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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘borders’

The UNESCO Paradigm

27 Heshvan 5772 – November 23, 2011

We always bristle at the preachments of even Israel’s few friends that it should rely on agreements and international good will as significant elements in its national security planning as it negotiates its final borders. In the final analysis, realistic borders based on a serious evaluation of probable military threats must be primary.

That principle was only reinforced by the recent goings-on at the UN and UNESCO.

UNESCO’s granting of full membership status to the Palestinian Authority in clear and direct contradiction of the standards for membership shows quite clearly that majority politics, rather than the legitimate interests of individual states, will always be the deciding factor.

And the PA’s failure by one vote to garner sufficient support in the Security Council for full membership – meaning that eight members were prepared to approve the laughable notion that the Palestinians meet the established criteria for membership – also makes the point.

Imagine – the PA came so close without a viable economy, without borders, without an army, and with Israel in control of most of the PA’s claimed territory and Hamas in control of most of the rest. And it is a foregone conclusion that, given the chance, the General Assembly would overwhelmingly vote for full membership for the Palestinians.

The recent UNESCO flap over a Haaretz cartoon, while comical, makes the point as well. Two weeks ago Haaretz ran a cartoon depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sending off an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu saying  “And on your way back, you’re gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah.”

Coming soon after the UNESCO vote on Palestinian membership, the satirical point was unmistakable. Remarkably, though, a senior official at UNESCO called Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO in for a tongue-lashing. He was read a formal protest and told the cartoon constituted incitement: “A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them. We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO.”

Given the venom, incitement and threats Arab UNESCO members routinely hurl Israel’s way without any protest from UNESCO, it’s plain the rules don’t apply where Israel is concerned. That a major organ of the UN would engage in such a stretch and accord seriousness to such an obvious political joke is proof positive that Israel, as always, must rely on its own devices.

We are not suggesting that Israel can go it alone. What we are saying is that Israel must rely chiefly on boundaries that provide for its optimum defense – and never on promises and commitments that depend on unreliable international bodies for implementation.

Times Columnist Kristof Shows His True Colors

14 Tishri 5772 – October 12, 2011

I read Nicholas D. Kristof’s New York Times column of October 6 with its headline “Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?” and concluded on finishing it that it is Kristof who is truly an enemy of Israel.

As is fashionable nowadays, Kristof blames Israel for the lack of progress in the peace process with the Palestinians, claiming, “Nothing is more corrosive than Israel’s growth of settlements.”

Why? One million, five hundred thousand Muslims live in Israel. Why do the Palestinian Authority and its supporters like Kristof believe the West Bank should be “Judenrein” or that Jews may not live in a part of Jerusalem when they have lived in all parts of Jerusalem for 3,000 years until the Jordanians drove them out in 1948?

Why, when a two-state solution comes into being and borders are agreed upon and Jews are located on the Palestinian side, shouldn’t Jews have the choice of remaining on as Palestinian citizens or resident aliens or leaving?

Nothing offended me more and showed Kristof’s true colors and antagonism to Jews than his claim that the Obama administration “humiliated itself” at the UN by making it clear it will veto any effort to create a Palestinian state outside of direct negotiations between the parties. What is humiliating about insisting that the Palestinians recognize the state of Israel and negotiate all of their differences?

Is Kristof implying that Obama is being pressed into taking that stance against his will, or against the will of the American people? Is he implying that the Jews forced him into taking that position?

Kristof calls for the pre-1967 borders with land swaps. Does he tell us how that is possible when Hamas believes it is entitled to occupy Tel Aviv and its charter states that every Jew entering Palestine after 1917 must be expelled? Has Kristof ever criticized Hamas’s charter and its numerous acts of terrorism intended to accomplish this goal?

Kristof criticizes the fact that Israeli citizens have become more conservative on “border[s] and land issues.” Why shouldn’t they? Former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barack and Ehud Olmert offered to settle borders giving the Palestinian state 97 percent of the West Bank, which they rejected.

Many supporters of Israel believe Palestinians are not interested in a two-state solution, one Jewish and one Palestinian, but seek instead a return of Palestinians to Israel so as to ultimately overwhelm the Jewish state and make it a Muslim state. Has Kristof ever addressed that possibility?

