other countries, chief
among them the European Union.
Yet deference to world opinion has been taken way too far by our current
government to the point that Israel is unwittingly helping to fuel the
international campaign of delegitimization against it. That campaign led by
the unholy of trinity of NGOs, the United Nations, and major Western media
outlets, the BBC chief among them, was the subject of a day-long symposium,
featuring an impressive array of experts, sponsored by the Jerusalem Center
for Public Affairs last week.
Not discussed, however, was the impact of Israeli government policy on the
delegitimization of Israel. Since the first Oslo Accords, successive Israeli
governments have adopted the position that Israel's security is better
served through diplomacy than by ensuring that Israel maintains defensible
Yet those diplomatic efforts and the various attempts to subcontract our
defense to outside parties to Yasir Arafat under Oslo, to the U.N. in
Lebanon, and to Egypt in the Philadephi Corridor have only harmed our
international standing, which is demonstrably lower today than at the start
of the Oslo process. Any fleeting good will generated by such actions as
the Gaza withdrawal is soon lost and then some when Israel is forced to
respond to the consequences of its concessions.
Whenever Israel acts out fear of becoming a pariah state by exercising
greater restraint or making further concessions, it only convinces its
critics' that even Israelis know that they are the villains in this piece.
For example, this week's decision to remove 45 West Bank roadblocks and
checkpoints, in response to pressure from Secretary of State Rice, gave
credence to Palestinian claims sthat the purpose of those roadblocks was to
imprison Palestinians, not protect Israeli civilians. (It was only 15
minutes before the first Israeli civilian was attacked by a knife-wielding
Palestinian just beyond a recently dismantled roadblock.) For knowingly
endangering its own citizens, all Israel received from Secretary of State
Rice was the frosty message, "We'll be watching you."
Israeli's tend to observe Prime Minister Olmert's antic efforts to remain in
power with a certain bemused fascination, and to view as a harmless fantasy
his negotiations with the Palestinians over a "shelf agreement," which will
not be implemented until such time as the Palestinians actually do something
to stop terrorism and incitement against Jews. That, however, is a mistake.
Leaks from the negotiations suggest that the declaration of priniciples will
include a provision that the 1949 Armistice Lines constitute the starting
point of negotiations over borders. That represents a retreat both from U.N.
Security Council Resolution 242, which recognized Israel's right to "secure"
borders, and from President Bush's much touted promise to Prime Minister
Sharon that Israel would hold on to security blocs in any final agreement.
Israel is being forced to enunciate its final positions with regard to
unknown future circumstances, without the Palestinians having yet made a
single concession. One does not conduct negotiations will one's cards face
up on the table. Entering into negotiations at the present time with the PA
only reinforces the perception of Israel as the guilty party in its own
eyes, and further convinces the Palestinians that past breeches of
agreements carry no penalty.
Why should we be talking with Abbas at all after he declared a 3-day
mourning period for arch-terrrorist George Habash and the Fatah newspaper
splashed a front-page picture of the "martyred" murderer of 8 yeshiva
students? One good indication of the success of the PA anti-incitement
"efforts" is the recent New York Times poll that 84% of Palestinians
supported the murders at Mercaz Harav. Yet the PA's manifest failures
receive no criticism from the U.S. State Department only Jewish building
because we have adopted the posture of obsequious supplicants.
There is no assurance that the "shelf agreement" will remain on the shelf
forever. It will be the Americans, as much as Israel, who will determine
when it is time to dust it off. And if Israel disagrees that the
circumstances are propitious for granting the Palestinians the power to
paralyze the coastal region with missiles aimed at Israel's center home
to 80% of its population from the high ground of the West Bank, it may
find itself on a collision course with the Americans.
Every Israeli offer even those that are rejected eventually wends its
way back into future negotiations. The rejected Israeli proposals at Taba
continuously resurface, despite President Clinton's assurances that they
were off the table. The past is never past in Israeli-Palestinian
Our obsession with "peace" treaties with our neighbors treaties for which
the purchase price is always further territorial concessions has blinded
us to the larger strategic threat facing us i.e., Iran's emergence as the
leading regional power and the noose of Iranian proxies closing around our
necks. Consider the absurdity of Israel sending Syria twenty peace feelers,
at the very time that half the members of the Arab League were boycotting a
Damascus summit Syria because of Syria's continued obstructionism in Lebanon
and close ties with Iran.
Finally, Olmert is undermining Israel's still strong support in the United
States. One cannot expect Americans to be more supportive of Israel than the
Israeli government. President Bush has repeatedly said that he is only
pushing for the "final" agreement Israel says it wants. When he talks to
Bush, Olmert is like a little kid afraid to rat on a bullying older sister
(Condoleeza Rice) for fear of being pounded later if he does.
A SELF-RESPECTING ISRAELI STANCE would begin by pointing out that twice in
the past century the world community affirmed the right of the Jewish people
to reconstitute its ancient homeland in the Holy Land. It would counter
every discussion of Palestinian refugees with a discussion of the equal
number of Jewish refugees from 1948. It would seek the right for Jews to
live in security in a future Palestinian state just as Arabs live as
citizens with full rights in Israel. It would scoff at the concept of
international law that applies to only one country in the world. And it
would never tire of pointing out the double standard inherent in the world's
lack of concern with the execution of 100 Buddhist monks in Chinese-occupied
Tibet, or the deliberate extermination of hundreds of thousands of black
Muslims in Darfur.
But our leaders are incapable of making this case, for they are not truly
convinced that we Jews have any real claims in the Holy Land or that we
should not be happy with whatever the Arabs grant us. They are products of
an educational system that Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover described
recently as failing to provide its products with any reason to live here:
"We have . . . attempted to copy, unsuccessfully, the developed countries of
the West, in an effort to be like every other nation."
When David Ben-Gurion was asked from where the Jews derived the right to
live in the Holy Land, he would hold up Bible. He conducted a Bible study
group in his home. How absurd to imagine today, observes Ciechanover, "that
one of this country's leaders would study and teach the Bible in his home. .
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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of Jewish Media Resources and a widely-read columnist for the Jerusalem Post's domestic and international editions and for the Hebrew daily Maariv. He is also a respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel. His articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School. Rosenblum lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children.
© 2008, Jonathan Rosenblum