A lesson in humility
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Baltimore Jewish Times
November 10, 2000
The confidence of all believers in the philosophy of ``by my strength and the strength of my hands" (Deuteronomy 8:17) has been badly punctured by the renewed intifada. The second intifada has only reinforced the lesson of the limited efficacy of military power. The more we threaten our enemies with massive retaliation and do not follow up, the bolder they grow. As George Will wrote of Prime Minister Barak, ``Even his ultimatums are penultimate.
The IDF could not, or would not, rescue a wounded soldier from Joseph’s Tomb before he bled to death. Indeed this is the first war in which Israel has refrained from saving the lives of its citizens only in order to avoid hurting Arabs.
Israel abandoned the Temple Mount (temporarily) only to watch rioting Arabs drive Jewish worshippers from the Western Wall, retreated from Joseph’s Tomb and stood by as Palestinians destroyed it, and has been unable to secure Rachel’s Tomb for Jewish prayers After more than a month of daily sniper fire on Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, the IDF has still not found a solution.
Equally shattered – one would hope – is our leaders’ confidence in their superior intelligence and ultra-sophistication. For seven years, Israel’s foreign policy been based on a view of diplomacy as a form of psychotherapy. By making the Palestinians feel good enough through an endless series of concessions, Israeli policymakers assumed, we could create a New Middle East not so different from the European Common Market.
We sized up our enemies as if looking in a mirror. Knowing that Bashar Assad shares our love of the Internet was enough to convince us that peace with Syria could not be far away. Now belatedly we are awakening to the realization that the Arabs are not yet our mirror image, interested only in a higher GNP and improved lifestyle.
When the Palestinian ``police" -- originally slated to number no more than several thousand -- grew to a 40,000 man army, and the number of firearms in the Palestinian Authority dwarfed those allowed under the Oslo Accords, we had a clever answer: Guns do not constitute an existential threat to the State of Israel. Perhaps not. But they have proven more than just a threat to the lives of too many Jews.
When the PA continued to incite against Israel and Jews in its media and textbooks, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak had another clever answer: It does not matter what Palestinians say, only what is in the signed agreements. That was like saying, ``I don’t care that the seller has been convicted of mail fraud five times as long as the contract price is good." Not surprisingly what the Palestinians said, especially in Arabic, turned out to be far more probative of their intentions and willingness to accept Israel’s right to exist than did a series of agreements, which were never enforced.
Prime Minister Barak has twice risked Israel’s security on the basis of theories that were not only untested but could never be tested until it was too late. He offered Syria the return of the entire Golan and the Palestinians the entire Jordan Valley Rift. Both had been widely considered indipsensable military assets. Had Israeli returned all the Arab villages adjacent to Jerusalem that Barak wanted to, the large neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Zev, not to mention Jewish funeral processions on the Mount of Olives would all now be under live fire, just like Gilo. For so endangering Israel’s very existence, George Will dubbed Barak perhaps ``the most calamitous leader any democracy has ever had."
The one significant accomplishment of our ``sophisticated" foreign policy was the temporary boost to Israel’s international standing achieved by breaking every previous Israeli taboo at Camp David and making Yasir Arafat an offer reckless in its audacity. Yet that too turned out to be evanescent.
The nations of the world and international press use ``body counts" as the sole measure of right, making the Palestinian Authority’s offer of $2,000 for every ``martyr" money well spent. The ``shanda," in the world’s eyes, is that not enough Jews are being killed to prove our righteousness.
Israel finds itself once again ``a nation that dwells alone," condemned by the U.N. for war crimes. In the pages of New York Times, Jewish settlers always ``rampage" while Arabs only ``protest," even if it is with guns and Molotov cocktails. The Times has downgraded the Temple Mount to the ``claimed site" of the first and second Temples, or just the ``Moslem compound.".
So much for the good opinion of the world purchased at such great risk.
A little humility, however, may be just what we need. The Talmud teaches that Messiah will only come when the Jewish people have abandoned all hope of Redemption (Sanhedrin 97a). The commentators wrestle with an obvious question: How can the loss of our faith in the Redemption bring it about? They answer that only when we cease to believe in a natural redemption -- i.e., that our strength or the kindness of the nations of the world will bring us peace and security -- will the real Redemption come.
We should be getting closer all the time.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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