The Gaza Quagmire

Sitting in my comfortable home in North Carolina, I can only think about and comment on the current situation from a great remove.  I can only think about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the current altercation between Israel and Hamas.  I can only read about it and look at photos.

Thus, I can only imagine what an Israeli Jew with even the barest modicum of empathy for the nearly two million people in the Gaza Strip feels about the situation. Gaza is right there, a territory Israel knows well, having occupied it from 1967 until 2005.

Part of me wants to give in to the image of a place ruled by fanatics whose obsession with Israel permits them to divert significant amounts of aid for the purposes of building sophisticated tunnels that run under the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas receives millions of dollars from Iran, another sworn enemy of Israel.  And by the way, Iran’s willingness to support a Sunni group for the sake of injuring Israel, I think, identifies Iran’s own obsession with Israel.

Part of me sits back in wonder as Gazans destroy, twice, the Kerem Shalom crossing, delaying the delivery of food, medical equipment, and building materials and causing millions of dollars of damage. What purpose, I wonder, is served by such self-destructive activity?

Part of me sits back and wonders about the extent to which the humanitarian crisis is caused by the extremely bad blood between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which has stopped payment of Gazan civil servants, among other things.

Part of me sits back and wonders about the extent to which the humanitarian crisis has been caused by Hamas aggression toward Israel, with missiles and terrorism, that forced Israel to impose a partial blockade, which, among other things, limits the entry of Gazans into Israel to work.

Part of me wonders about a Hamas leadership that lives in luxury outside of the Strip.

Part of me wonders about clergy and perhaps even parents who incite children to attack Israel’s border welcoming the possibility of martyrdom.

But I also wonder about the disproportionate nature of the current situation.  How can Israel with its sophisticated army take so many lives, when so many of the dead are ordinary citizens, many unarmed?  Though, apparently, Hamas claims many of the dead were actually Hamas members.

Part of me wonders at the what I can only conclude is the intentional sloppiness of the press in accepting as fact Hamas reports of the dead and wounded without some other means of fact checking. How can the press be so accepting of the Hamas narrative?

Part of me wonders about Israel living with an enemy on its border sworn to its destruction.  Israel, a victim of so much terrorism, has to be vigilant to prevent any terrorism.  No sovereign nation should be expected to relax its vigilance and allow even one incident to occur. It may be that Hamas has the well-being of its own citizens at heart. From the outside, however, it looks as if Hamas’s prime raison d’etre is Israel’s destruction and the re-occupation of Jaffa, among other places, and spends its monetary and human capital in the attempt to accomplish this goal.

A part of me is astounded at the cleverness of the Hamas strategy of gathering thousands of Gazans and delivering them to several border points to create the illusion of massive civil disobedience, when in fact this is warfare in a new guise.  It’s a strategy that depends upon at least two things: 1) The continuing willingness of the international press to perpetuate the David and Goliath narrative, this time with Goliath mowing down innocent civilians as they engage in civil disobedience; and 2) The continuing willingness of the citizens of Gaza to sacrifice themselves to the cause of the unending war against Israel.

Is the Israeli reaction disproportionate? I am no military strategist, and cannot suggest an alternative, save the unacceptable one of allowing thousands of Gazans to enter Israel and wreak whatever havoc they might.

However, the goal of entering Israel was never realistic, never intended.  If any Gazan actually believed he’d succeed in breaching the border, that man is deluded beyond help.  Hamas’s goal was to do precisely what it did: create havoc, bad international press, and keep the Hamas version of reality on the minds of those who can’t see through the smokescreen.  Brilliant in its way, it depends upon Hamas’s control of Gaza, and the willingness of many to get shot, perhaps killed.

By the way, the highest estimate of attendees at this black soiree comes in at around 50,000.  If the population of the Gaza Strip numbers just under just two million, that leaves a significant number who did not avail themselves of the opportunity to picnic and then meet an Israeli bullet.

So what to do?  Sitting here in my North Carolina home, it seems to me that the situation is a royal bollocks.  Israel evacuates Gaza and it gets turned into a Hamas prison, and Israel imposes a blockade, including limits to fishing rights. Hamas fires missiles and courts war, and Gazans die. Now Hamas runs a peaceful protest that’s actually a war, and Gazans die. Hamas builds tunnels, and Gazans die.

So what’s Israel to do?

I don’t know.

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The Bloodbath in Gaza

The London Daily Mail carried the headline BLOODBATH in referring to the orchestrated Hamas attack this week on Israel’s security fence with Gaza.

Later in the story it reported that the “demonstrations … called for the right of return for Palestinians displaced in 1948”.

Indeed, events in recent days along Israel’s border with Gaza have been referred to by Hamas as a “A March of Return”. Protesters were seen with wire cutters that they used to break through Israel’s security fence. One of them was photographed with a meat cleaver, no doubt intending to attack people at one of Israel’s nearby villages or kibbutzim.

The Right of Return is a major item on the Palestinian agenda, but Israelis recognize that conceding to such a demand would spell the end of the Jewish State.

My late father was a refugee, who fled his home in Breslau, then in Germany and now in Poland, when Hitler came to power. Like those Jews who were fortunate enough to escape the Holocaust, or the hundreds of thousands who fled Arab lands when the State of Israel was established, he built a new life for himself elsewhere.

Only when we stop living in the past can we begin to create a future for ourselves. The Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank have yet to understand that.

Language can be misleading. When one uses terms such as “protests” and demonstrations” one does not conjure up images of what the Daily Mail at least concedes were mob attacks on Gaza’s border with Israel.

UN Human Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville was less generous when he told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. “The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot.”

BBC World News‘ report on events along the Gaza border carried the sub headline: “Funerals are to be held in Gaza for 58 people killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian protesters, in the deadliest day of violence there since a war in 2014.”

Only later in its report does the BBC concede that “Hamas has called for Israel’s destruction and is in a permanent state of conflict with the Jewish state”.

The loss of any life in violent circumstances is a tragedy. However, as long as Hamas’ ultimate goal remains the destruction of the Jewish State, Israel can hardly be blamed for taking whatever action she considers necessary to protect the lives of her citizens.

Richard Kemp has argued that the criticism of many media organizations “plays directly into Hamas’s hands and validates the use of human shields and the strategy of forcing the killing (of) their own civilians”.

Those who so quickly criticize Israel for her handling of the Hamas uprising might well wish to consider the part that the media play in fanning the flames.

Posted in Gaza, International Criticism, March of Return | 1 Comment

Iran, Syria, Gaza, and Jerusalem an Update on the Middle East

There are a number of what could be termed notable issues affecting the Middle East. They fall into three major categories, not necessarily in order of importance: Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action [Iran Deal] related issues, Syria related issues, and Israeli-Palestinian related issues, including today’s US Embassy opening and events in Gaza.

