It's the Settlements (NOT!)
By Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort
During President Obama's recent speech, titled 'A New Beginning', and given in Cairo, Egypt, the President explicitly called on Israel to stop the expansion of all 'settlements'. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has spoken out strongly that Israel's settlement activity is unhelpful to the 'Peace' Process and that the Administration calls on Israel to stop even what the Israelis call 'Natural' Growth.
This is the first time Israel's greatest ally and supporter, the United States, has so vocally and publicly focused on Israel's settlement activity, and so specifically pointed to it as one of the major sources of tensions between Israel and her Arab neighbors and the 'Palestinian' Authority. This unprecedented public engagement so early in a new Administration's tenure (purposely) puts tremendous pressure on Israel, and only Israel. The results of this policy are discussed below.
This cry, for Israel to stop all settlement activity immediately, is being echoed throughout the European Union and the rest of the world. Obviously this demand, and for the Israeli Government to state that they are amenable to a Two-State Solution, is how the Muslim world sees moving the 'Peace' Process forward. Mahmoud Abbas, nominal leader of the PA in the 'West Bank' has publicly said that he will not sit down to any 'Peace' negotiations until a. Israel officially states that a Two-State solution is the goal, and b. Until all settlement activity is stopped.
To sum up Abbas' position (and trying mightily not to be sarcastic) Abbas is now saying that he will not sit down to make his demands to take land from Israel until Israel states beforehand that it will be giving him land (I say, let him not sit down with Israel and not get any of Israel's land, but that's just me. In other words, don't do us any favors, Abbas). These latest pronouncements follow his statement several weeks ago that he will never admit that Israel should be a Jewish State. In his kindness and generosity he does agree that Jews would be allowed to live in a secularized state. Note; he is talking about Israel, not the state the world is trying to force Israel to give him. In his state, that he will call Palestine, no Jews will be allowed to live.
From the Cairo speech it is now apparent that the Obama Administration agrees with the Arab viewpoint. Sadly, so do many Jews (or they are just too ignorant or complacent to understand the subtleties of what was said and the implications thereof). This public stance is extraordinarily dangerous for the Obama Administration, Western Society, the Middle East, and the Jewish State.
Why is this stance so dangerous? There are many reasons. The most important one being is that the entire premise - that the settlements are an obstacle to peace - is an outright lie and represents Muslim/Arab (and pro Muslim/Arab) propaganda. This lie has no basis in fact. Indeed, most of the points in these ridiculous negotiations are based upon lies. True peace cannot be built on a foundation of lies. No matter how good the intentions of those who echo the lies may be (whether the intentions are good or not is debatable), the outcome can only bring instability, war and suffering.
The lie of the moment that must now be addressed is that the Israeli settlement activity is an impediment to Middle East peace. The lack of peace in the Middle East has absolutely nothing to do with the settlements. A state of war existed before there were any settlements. When Muslim/Arabs refer to occupied territory they are not only referring to the West Bank. They are referring to all of Israel. All one has to do to prove this is ask a Muslim/Arab. They will tell you themselves. In other words, the mere existence of Israel, as a Jewish state, is a valid cause of war from the Muslim/Arab point of view.
The impediment to Middle East peace is the Muslim/Arab refusal to acknowledge two facts: 1. Non Muslims have the right to have their own state even in the Middle East. 2. Israel is in existence as a Jewish state with equal rights.
Just like no one is questions the fact that the Vatican is a Catholic state, or Saudi Arabia is a Muslim state, or the US is a secular state, no one should question Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Unless and until the Muslim/Arabs agree to those two simple and obvious points there will be no peace. Not the US, not the EU, not the Russians nor the Chinese, or even Israel can change this fact. Peace is impossible to attain until the Muslim/Arabs change their viewpoint and accept the obvious and the true.
How does one go about trying to get another to see (and hopefully admit) to the truth? Is it by denying the truth in order to appease the liar? Obviously not! Such an approach only reinforces the lie. The only way that this change can ever been accomplished is by stating and reiterating the truth continually and from a position of strength (and probably by backing up the statement with overwhelming force). If one states the truth from a position of weakness he and the truth will be brutally brushed aside. No. Strength and commitment to the truth, and only the truth, is the singular key to Middle East and world peace. Partial truths are worse than lies in these matters. Appeasement is worst of all.
By publicly backing this lie President Obama has staked his reputation and credibility on something that cannot work. This is a huge strategic mistake. President Obama is by no means the first to make this mistake. When dealing with Middle East issues the vast majority of politicians have fallen into this Muslim/Arab trap of embracing the lie and thereby destroying their own bona fides and believability. The Muslim/Arabs have been the most obvious victims of embracing the lie. Their horrific military and political defeats are a direct result of embracing the lie. The backwardness of their countries is a direct result of their obsession with embracing the lie.
Israeli politicians have also fallen victim to the allure of embracing the lie. From Ariel Sharon to Shimon Peres to Tzippi Livni to Ehud Olmert to Yitzchak Rabin to Menachem Begin to Benjamin Netanyahu (during his first tenure as Prime Minister) all have either freely chosen to embrace the lie or have been coerced into doing so (and always by well-meaning 'friends').
Even if one gives the President the benefit of the doubt and accepts his assertion that he is Israel's unshakable and unbreakable friend, his intentions count for absolutely nothing. After all, we are talking about war or peace here. We are talking about life and death. We are talking about existence or non existence. Weakening Israel's standing in any way by definition destabilizes the Middle East and weakens the position of Western Society and US interests. And yes, it also harms the very forces who seek to destroy the West and Israel. It is first and last the Muslim/Arabs who will suffer the most for embracing their own lie. The Muslim/Arabs have inflicted terrible suffering on themselves, on their coreligionists, on the West, and on the Jewish people, most dramatically for the last 100 years. But as their abilities to attain more sophisticated weapons grow, the amount of pain they will inflict will likewise grow, unless they choose to change course.
Such a course change has never, in all history, been accomplished peacefully. But let us not become cynical. Let us pray that perhaps this President, if he so chooses to pursue the truth (and truth is NOT subjective as many like to say, but instead is objective, which is what makes it the truth), can really affect a positive change. Maybe President Obama's Muslim heritage will break through the lie being propagated for so long and by so many. But this can only happen if he himself embraces and speaks and guards the truth, without compromise.
For the sake of true peace Israel must be encouraged and supported and helped to hold strong onto the moral high ground and the truth. Israel must continually offer peace for peace. Land for peace is the formula for instability, death, and destruction. Those who truly desire peace must work for only true, lasting, peace; the peace that can only come through truth!
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is director of Chabad at La Costa and a scholar on Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers comments and questions and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected].