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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Bill Clinton on Them and Us

To the Arabs, we will always be "them."
President Clinton with them.

President Clinton with them.
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/FLASH90

At President’s Conference  - Tomorrow 2013

Bill Clinton came to Israel with a bit of controversy. At a time when Israel is cutting the budget on social and military spending (for example, Elie’s upcoming reserve duty has been canceled), this conference is costing hundreds of millions of dollars for a two day event that just seems an extravagance.

He came with a message – congratulations to Shimon Peres, but also a comment on world interactions. There is, he explained – the us and the them. Throughout history, man has struggled to define who is part of the us and who is part of the them. They are the enemy; us encompasses the friends.

Clinton maintains that as time goes on, as the world turns more to a global community, the scope of us is increased and that which is them shrinks. While understanding, he says, what Israel is surrounded by, he comes again with the idea that maybe peace is possible.

And as I listened to him, I had the same feeling as when I listened to Tony Blair. Why don’t they understand that what works in the US doesn’t work here? Why don’t they see that you can’t make friends with all your neighbors…at least, at very least, those that don’t want to make friends with you?

Peace is a lovely concept. So long as it remains just a concept – those who speak of it are blind dreamers and while it is important to dream and then to work as hard as you can to make that dream become reality – you have to draw the line somewhere. And where is that somewhere?

If you have a heart condition, you should not be doing something that endangers your life. If you have a torn rotator cuff in your shoulder, you shouldn’t be carrying heavy things (yeah, there’s a hint there). You do what you can – you build peace where you can…and really important, Mr. Clinton – you recognize what you cannot do. There are limitations and in Israel, these limitations are very real.

As much as the global us sounds good – there will always be a them. To the Arabs, we will always be “them” – and to be fair, I can’t imagine a world where they will ever be “us.” Pretending peace can be made by changing OUR attitude is absurd.

I’m not sure when a friend comes to Israel – this is the message we need him to deliver. All the words (and all the money spent on this conference) won’t change that most basic fact.

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