First, the JCPOA Related issues:

The Trump Administration has declared that the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA and immediately enacting the toughest of sanctions against Iran. It was likely that the US would have taken this step regardless, but the publicly released contents of the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Cache by the Israelis may have tipped the scale toward doing so sooner rather than later.

Some have said that nothing new was revealed, but this is simply not true. There were certainly suppositions that the Iranian program was more advanced, but they had not been confirmed. The JCPOA was negotiated based on “POSSIBLE Military Dimensions” of the Iranian program, not on an active and well advanced military weapons program in the context of which the advanced development of further ballistic missile capability or enrichment capability represent a greater threat than otherwise, indicating a runway to the production of nuclear weapons that is significantly shorter than was previously understood. These revelations would have and now certainly do necessitate more stringent controls and inspections than were contained in the JCPOA.

Some have argued that there is/was a willingness among the European powers to seek those additional stringencies, but without US withdrawal and significant sanctions in place now, what is to guarantee that Iran would accept them? The pathway to that appropriate agreement is clearly through increased pressure on Iran.

Some have argued that US withdrawal from the JCPOA will negatively impact Korean Nuclear Disarmament, that abandoning, violating, withdrawing from the JCPOA will negatively affect America’s credibility going forward. This requires an understanding that Korean Disarmament will result in an agreement and not a treaty and that there is a lack of understanding on the part of North Korea that an “agreement” that is NOT a treaty cannot be altered or abandoned by a succeeding administration. It is instead reasonable to assume that North Korea will seek a treaty rather than an agreement.

Further, one could argue that the weakness demonstrated by the United States in countering Iranian aggression in the region along with Iran’s clearly having negotiated the JCPOA in bad faith would have embolden North Korea to take similar action. One might argue that the case for pushing for a stronger deal with North Korea has been made by abandoning a weaker deal with Iran, else North Korea would have sought a similar agreement.

Meanwhile, the US imposition of sanctions now puts France, Britain, Germany, and Iran in an awkward place. There are many business agreements in place with Iran that now jeopardize those companies’ ability to do business in the United States. This will force them to bring pressure on their own governments and on Iran as well to comply with the United States’ wishes. Thus, it is entirely possible that the US’s sudden withdrawal from the JCPOA could in fact result in exactly the new agreement sought.

Additionally, there are those advocates for the JCPOA who are arguing that the US has abandoned “all its allies” in withdrawing from the JCPOA. This brings up real concern about how they view Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other nations who have enthusiastically supported the decision. Is Israel not to be considered an ally?

Syria Related Issues

It’s hard to believe that these are suddenly secondary in the news, less than a week after Iran fired rockets at Israel out of Syria and Israel responded with devastating strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but they are very much not in relation to what is going on in the region. The reality is that events in relation to Syria are profoundly impacting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in such a way that they should not be ignored by those who care about Israel or Palestinians.

First, today’s Middle East is one in which the Sunni Arab powers, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, see Iran, not Israel, as their major opponent and, not only that, but they see Israel as a major strategic ally. Because of this, they are no longer inclined to act as Israel’s enemy so as to aid the Palestinians. Yes, they will vote that way in the UN, but they will not put pressure on Israel in any way that could harm its ability to act against Iran in Syria and around the world.

The conflicts in Syria and Yemen are much more important to Arab leaders than are events in Gaza. This was made quite clear when amid ongoing protests in Gaza in which a number of people had been killed prior to May 14’s more significant death total, Arab leaders were voicing their approval of Israel’s ability to defend itself against Iran.

Additionally, it is quite likely that Russia and perhaps even the Assad regime itself have been concerned about growing Iranian power and influence in Syria. Some have speculated that there may even have been cheering by leaders of the Assad regime to the recent Israeli strikes, which weakened Iran’s standing in Syria and may have increased Assad’s control over the relevant areas and facilities.

Several notable things must be said about Russia here. The day before the Israeli strikes against Iranian assets in Syria, reports are that they were against fifty or more targets across the country, Prime Minister Netanyahu was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special guest at a military parade in Moscow. You did not read that wrong. And during the Israeli strikes, no Russian assets were engaged and only Syrian systems that targeted Israeli planes were among the Syrian assets struck.

Perhaps more significant still, following the Israeli strikes, Russia issued a statement declaring that it would not send its advanced S-300 antiaircraft system for use in Syria. In other words, Russia has essentially unofficially declared neutrality in the conflict between Israel and Iran and given Israel permission to strike Iranian targets in Syria with impunity.

Russia’s standing in the region has taken several significant hits over the past year culminating in the humiliating and overwhelming defeat of an Assad backed Russian mercenary force in Syria, forces led by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner organization, by US backed forces, described as an utter massacre by survivors.

With Russia unwilling to commit significant ground military forces to Syria, with Russian mercenaries having failed, and with Syrian forces having proven ineffective, Russia was left with two options, back Iranian forces in Syria or seek a cessation of significant hostilities on the ground. It appears that the first choice was Iran, but that choice both brought the Israeli military to bear against the Assad regime’s side and threatened Assad’s control by bringing increased Iranian influence and control. So it now appears that Russia, perhaps with Assad’s blessing, has now chosen to allow Israel to remove or at least limit the Iranian presence in Syria, something that may well bring long term calm.

This is also happening amid a blossoming broader Russo-Israeli relationship in which the Russian leader sees Israel as part of the “Russian Cultural World” because of its large Russian speaking and Russian origin population and in which cultural, social, and economic interaction is extensive. Israel has over 1.5 million citizens from the former Soviet Union and numerous leaders whose primary language is Russian. The relationship between the countries is as good or better as Russia has with any other country. While the two nations do not necessarily see eye to eye on many policies, they are far from hostile.

What this also means is that Russia can be added to the former allies of the Palestinians in the conflict against Israel. This brings us to our third major topic and the one at the top of the news today.

Israeli-Palestinian Related Issues

First off, let’s talk embassy. I wrote an article back in December 2017 on this topic right after Pres. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel.

As I said then:

To argue that Jerusalem should not be considered Israel’s capital is to deny reality. To demand that nations buy in to a delusion or face threat is completely unreasonable, yet that has been the world’s reality for decades. It is far past time that it came to an end and shameful that it has taken this long.

The argument that US Jerusalem Embassy Opening in Jerusalem is the cause of the protests in Gaza is a narrative that makes no rational sense.

Rabbi Mickey Boyden noted in an article for the Times of Israel that David Ben Gurion declared Jerusalem to be the “Eternal Capital” in 1949, the Israeli Knesset has been meeting in Jerusalem since 1950, at its new site since 1966, and Jerusalem is where Israel’s Prime Minister resides. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It is an utter absurdity to dispute that.

