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How dare you tell Israel to take a chance on peace

As long as it is their sons, not ours, who are on the front lines, only Israelis have the right to advise their government

Yoni Netanyahu lamented:

I see with sorrow and great anger how a part of the people still clings to hopes of reaching a peace settlement with the Arabs. Common sense tells them, too, that the Arabs haven’t abandoned their basic aim of destroying the state; but the self-delusion and self-deception that have always plagued the Jews are at work again. It’s our great misfortune. They want to believe, so they believe. They want not to see, so they shut their eyes. They want not to learn from thousands of years of history, so they distort it. They want to bring about a sacrifice, and they do indeed. It would be comic, if it wasn’t so tragic. What a saddening and irritating lot this Jewish People is!

Among the most saddening and irritating are those American rabbis and other Jewish leaders who arrogate to themselves the wisdom to rescue Israel from itself. These armchair strategists, often at a remove of seven to ten time-zones, offer their nostrums for Middle East peace. The most prominent feature of these gratuitous prescriptions is that Israel should compromise with those who seek her destruction and should pay any price to placate a hostile world. All that it requires for peace to break out is for the Jewish State to realize the superior judgment of her critics! Israel should “return” to the negotiating table that it apparently abandoned, where it will find a willing partner for peace.

Israel’s critics propose that Israel should say: “Can’t we all just get along? We can reason together. Let us negotiate peace in our time! You give a little and we will give a little. We will achieve peace because we can trust your word and we know that you genuinely seek to live side-by-side and arm-in-arm with us. Then we can break out the champagne. We propose a toast: ‘To our giving up land and to you making promises in writing!’ It will be so civilized! How ‘striped-pants’ of us!” Let us recall U.S. Senator William Borah’s conclusion in September 1939, after Germany invaded Poland:

Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler – all this might have been averted.

If only the ingenious arguments of her critics would be adopted by Israel and conveyed in an adult conversation with her enemies, the Jewish State would rest under her vines and fig trees!

Judaism’s eternal covenant with G-d and the Land is based upon the principle that there can be no exercise of privilege without the assumption of responsibility. When Jews lecture and hector Israel from the Diaspora, they assume a privilege to which they have no right. Since they will not incur any consequences for themselves or their families, should their suggestions be proven harmful, they have no right to speak. Since they do not assume the ultimate responsibility for Israel, the only effect upon them will be that their intermittent visits to Israel will be interrupted, or G-d forbid, ended, should Israel suffer the baneful results of their advice.

Israelis are the ones who are putting their very lives on the line and they are the only ones endowed with the right to advise their government. It is not our sons who are on the front lines against an implacable foe whose resolution to the conflict is anything but a two-state solution. Our sons will remain comfortably ensconced in their universities and will not have to man the battlements against genocidal foes and shed their blood. All this blather about Israel being “our” country is exposed as prattle given one salient fact: we do not live there! The right of saying “our country” is reserved for those who live and die in “our country. Membership has its privileges!

These self-styled peace-makers, whose “Torah” is the New York Times editorial page and who quote from the Palestinian script, scold Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens while they overlook or apologize for every enemy outrage and atrocity. These are the people who became positively giddy when Arafat extended his hand on the White House lawn. “Yes,” they cried, “peace is at hand!” They have succumbed to an old Jewish disposition: the eagerness to believe promises and to discount threats.

How ignorant they are of our history! They have accomplished the impossible: identifying “moderates” among the Palestinians. What a low bar indeed, for you don’t have to scratch deep to uncover the Palestinian goal of “reclaiming” its land through “resistance” – the land being identified as extending from the river to the sea and from the north to the south. Are there really Palestinians who do not think of Tel Aviv as “occupied” territory and who do not view Haifa as a “settlement?” The formula “Land for Peace” is only a euphemism for Israel’s piece-meal destruction. Noting their incredible capacity for self-delusion, Churchill would say to them, as he said when asked how Hitler was able to attain such power:

The malice of the wicked is reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.

It would be enlightening to learn of one genuine and positive step taken by Palestinians that concretely demonstrates Palestinian commitment to peace. What is the warrant for all of this trust? “Take a chance on peace,” they advise. But Israel has absolutely no margin for error and any “chance” that is taken may result in destruction. The peace that might result from adopting what these naifs advocate is the peace of the grave. They are well described by the author of Psalm 82: “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

It would be comic, if it wasn’t so tragic.

About the Author
Rabbi Mark S Miller served as Senior Rabbi of Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach, California, for thirty-five years. He is now Rabbi Emeritus of the Reform congregation. He has long supported Israel's right to determine its own destiny, free of interference by Diaspora Jews.