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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘bar ilan speech’

Political Expediency…or Adjusting to Reality?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

As Israelis settle in under a new government led once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they might do well to ask themselves this question: Other than having served as Israeli prime ministers after beginning their political careers as mainstays of the political right, what do Menachem Begin, Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have in common?

It is safe to say that none of them, before attaining power, would have supported the policies each pursued while in office. Before their premierships all four held clearly hawkish diplomatic, national security and territorial views; once elected, however, their tilt to the center and even to the center-left on these same issues was just as clear.

Labor prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak often matched their pre-prime ministerial rhetoric with their performances in office. The “principled” hawks were expected to do likewise – namely to practice what they had preached.

But did they?

Let’s examine some of their words before assuming office and their actions after they attained it.

Begin’s words: “The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized…. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever” (November 30, 1947, the day after the UN vote for the partition of Palestine.)

Begin’s actions: Responding to Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter’s insistence that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict include a Palestinian right to self-governance, Begin agreed to Palestinian “self-rule” or “autonomy” in Judea and Samaria. This arguably meant that Begin compromised on his view that “Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”

Netanyahu’s words: “This [the 2008 Israel-Hamas cease-fire] is not a relaxation, it’s an Israeli agreement to the rearming of Hamas. What are we getting for this?” (Netanyahu at the time was opposition leader.)

Netanyahu’s actions: If history is any guide, Netanyahu must surely know that the aftermath of the recent cessation of fighting between Hamas and Israel – a halt that he, as prime minister, approved – will likely resemble the 2008 truce he opposed: a lull until the next round of fighting initiated by a rearmed Hamas.

By acting so inconsistently on the same terrorist threat just four years apart, Netanyahu, it appears, put personal political needs ahead of the national interest in 2008 and again now – both, ironically, just prior to Knesset elections. In 2008 it behooved him to sound hawkish; in 2012 it suited him to be more flexible.

Shouldn’t a noted terrorism expert know better?

Sharon’s words: “Everybody has to…grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours” (Sharon, foreign minister at the time, was addressing a meeting of the Tzomet Party on November 15, 1998).

Sharon’s actions: Sharon went from being one of Israel’s most vocal advocates of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a champion of its presence in Gaza during prior ministerial positions to, as prime minister, unilaterally withdrawing fully from Gaza and from four settlements in the northern West Bank (without the benefit of any peace overtures from the Palestinians).

His clear about-face gave the Palestinians the chance to elect Hamas – sworn to Israel’s destruction – to power in Gaza, enabling it to regularly batter southern Israel with deadly rockets. Sharon’s prowess on the battlefield is, to many, overshadowed by what is perhaps the most blatant political, military and security flip-flop in Israel’s history.

Olmert’s words: “The formula for the parameters of a unilateral solution are: to maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border; and not to divide Jerusalem” (Olmert was serving double duty as minister of Industry, Trade and Labor and minister of Communications when he spoke to David Landau of Haaretz on November 13, 2003).

Olmert’s actions: Only four years after expressing those decidedly hard-line sentiments, Prime Minister Olmert made this generous offer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the U.S.-hosted Annapolis Conference in Maryland: Israeli relinquishment of parts of East Jerusalem, with Jerusalem’s Old City – and its religious sites – administered by an international group.

So much for Olmert’s 2003 pledge – before he became Israel’s prime minister – to “not…withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.”

* * *

Should Israelis understand and accept the political reality that politicians often must retreat from pronouncements made during their days in the loyal opposition in order to govern responsibly once they’ve attained power? Or should those politicians be called out for their patronizing pre-power rhetoric?

Do Israelis believe it’s OK for political aspirants to say whatever they feel is necessary to gain power? Or should practicing what one preaches always be the political rule?

The Logic of the ‘Winged Pig Conditional’

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to teach elementary logic. One of the first topics was compound truth-functional statements, in which the truth of the compound is dependent on the truth of the components. So for example, the compound statement ‘p or q’ is true if and only if either or both of the components, p and q are true.