Meanwhile, while the “March of Return” is billed as non-violent by those advocating for the Palestinian cause, just looking at the pictures of events in Gaza makes such a suggestion laughable. This isn’t called “Protest for a Two State Solution,” nor is it called, “Protest for Better Living Conditions,” it is called the “March of Return” because the intention is to invade Israel from Gaza and turn the Jewish state into a Palestinian one. Numerous armed attempts to breach the border fence in multiple different locations are by definition military incursions and they are being done with multitudes of human shields, including many little children.

Furthermore, Hamas’ intent is to force Israel to shoot numerous people as they attempt to breach the border or to see that border breached and Israelis attacked in their homes. Death totals bring attention to Hamas’ cause. Achieving them is their primary intent. Israel has no choice but to treat everyone approaching the fence as if he or she was a suicide bomber or otherwise armed terrorist seeking to destroy the border and allow many others to enter Israel. Hamas knows this yet is encouraging people to do it anyway. There can be no question of their intent in doing so.

This is not a protest event. It is a military operation covered by civilian protesters. Meanwhile the saddest thing of all is that a few dozen killed isn’t a large enough number to make a difference in international opinion. See the situation as described in the paragraphs above.

What is the impact then of dozens of deaths in Gaza? There will be a well-deserved perception of utter failure by the Palestinian population with a resultant condemnation of their own leadership. Palestinian divisions will increase, especially in light of weak to non-existent protests in the West Bank. And at a time when there are already significant concerns about the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the impact of this will be compounded.

The overt hatred and delusional attitude put forth by the Palestinians in relation to the March of Return and to the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem weakens the arguments put forth by the pro-two state resolution parties in Israel. Coupled with the revelation of the Iranian Nuclear Program cache which did damage to those who argued in defense of the JCPOA in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition and standing have both been strengthened substantially. Recent polls in Israel show the Likud with a significant increase in support relative to everyone else.

All of these things show an Israel and Netanyahu led coalition on a dramatic ascent with Iran, the Palestinians, and the Israeli political left in a profound decline.

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Gaza

Like anyone who cares for the state of Israel, I’ve been riveted on the events at the Gaza border.  As far as I can tell from what I read, Hamas has called for a series of protests called the March of Return. The Hamas leadership busses thousands of Gazans to various border sites to protest the “occupation” of Gaza and the desire to return to the homeland from which in their view they were expelled using two distinct strategies.

One strategy is to have a crowd of peaceful Gazans sitting around blankets picnicking.  What could be more peaceful, and photogenic, than a large Palestinian family seated on the ground eating lunch?  This scenario constitutes the core of the public relations gambit.  These are long-suffering people following the strategy of civil disobedience, attempting to persuade the Israeli oppressor of their non-violent intentions with the hopes of making some gains.

The second strategy is to deploy apparently specific Hamas members to the border to engage in a number of violent activities: Molotov cocktails, small bombs placed at the border, burning tires, and a new one, flying kites loaded with flammable material over the border in the hopes of setting fire to fields.

In a specific, I believe unplanned, event, several young Gazans on Friday crossed into the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and vandalized infrastructure doing damage in the millions.  Until the damage is repaired, this will limit the ability of the international community, including Israel, to bring food and other goods into the Gaza Strip, and there are hundreds of such trucks daily.  Thus does the March of Return do serious damage to the Strip they are hoping to liberate.

As is well known, the Israeli has reacted to this weeks-long series of protests by shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets into the group of protestors approaching the border. The death toll as of this writing is 45, with well over a thousand wounded.  (Not to deny the existence of wounded, apparently, repeating old tricks, there are documented instances of so-called wounded miraculously rising from their stretcher when, it is assumed, the “wounded” and the stretcher bearers are out of sight of the media.)

In an op-ed in the NY Times on Friday, Yossi Klein Halevy argues the manner in which Israel is handling the protests is an instance of Israel standing over and against much of the rest of the world, whose writers and leaders argue that Israel’s behavior represents typical Israeli overreaction.  Israel has an obligation to keep its borders intact, Halevy argues.  Any attempt to breach the border creates an intolerable situation.  Add to this the additional fact that those seeking to breach Israel’s international border are clearly intent on doing harm.  This is not a cohort of civil rights activists demanding their rights.

But even if, Ghandi or MLK-style, these folks, with entirely peaceful intent, were to cross the border and hold a massive sit-in, they would still constitute an intolerable threat.  Why? Because they would have crossed a sovereign border into another country.  A reasonable analogy would be thirty thousand Mexicans crossing into America and demanding repatriation and money.   Both Gandhi and Dr. King sought redress in their own country; these folks want to press an untenable agenda, namely repatriation of millions of refugees (as defined by UNWRA), onto a nation existentially unable to accede to such a demand.

The brilliance of the Hamas strategy in these Marches of Return is obvious.  Create an untenable situation at the border against the background of picnickers, then holler and scream when the peaceful picnics of all of those beautiful families is interrupted by Israeli response to the folks at the border, who themselves appear weak and helpless compared to the IDF on the other side.  The optics are brilliant.  The oppressive, far better armed soldiers in uniforms are massacring the peace-loving Palestinians who only want to bring their impending humanitarian crisis to the attention of the rest of the world.

These highly favorable optics as the cause, then bring on the predictable effect of response from journalists, civil rights advocates, and political leaders accusing Israel of fascistic overreaction.  For one example, have a look at the letters to the Times in response to Halevy’s article.

Let’s be clear.  The situation in Gaza is dire.  There is insufficient food, water is at a premium, unemployment is abysmally high.  Gazans have little freedom of movement.  It’s intolerable particularly with regard to water, as the aquifer that provides (or provided) fresh water is nearly damaged beyond repair.

But let’s continue to be clear.  Israel bears some responsibility, but again cause and effect have to come into play. Israel certainly planned (hoped) for a porous border between Israel and Gaza, along with relatively open seas when they disengaged from the Strip in 2005 . But the Hamas takeover in 2007 brought about a radically different condition.

Add to that that Hamas and the PA don’t get along terribly well, resulting in bureaucrats not getting paid, goods not being shipped in, and general mayhem.

Add to that Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza, ending a bountiful supply route.

Add to that the three times (2008, 2012, 2014) Israel felt compelled to go to war with Gaza over the matter of thousands of missiles launched into sovereign Israeli territory.

Put it all together and it spells disaster for this small strip of land housing nearly two million Arabs.  This situation could have been entirely avoided had Hamas been more peacefully inclined.  But their obsession with Israel has trumped what would have been a far more rational approach to living with Israel.

Creating brilliantly favorable optics and once again gaining the sympathy of world opinion does not beat progressive suffering, now made worse, at least temporarily, by the damage some misguided vandals perpetrated on the gateway to hundreds of trucks per day that bring in food to feed these hapless residents.

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Telling The Whole Truth

Peter Beinart’s opinion piece in the Forward entitled “American Jews Have Abandoned Gaza — And The Truth” is what lawyers call “disingenuous” because, contrary to what is required of witnesses in a court of law, it does not tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

One should be wary of accepting UNSCO’s assertion that “Gaza will be ‘unlivable’ by 2020, maybe sooner”. It is an exaggeration. People are not dying there of hunger and thirst like they are in many parts of Africa. However, the UN is well-known for its anti-Israel bias, so we should not be too surprised by this kind of hyperbole.

Beinart states that “Israeli policies are instrumental in denying Gaza’s people the water, electricity, education and food they need to live decent lives”. The facts are not that simple.

To take just two examples: Over the last eight years over 52 million cubic meters of water have been supplied annually to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and 5 million cubic meters of water to the Gaza Strip. This amount is nearly twice the amount agreed to in the Oslo Accords. Since 2015 the amount of water supplied to the Gaza Strip has been doubled to 10 million cubic meters per annum.

The lack of electricity in Gaza results from a variety of causes in part resulting from a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over meeting the cost. In 2017 Egypt offered to supply electricity to Gaza in exchange for the extradition of 17 wanted terrorists and other security demands. Hamas refused.

In terms of education, what has Beinart to say about Palestinian textbooks issued to children that show a Palestinian state extending from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan without even a mention of Israel or of Tel Aviv?

Beinart writes: “Israel still controls Gaza. It controls it in the way a prison guard might control a prison courtyard”. Did he ever ask himself why? Hardly a day passes without attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel to strike at its civilian population and without weapons and other military equipment being discovered in seemingly harmless supplies of goods intended to reach those living in the Gaza Strip.

Customs personal at the Port of Ashdod recently uncovered a shipment from China that included military clothing and combat vests, all in camouflage colours.

The merchant ship “Karine A” was intercepted carrying a cargo that included 122 mm and 107 mm Katyusha rockets, 80 mm and 120 mm mortar shells, anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines and Kalashnikov rifles. The intention was to transfer the weapons to the Palestinian Naval Police near the Gaza beaches.

And Beinart complains that Israel has not permitted the re-opening of Gaza’s airport or travel to and from Gaza by sea! Who in their right mind would agree to open borders given that background?

He states furthermore that “in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 — Israeli bombing damaged roughly 240,000 Gazan homes.”

Making such an assertion without providing any context is like saying that the Allies pounded Berlin with 67,607 tonnes of TNT resulting in the destruction of 80% of the city centre.

Beinart seems to have forgotten Hamas’ rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza on Israel’s civilian population. Between 2004 and 2014 these attacks killed nearly 50 people and injured more than 1,900. Medical studies in Sderot, the Israeli city closest to the Gaza Strip, have documented a post-traumatic stress disorder incidence among young children of almost 50%, as well as high rates of depression and miscarriage.

Reading what Beinart has to say, one would have thought that Israel was living alongside a harmless neighbor not intent upon her destruction. He seems to have forgotten that we are at war.

Hamas has constructed a network of military tunnels extending into Israel. The IDF reports that is has “neutralized” no less than 14 tunnels, whose sole purpose was to enable terrorists to attack Israel’s civilian population and take hostages. People have reported hearing the sound of tunneling under their very homes!

With all of his criticism of Israel, there is one word that is strangely absent: that is, Iran. What is happening in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere takes place in a context that extends well beyond Israel’s borders. Hamas and the Hezbollah are involved in a proxy war against Israel financed by Iran, which has now extended its tentacles into war-stricken Syria, where it has established no less than 10 bases, 2 close to Israel’s border.

None of what I have written is to claim that Israel is an innocent bystander. She too shares her share of responsibility for the tragic plight of the Palestinians. However, Israel’s leaders have demonstrated that they are prepared to sign treaties with their neighbours when they are interested in making peace. We did it with Egypt and with Jordan. All we need is a Palestinian leadership that, like Menachem Begin, is prepared to proclaim “No more war, no more bloodshed, no more attacks”.

It is so easy to criticize Israel, but the Palestinians bear their fair share of blame. Where are the Beinarts who are prepared to tell them so to their face in the stern language that they reserve for Israel?

Beinart concludes his opinion piece by stating that “The struggle for human decency, Orwell argued, is also a struggle for honest language”. Honest language requires that those who criticize Israel tell the whole story.

Posted in Gaza, The refugee problem | 4 Comments

Violent “Non-Violence” and The March of Return

The ongoing protests connected to the March of Return are quite simply not non-violent protests. I know that certain protest leaders are saying that they would like the protests to be non-violent and certain advocacy organizations are trying to help promote the idea that they are “non-violent,” but they are not remotely non-violent.

Hamas militants will attack the border. They will use guns, bombs, burning tires, and molotov cocktails. The Israelis will have to respond with force appropriate to discourage attempts to breach the border because the consequences of the border being breached by any significant number of people are exceedingly bad. Keeping the border intact will limit both deaths and injuries as it will prevent a much more severe confrontation between the IDF and militant groups in Gaza.

Note particularly that the purpose of this “march” is to “return” all of Israel to the Palestinians. The expressed purpose of the marches is to eliminate the Jewish state. Thus, their purpose isn’t non-violent at all.

The international community will predictably condemn Israel for responding in the only way that it possibly can, by using crowd suppressing deterrents such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and even if necessary live fire. The ultimate reality is that the more real the threat to breach the border and the more significant the potential harm to Israelis, the more force will be needed to be used to stop it and the sooner it will be used.

1,000 people sitting on the ground having a picnic 1,000 meters from the fence is not a threat. 30,000 people marching at the fence while several hundred people hurl stones and molotov cocktails and burn tires in order to cover dozens of people firing rifles at IDF troops and trying to place explosives to blow up the border fence is a whole different story.

Historically, there is little to no political benefit that any country can gain by supporting Israel at times like this, but a lot that can be lost in terms of relations with the Muslim world or, for many countries, in terms of upset to their own populations. This is why the results of any conflict involving Israel are easily predictable.

We can predict UNSC votes condemning Israel, vetoed by the US. We can predict a UN General Assembly vote condemning Israel in the aftermath of the failed UNSC votes. We can predict condemnation from the Arab League. We can predict the EU urging restraint. We can predict calls for investigations. And we know that all of this means absolutely nothing and will have no impact at all. It’s all blather.

What’s really going on here is that Hamas is attempting to change a dynamic in which the Palestinian Authority seeks regime change in Gaza [ousting Hamas], the Egyptians are enemies of Hamas’ parent, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Israelis whom Hamas despises, are the closest things to friends they have. Hamas only sees one way to possibly change any of this, namely international community pressure, and they only see one way to achieve that, with high death and injury totals.