The definition of the ‘if p then q’ (called a ‘conditional’, and sometimes written p->q) statement seemed counter-intuitive to some students. It is true if and only if either p is false or q is true. That may seem strange, but think about it: suppose I assert that “if I drink 3 cups of coffee then I will have insomnia.” What could falsify this statement? Only one situation: I drink the coffee but still sleep normally.

This definition can be expressed as a “truth table” which tells us what the result will be for every possible combination of truth and falsehood of the antecedent (p) and the consequent (q). Here it is:

p q p->q

True

True

True

True

False

False

False

True

True

False

False

True

Not every conditional statement that we make is a simple function of the truth of its components, but many of them are.

Here is one that I see a lot:

“A majority of Jewish Israelis would give up most of Judea and Samaria, even evacuate settlements, for peace.”

Another way of saying this is that most Jewish Israelis agree with this conditional statement:

“If it would result in a lasting peace, I would support withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.”

The only case in which this statement is false is the one in which the speaker does not support withdrawal despite believing that it would result in peace. So no wonder a majority agrees with it.

It is perfectly rational to accept the truth of the if-then statement, but not support withdrawal because one does not believe that peace would result. For example, many Israelis believe that a withdrawal would result in a Hamas takeover and a Gaza-like situation a few miles from Israel’s population centers. Some point to the PLO’s refusal to recognize a Jewish state with any borders. Others compare the ease with which the Arabs could tear up a peace agreement to the difficulty of repossessing the land after it is ceded.

So clearly the truth of the statement does not imply a readiness on the part of the Israeli public to withdraw; rather it points to a strong desire to finally have an end to the conflict.

But there is more. The truth table above tells us that a conditional is always true when the antecedent is false. In this case, the truth of the consequent is irrelevant. This means that if the antecedent is contradictory or in some way impossible, then the whole statement is always true — but in a trivial sense.

This is what I call a “winged pig conditional.” And that’s what this statement actually is — a trivial one whose assertion commits the speaker to nothing.

I am prepared to bet $1,000 on the truth of the conditional statement “if pigs had wings, then they could fly” (with proper safeguards prohibiting bionic wings, etc.). This is because the antecedent “pigs have wings” is so unlikely as to be considered impossible. So I am not risking any money.

And based on my understanding of the oft-stated intentions of the PLO and Hamas, of Palestinian Arab public opinion, of P.A. and Hamas media, I can say that the proposition that withdrawal would lead to peace is just as unlikely.

To a great extent, the whole idea of a two-state solution as presented by President Obama, Shimon Peres, etc. is a winged pig. Of course it would be wonderful if Israelis and Arabs could live side by side in peace, but since the idea of a Jewish state is so consistently rejected by the Arab side, the questions of “how do we get there” so beloved by Dennis Ross, for example, are so irrelevant as to be uninteresting.

Some years ago, P.M. Netanyahu made news when he announced (under U.S. pressure) that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state in the context of a “two-state solution.” What he meant, of course, was a kind of winged-pig conditional: if the Arabs would agree to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, if the state could be demilitarized, if various security requirements could be met, then …

Of course the response from Mahmoud Abbas was predictable: Netanyahu is lying! He doesn’t support a “two-state solution” because a two-state solution includes right of “return” to Israel for 5 million “refugees,” and no recognition of Jewish ownership of Israel. Not to mention that “Palestine” deserves an army.

This is why the whole “peace process” discussion is so unutterably boring. It is unconnected to reality.

I think that we need to go farther than asking “what do we need to do to get peace?” and even “what do we need for security?” Rather, we must ask “what should the state of the Jewish people be?”

Perhaps those who believe that there is a value to Judea/Samaria that transcends its use as a bargaining chip, and indeed transcends its importance to security, a value that comes from its being the historical homeland of the Jewish people — maybe they have a point?

Visit Fresno Zionism.

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