This might be a good time to point out that their hopes are misplaced. There is no chance, even with high death and injury totals, of changing the dynamics for the better through violence. In fact, the relatively tepid response in the Arab world, much less in the broader international community, to what has happened to this point is evidence of that.

Hamas keeps trying war and bloodshed. They’ll keep it up as long as the world keeps rewarding them with concessions while pretending that “non-violent action” involves guns, bombs, knives, burning tires, molotov cocktails, barrages of rocks, and attempts to breach a security border that prevents terrorists from murdering Israeli civilians.

What about the “non-violence” part of  this? Well, there are several problems.

First, breaching the security border is an existential threat against Israel. Israel knows that terrorists will accompany any non-violent “marchers” and therefore cannot view any mass of people crossing the border as “non-violent” to begin with.

Second, while the IDF’s goal at the border is simply to keep those on the Gaza side of the border there, the reaction threatened Israelis, especially civilians, on the Israeli side of the border facing a mass of people that may include armed militants and terrorists shouting genocidal slogans will be to shoot to kill upon sight. The amount of bloodshed that could be expected from a significant breach of the border would be extensive.

Third is something that no one is discussing. Hamas, and really the Palestinians as a whole, cannot allow non-violence to be the answer. It cannot be allowed to succeed even in part. Why? Because one of the primary values of Palestinian society is the honor of martyrs, those who died fighting Israel and particularly those who sacrificed their lives deliberately. To argue that non-violence would accomplish more is essentially an insult, an argument that an alternative would have accomplished more than their sacrifices did, that potentially those martyrs died for nothing. And should non-violent action actually succeed in accomplishing anything substantial that violence has not, that fact will be proven true.

Thus, if non-violent action ever appears to be working, we will often see Palestinian militant organizations engage in violence so as to prevent non-violence from being seen as successful. In fact, they may not even be willing to allow those wishing to make use of non-violence to try without interference. Hence, in the March of Return, we have the mixed protest/riots we are seeing now in Gaza, wherein many march peacefully, but others engage in violent action and functionally sabotage any possibility of the success of non-violent action, just as during negotiations, we often see rocket fire or attempted terrorist attacks.

The greatest sacred-cow so to speak of Palestinian society is that shahids, those martyrs who died for the Palestinian cause, especially those who died during acts of violence, either terror attacks or in war, died because it was necessary and noble. If the reality is that they could have accomplished more through non-violent action and negotiations, it would disprove that fundamental societal value. Worse, that reality would demonstrate that decades efforts, thousands of deaths, the suffering of generations, and the massive expenditure of funds to pay families of martyrs was without real value. It might even lead to the understanding that such efforts were harmful or even dishonorable. Hamas, in particular, cannot accept that as a possibility.

Posted in Gaza, March of Return, We Are For Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Current Reasonable Resolution to the Conflict 2017

***Updated December 24, 2017***

Recent regional political changes have seemingly lessened or even removed pressure from Israel to pursue a “two-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the near future. While it may be true that there is now less pressure on Israel to make major concessions in regard to that conflict, the primary impetus for the entire process remains in place.

The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States, expressly leaving Jerusalem’s exact boundaries as a part of negotiations, does not truly alter the situation at all, nor have any UN or UNSC resolutions affected the situation, though weakening overall support for anti-Israel resolutions in the UN General Assembly may increase pressure on the Palestinians to compromise going forward. There are limited possible paths to a resolution that provides security and prosperity for Israel as a whole with safe and secure access to major Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem specifically.

By the early 1990s, most Israelis realized that some form of separation between the Israeli and Palestinian populations was essential for the future well-being of Israel. Furthermore, it was understood that the most reasonable way to accomplish that goal was to promote the creation of some sort of Palestinian state. This has not changed. A significant majority of Israelis continue to hold this general view, but some specifics have changed

Most Israelis now believe that more stringent security measures must be put in place today than would have been considered essential in the year 2000, 2007, or even 2010. Events in Gaza since the year 2000 and events in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran since 2009, along with changes in the way terrorism is conducted, have dramatically changed the security requirements that Israel will require on the Jordanian border and for ongoing security requirements within the West Bank.

Jordan is in a worse diplomatic and strategic position today than it has been during past negotiations. An incident involving a guard of the Israeli embassy killing two people in the wake of the conflict over metal detectors and cameras being placed by Israel outside of the Al Aqsa Mosque has left Israel’s embassy in Amman closed. Jordan officially refuses to allow it to reopen until “justice is served” against the guard. The guard argues that he was attacked and was defending himself. Israeli PM Netanyahu received the guard as a hero and people in Jordan, who see him as a cold blooded murderer, were enraged, among them King Abdullah. Jordan is host to a large Palestinian population which is a long term threat to the Jordanian Monarchy and advocates against the Israeli-Jordanian peace that already exists. So not only are current relations tense, but they are unlikely to easily improve soon.

Most people now believe that Gaza and the West Bank will likely remain separate political entities to a significant extent going forward. This is true even after “reconciliation” that involved the Palestinian Authority taking over official border control to appease Egypt. The leadership of Gaza, Hamas, has been in a heated military conflict with Egypt that in recent months has lessened somewhat but remains tense. Hamas would have to be removed from power before Egypt’s anti-Muslim Brotherhood government substantially improves relations with Gaza. The current answer to that problem is neither invasion, nor imposition of rule by the Palestinian Authority lead by Mahmoud Abbas. It is instead, the installation of Mohammed Dahlan.

Mohammed Dahlan is a nationalist political rival of President Abbas. Dahlan has a long history in Gaza, having been born in Khan Younis and having been the leader of Fatah in Gaza. Since 2001, when he called for reforms in the Palestinian Authority, he has been on the outs with Fatah’s West Bank based leadership. Israel, Egypt, and the UAE all see him as a good alternative to Hamas in Gaza, while Hamas itself may see him as better than the Palestinian Authority. Time will tell if a compromise that brings Dahlan into some sort of significant position of power in Gaza will be effective in bringing about positive change for the people of Gaza, for Israel, and for Egypt.

In the meantime, claims of authority over Gaza by the Palestinian Authority are not based in the PA’s ability to govern there, but instead out of the belief that the West Bank and Gaza are remnants of a larger entity, Palestine, that should remain connected. This narrative has necessitated solutions to the conflict for the Palestinians that do not prioritize the needs of the people of the West Bank as opposed to Gaza and at the same time result in harsh policies by the Palestinian Authority against the population of Gaza, such as shutting off their electricity or denying medical care.

In regard to an achievable solution on the whole, however, what I originally proposed in 2014 largely remains what I would propose today. Some things that I suggested at that point in time might be necessary, now are unquestionably so.

The reality continues to be that what is possible for Israel to concede in regard to resolutions of the conflict is not enough for the Palestinian side to prioritize reaching an agreement over and above continuing to fight; and what is demanded by the Palestinian side is seen as more harmful by Israeli leaders than continuing to face violence and anti-Israel activism.

Israel’s improved relations with the Sunni Nationalist powers and the BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (I left out South Africa on purpose), have resulted both in an improved likelihood in achieving a good solution for Israel and in a reduced need to try to do so.

This all said, the idea that there is an obvious solution to the conflict with generally agreed upon parameters that could be easily achieved misrepresents the reality. Here are five major issues:

  1. There is no solution that addresses the realities of Jerusalem that can please both sides and many possible solutions would result in nightmare scenarios for the future.
  2. While the “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees to homes in Israel is almost certainly not a viable possibility, no alternative is likely to be politically, much less religiously, acceptable to Palestinians.
  3. There may have been discussions about “territorial swaps based on the 1967 lines,” but there are numerous problems that are obfuscated by that simple summation.
  4. Movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank may be necessary for Palestinian unity, but it is a security nightmare for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and more recently for Egypt and Jordan.
  5. Finally, Israeli control over the Jordanian border seems to be mandatory for the foreseeable future in order to meet the security concerns for Israel, Jordan, and a future Palestinian state in any form.

Let’s start by looking at the last of the five. International forces have all failed miserably to halt sectarian violence. Suggestions that any international force could step in and prevent Islamic militants from moving into the West Bank and causing problems for both the Palestinian Authority and Israel are laughable. International forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Sinai, Sudan and other places in the region have proven incompetent in maintaining security, preventing rearming of militant groups, or even in preventing major wars and genocides. This means that any agreement will necessarily have Israeli troops on the Jordanian border for a long time into the future and it will be unreasonable to set any final date by which that would be forced to end.

Movement between the northern and southern West Bank could be easily ensured, even if direct access between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea was maintained. However, with the level of militancy in Gaza at present, traffic between the two Palestinian territories will need to be closely monitored. There is no way that people could simply be allowed to travel through Israeli territory on their way to and from Gaza at this point. Remember that Egypt has regularly sealed off its own border with Gaza because of threats coming from Gaza and that Israel has fought multiple wars with militant groups based in Gaza. There are ways to substantially increase economic cooperation between the territories, but because of the weaponry available in Gaza, all shipments to Gaza and even from Gaza will need to be closely monitored for years going forward from a peace agreement.

Palestinians themselves may be concerned about Hamas supporters living in the southern West Bank bringing their militancy to the north, but that would likely be an internal Palestinian issue rather than something to negotiate.

It is also the case that Israeli control over the Jordanian border enables less stringent controls on the Israeli-West Bank border. Without Jordanian border control, more stringent security would need to be put in place on the internal border in light of terrorist threats, and that would severely harm economic interaction between the two nations and do grave harm to tourism within Palestinian areas, as it does now when border security is increased.

The basis of the idea of “territorial swaps” is that the Palestinians need enough territory and the proper kind of territory to form a viable state. It is not that the Palestinians are entitled to all of what was Jordanian occupied territory 1948-1967. The latter concept is an impediment to negotiations, for among other reasons, because it violates the most basic concept of the negotiations, that Israel must have secure borders after a peace agreement. Without them, future violence is ensured and any agreement that the two sides reach will not be worth the paper on which it is written. The 1967 lines were far from secure.

The Separation Barrier, with some possible exceptions, runs along the path that provides the necessary security against terrorism that Israel requires. Thus it is the current route of the Separation Barrier, not the 1967 lines, that is the most viable basis for negotiations. There are opportunities for that path to be altered during negotiations and some Israeli settlements may end up on the Palestinian side following such negotiations.

It is certainly the case that new settlements and outposts constructed on the Palestinian side of the barrier create new impediments to making any solution work for the Israelis, because it increases the cost of what would have to be yielded in a final status agreement.

The idea of “territorial swaps” itself is problematic because it specifically implies two falsehoods. First, it implies that the Palestinians have a right to negotiate from a position that they never held, namely authoritative control over the West Bank, and that their claim to that much land, much less all of that specific land, is superior to Israel’s claim to it. While there may be public sentiment to that effect across much of the world, it is a legal fiction. Control of the land is an obviously essential characteristic of any valid claim to it. Legal control passed from the Ottomans to the British to Jordan to Israel with each in turn applying its control over the laws and population of the territory, demonstrating control.

Moreover, the concept of “territorial swaps” would involve trading one piece of land for another. Would the Palestinians really consider land near Gaza or abutting the southern West Bank as equivalent to neighborhoods around Jerusalem or in the Galilee? Of course not. The presentation of this concept as a simple basis for negotiations is then flawed.

The Right of Return would seem to be the easiest of the problems to overcome. There is no way that Israel can bring in hundreds of thousands, much less several million, Palestinians and maintain the character of Israel as a Jewish state. Neither can Israel bring in hundreds of thousands of people hostile to its existence and not face civil war and strife. Reasonable alternatives to the Right of Return include restitution, but any financial settlement for properties would likely be far less than actual value today and would certainly not be preferable in many cases to ownership of the land. By way of comparison, Holocaust survivors have received millions of dollars in restitution for losses which at the time of the restitution agreement were worth well into the tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars.

Those who see the conflict as an Arab-Jewish one, rather than an Israeli-Palestinian one, might well insist that restitution be paid by Arab nations to the Jews whose properties they seized. They argue that the net result would be that Arab nations would be required to pay out more in restitution to the Jews than the Jewish state would to the Arabs.

Finally, there is no resolution to the situation of Jerusalem that will please both sides and there are few solutions that will maintain the security of the city, its economic and civic viability, and access to its archaeological and holy sites for people of all faiths. Jews will be able to securely access the Old City of Jerusalem with its holy sites only if they remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Furthermore, there is no way to maintain security in the area of the holy basin specifically, the area centered on the Temple Mount, unless Israel controls the entire basin from the top of the hill of the Mount of Olives to the west. Neither is it possible for Silwan, to the south of the Temple Mount, to be under Palestinian control for the same reason. To be honest, the entirety of City-of-David-connected Silwan should be a nationally controlled archaeological park and a major tourist site [It is now privately owned by the City of David organization]. The area between the northern access to the Temple mount and Hebrew University on Mount Scopus also must realistically remain under Israeli sovereignty or Hebrew University will be cut off from the rest of Jerusalem.

One could argue, and many do, that the neighborhood of Isawiya, northeast of Mount Scopus, could be put under Palestinian sovereignty along with areas to the southeast of Silwan such as Abu Dis. The area known as E1, between the large Jerusalem suburb of Malei Adumim and Mount Scopus, also abuts Abu Dis and is an obvious connector between the southern and the northern West Bank.

E1 is an area that would make sense to be included in the territory of each side, but to place it on either side of a barrier would create a major problem. If it is on the Palestinian side, Malei Adumim becomes an island, surrounded by Palestinian territory. No Israeli government could allow this. If E1 remains Israeli, someone traveling from Bethlehem to Ramallah through Abu Dis and Anata would have to travel at least ten additional miles to do so, going around Malei Adumim unless a road were constructed that allowed for travelers to cross from south to north through E1. Such a road or tunnel would become essential in such a scenario. Meanwhile, northern Jerusalem’s near suburbs like Ramat Shlomo are certain to remain on the Israeli side in any reasonable peace agreement.

What is holding up the possibility of any agreement in the near future is not willingness on the part of Israel to make concessions, but a willingness on the part of the Palestinian side to admit the reality of what I discussed above. This means that no amount of pressure brought on Israel by European nations or the United States can realistically do anything to advance the peace process. The only effect of such pressure is harm to Israel. In order to advance the peace process, America and European nations need to help the Palestinian side reach an understanding of a reasonable resolution that is viable. Things like recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital are steps in this direction.

Admittedly, once the Palestinians are in a position to agree to the necessary compromises, the make-up of the Israeli governing coalition will become more important in moving forward. With a final status agreement possible, the Israeli left would be much more willing to make necessary concessions to work with the Center Right of the political spectrum in order to help it become a reality and the Israeli electorate could well shift support to parties who would more strongly pursue an agreement.

You will note that this solution might be considered a 2 1/2 state solution with Israel and Gaza as completely separate political entities and the West Bank as a semi-separate entity within the security control of Israel. I believe that it is time to think outside of the box and that those who continue to insist on full independence and full border control for the Palestinians in the West Bank are actually doing grave harm and putting off the prospects of peace.

For the most part, Israel has already accepted a significant majority of what it can and must concede for peace. The question is simply, “Will the Palestinian side choose to accept what is reasonably possible at the negotiating table if it is offered?” The answer to that depends on which is more painful, accepting a peace they don’t like or continuing to fight a battle that cannot be won and at the cost of suffering and death in every generation.

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The Fallen Statue of Dagon

I often look through Torah portions or Jewish historical narratives and find parallels with issues and events of the day in preparing sermons and when teaching classes. Certainly, reminders such as that we “were strangers in the land of Egypt” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” apply to a whole host of modern day issues, so when those occur in a weekly Torah portion, they are fairly easy to connect.

Quite a bit less often, I find parallels with modern issues in the miracle stories in the Books of Samuel and Kings. I have decided that may be because I don’t look often enough. This week, some parallels are glaring. Pull out your Tanakh or whatever you have to use to read I Samuel and take a moment to read Chapter 5, which contains the story of the time that the Ark was captured by the Philistines and was relocated in the Temple of Dagon in Ashdod.

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.

For those who do not know, Dagon was believed by the Philistines to be the father of Baal and was the Philistines’ primary divinity. The above narrative is pretty simple. The Ark representing the presence and power of the God of the Israelites, defeats the statue of Dagon representing the presence and power of Dagon, the god of the Philistines. Most of us simply read through this story and largely ignore it. “Of course, our real God will defeat an idol of a fake god.” No real need to comment further, right?

Well, let us for a moment consider this conflict slightly differently. Instead of Adonai vs. Dagon, let’s see it instead as reality vs. delusion. The modern parallels will start to flow. We just have to word the text slightly differently. Try this version.

After the Philistines had the ability to create their own narrative, they brought reality to a place of delusion. Then they brought reality into the Temple of delusion set it beside the primary delusion. When the people of the land rose early the next day, there was the delusion, fallen on its face on the ground before reality! They took the delusion and put it back in his place. [Defending it strongly] But the following morning when they rose, there was the delusion, fallen on its face on the ground before reality! The pieces of the delusion had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only its body remained.

And so we have President Abbas leading a charge arguing that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem at all, the Palestinian Authority arguing that the “Al Buraq (Western Wall) was, still is and shall remain Palestinian, Arab and Islamic, and insisting on Palestinian control over East Jerusalem including the Old City and the Holy Basin, while seeing these delusions come crashing down. They can try to stand them back up again, but they will fall again and break more and more each time that they do.

But the I Samuel text’s relevance doesn’t end there. The text goes on to mention how other cities become involved and suffer consequences. Perhaps, in our modern midrash, perhaps other nations, forced to attempt to maintain the delusions? Perhaps, just perhaps, Arab nations having had enough of trying to maintain Palestinian delusions and suffering the consequences of war and suffering in their own nations and across the region, nations like Saudi Arabia, are now feeling like the people of Ekron in I Samuel:

11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.”

The message today may well be, “Delusions are causing us tremendous suffering! It’s time to recognize reality!” Or as King Salman of Saudi Arabia did the other day, essentially recognizing that Jerusalem is indeed Israel’s capital, when he offered that East Jerusalem, also left undefined, could potentially be the Palestinian capital.

The anger and threats of violence that we are seeing are normal responses when dearly held delusions have fallen. And don’t for a moment think that the delusion that Jerusalem would not be recognized as Israel’s capital or even the delusion that the entire Old City would be part of a Palestinian capital are the most dearly held delusions yet to be dispelled. The greatest one yet to be dispelled is the delusion that all of the multitudes of people whose lives have been lost in fighting, so many young lives among them, for those delusions and other delusions will have been lost for nothing other than prolonging and deepening the suffering of the Palestinian people for decades instead of recognizing reality and having achieved peaceful coexistence long ago in better circumstances for the Palestinian people than might be possible today or in the foreseeable future.

That delusion is not one that the Palestinians are willing to allow to be confronted. In the words of I Samuel 5:5:

That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

 

 

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Rabbi Kaufman on Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

NOTE: I publish this as my opinion. I know that others may disagree.

Yesterday, President Trump said, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” As my friend, Rabbi Mickey Boyden, noted in an article for the Times of Israel, David Ben Gurion declared Jerusalem to be the “Eternal Capital” in 1949, the Israeli Knesset has been meeting in Jerusalem since 1950, at its new site since 1966, and Jerusalem is where Israel’s Prime Minister resides. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It is an utter absurdity to dispute that.

So why has it taken 68 years for America to officially recognize that fact? Several reasons:

Prior to the creation of Israel, Jerusalem was supposed to be “an international city.” Why? Because Christian Europeans couldn’t stomach having Christian holy sites in either Muslim or Jewish hands. The same was true for Nazareth.

Arab nations refused to accept any compromise.

In the meantime, in order to appease Arab nations, smarting from defeat to defeat over the past hundred years, from having the Ottoman Empire defeated by the British, failing to oust the British by aiding the Nazis, and then having the Jews, a pipsqueak nothing of a people who had just seen a good percentage of their number wiped out by the Nazis, defeat them and establish their own state in the middle of the Arab world, after which they won several military conflicts against an array of Arab nations, the nations that rely on oil imports from the Arab world agreed to act as if Israel had no legitimate claim to Jerusalem, much less a right to ownership over any part of Jerusalem.

Additionally, it has been argued, peace between Israel and Arabs or between Israel and Palestinians was dependent on Israel essentially agreeing that it had no legitimate claim to Jerusalem and no ownership over Jerusalem and that these ideas, not just the boundaries, but the very idea of Jewish legitimacy in Jerusalem, needed to be negotiated.

The Palestinians and other Arab nations even used UNESCO, an organization intended to preserve history and culture, to attempt to promote the delusion of Jewish disconnect from Jerusalem. This is all blatant antisemitism.

Finally, and certainly not to be left out of the discussion, is the Antisemitic idea that Jews are not entitled to have a nation in the first place and therefore certainly cannot claim Jerusalem as their capital.

This entire scenario was always delusional and has become increasingly more so.

Options for a real peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians are becoming more and more limited in scope with the parameters nearly defined even without negotiations. Please see my article “Current 2017 Reasonable Resolution” on the WeAreForIsrael.org website. Any resolution of the conflict will result in Israel’s capital being in Jerusalem.

More recently, several Arab nations have come to realize that establishing more significant relations with Israel would be substantially in their best interest, that Israel has a right to exist, and that it is past time to acknowledge that the Israelis are not wholly at fault for failures to achieve a resolution to the conflict. In fact, I believe that no few Arab leaders are now ready to end the delusionary thinking and deal with realities. Forcing Palestinian leaders to negotiate based upon realities rather than upon deeply and long held delusions is a major step in that direction. If the Palestinians and Israelis do not make peace soon, several Arab nations may establish peace agreements on their own without that happening first.

To argue that Jerusalem should not be considered Israel’s capital is to deny reality. To demand that nations buy in to a delusion or face threat is completely unreasonable, yet that has been the world’s reality for decades. It is far past time that it came to an end and shameful than it has taken this long.

One could argue that perhaps this week wasn’t the best week for recognition to come or that perhaps it is happening now because of other things in the news cycle. Many do not like anything that President Trump says or does and therefore immediately seek to condemn any and every action taken.  But friends, when there were better times, if there truly ever were better times for this to happen, it did not. President after President essentially said, “We accept the delusion” or “We will continue to force the Israelis to accept the delusion.”

And the result of that acceptance was the acceptance of antisemitism, of allowing only the Jewish state of all nations in the world to be prohibited from declaring its capital, of expressly avoiding having ambassadors residing where its national institutions and leadership have resided for decades, of listing events with the leadership of the Jewish state, including at its national legislature or its major national cemetery, as taking place in “Jerusalem,” without including the name of the nation or even worse, including the name of the nation, Israel, with “Israel” crossed out or blacked out.

Some are now arguing that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have come in exchange for something that we wanted as a concession, that we should have held our recognition of reality as ransom in order to blackmail Israel into making policy changes.

Man, if friends don’t let friends drive drunk, they sure as hell don’t blackmail them.

Somehow, too many nations got into a mindset where reality was irrelevant or to be held hostage to hostile delusions. Did no one ask how any peace process could even take place with one side holding to reality and the other to delusions? Did no one ask how any peace process could take place with one side demanding that everyone else accept their delusions as fact in the negotiations?

What will come of all of this?

That there will be “days of rage” is certain. Governments and groups that oppose Israel will simply order people into the streets if they have to. They will wail and smash things as they have so often before. But this rage is going to be a short lived rage for the simple reason that everyone protesting must acknowledge the reality of the situation and people don’t protest against obvious realities for very long.

The real fallout is going to eventually hit the Palestinian side, because this is merely the first delusional domino of many to fall. I urge you to read the article on the “Current 2017 Reasonable Resolution” for the full list. No negotiations can be based on delusions. They cannot be based on “What might have been true if…” or on unreasonable possibilities. They must always be based upon what is with the understanding that the parameters of the negotiations will change if they wait too long. What was possible and reasonable in 1947, 1949, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1993, 2001, 2007, 2014, and 2016 may not be possible, realistically is assuredly not possible, in 2017 or 2018.

Meanwhile, while reports have this President declaring all of Jerusalem, a united, never to be divided, capital of Israel, the President in making his declaration made certain to note that the exact boundaries of Jerusalem are up for negotiation and that nothing precludes Jerusalem, or some portion of it, from also being the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The President stated in his declaration:

“We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

There are certainly things that this President has said and done with which many of us take significant issue. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should not be one of them. If indeed one argues that said recognition might have been done at a better time, one must also acknowledge the shamefulness of it having not been done for the previous 68 years in which Jerusalem clearly has functioned as Israel’s capital.

So in the end, Thank You Mr. President for having our nation recognize what should have been recognized long ago, that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel.

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Religious Leaders barred from Israel

Five U.S. Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders were barred from going to Israel under a new law that prohibits entry to the Jewish state by foreign activists who advocate a boycott of the country.

One of them was the deputy director of  “Jewish Voice for Peace”, Rabbi Alissa Wise. I wrote to her as follows:

Dear Rabbi Wise,

I read with interest that you have been refused permission to fly to Israel

Not knowing anything about your organization, I went to your website, which carries the headline: “The people of Gaza should have electricity, clean drinking water, functioning hospitals, and opportunities to rebuild. This means that Israel needs to end its brutal blockade, and the world needs to pressure them to do just that.”

As a person who always votes for Meretz in our national elections, I am sympathetic of a left-wing agenda for the State of Israel. That having been said, the above headline makes no reference whatsoever to the part that Hamas has played in bringing about the current situation. You may recall that when Israel unilaterally vacated Gush Katif, it left the greenhouses and irrigation systems intact as a gesture of goodwill. This did not stop Hamas from arming itself and firing rockets on Sederot’s civilian population. Where were you then? Did you condemn their actions? As you know, Hamas’s stated policy is to work for the destruction of Israel. It says as much in its Charter.

Dr. Mahmoud Al Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, is on record as having stated: “Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.”

And you want us to end the blockade! That is not what you do with an enemy. (Look at what your own country does to Cuba, which is not committed to the destruction of the United States of America.)

Of course I sympathize with the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population, but they chose their leaders and pay the price for that in the same way as ordinary Germans suffered after Adolf Hitler had been elected by them as their chancellor.

As you will gather, I do not share your political sympathies. I feel sure that you have no wish to see Israel destroyed, but an open border with Gaza would risk precisely that. I can see why my government decided to keep you out.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Michael Boyden

Posted in Boycott, Boycott of Israel, Pressuring Israel | 2 Comments