The criticism Kristof lodges against Hamas is limited to “And Hamas not only represses its own people, but also managed to devastate the peace movement in Israel. That’s the saddest thing about the Middle East: hardliners like Hamas empower hardliners like Mr. Netanyahu.”

As Ronald Reagan once said, “There he goes again,” equating terrorists with Israeli “hardliners.” Surely, Kristof knows the difference.

The Israelis have concluded, and I agree, that the Palestinian leadership does not want peace. Within the last two weeks, the Quartet asked both parties to go back to the negotiating table and talk without preconditions. The Israeli prime minister immediately said “anywhere, anyplace.” The president of the Palestinian Authority said “no” unless Israel agrees to a settlement freeze and negotiates based on indefensible 1967 borders.

Has Kristof criticized Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, for his refusal?

In his column, Kristof urges Palestinian women to engage in civil disobedience that could, he knows, end in violence and be met, he says, with “tear gas and clubbing,” ending with “videos promptly posted on YouTube.”

So there we have it. Kristof wants a physical confrontation or have the state of Israel and its military lay down their arms and submit to threats of violence rather than defend their people. What an outrage. I have no doubt he is repelled by the deaths of innocent civilians in Syria at the hands of the Syrian army, yet he expresses no qualms at what would follow to the Jews of Israel were Arab armies or terrorists to enter a vanquished Israel.

Kristof attacks Israel for “burning bridges” with Turkey. I believe it is Turkey that has effectively declared war on Israel. Turkey recently expelled Israel’s ambassador and Turkey’s prime minister said he will send Turkey’s navy to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, a blockade a UN commission has just said is legal under international law and intended to prevent the Hamas government in Gaza from bringing even more rockets and other arms from Iran into Gaza.

U.S. Leaves Door Open For Internationalizing Jerusalem

1 Elul 5771 – August 31, 2011
Full gas in neutral. With nearly built-in enmity on the part of the U.S. to the most basic Israeli positions regarding Jerusalem, it is no wonder our efforts to keep Jerusalem continue to run up against so many obstacles.
One would think the lines of confrontation over Jerusalem are clearly drawn: The Jews are striving to protect both parts of the city – their historic national capital and spiritual center in the east, and their modern-day capital in the other parts. In contrast, the Arabs demand the Temple Mount, the site of Muhammad’s mythical ascent to both the heavens and Mecca, together with the adjacent, mostly Arab-populated neighborhoods.
This, of course, would lead to a very clear position for the Arab side: “We want the Old City of Jerusalem, and the areas controlled by Jordan in the years 1948-1967, which you have ‘occupied’ since then. The Jewish-populated remainder of the city doesn’t interest us.”
Such a position – allowing Israel to retain what it won in Jerusalem in its defensive 1948 war – is bolstered by the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan. That agreement itself was buttressed by the U.S./British/French Tripartite Declaration of 1950 that guaranteed the very status quo set by the Armistice Agreement.
True, these were not official borders, because the Arab side made sure to insist, in true sore-loser style, that the borders thus set should not be construed as permanent. Israel agreed – but from the opposite angle. As Prime Minister Golda Meir said in 1969, for an Israeli leader to return to the 1949 borders was so dangerous it “would be treasonable.” Similarly, Abba Eban, who served as Israel’s foreign minister and ambassador to the UN, said the 1949 borders were reminiscent of no less than Auschwitz.
If even the 1949 borders are not safe for Israel, how much more unthinkable is it to erase whatever gains – such as western Jerusalem – Israel made in 1949!
Yet, despite the above, it appears a stand against Israel’s retention of western Jerusalem is being taken by the U.S. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, refuses to recognize that western Jerusalem – home to the Knesset, the Israel Museum, Bayit Vegan, Rehavia, Jaffa and King George Sts., etc. – belongs to Israel.
How is this manifest? Very simply: The U.S. refuses to register its American citizens born in Jerusalem as having been born in Israel. Instead, they are listed as “born in Jerusalem” – as if it were a country on its own.
This flies in the face of a duly-passed legal amendment by the U.S. Congress in September 2002 that reads, “For the purposes of the registration of birth [etc.] of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.” In practice, the U.S. government actually refuses to abide by this law – even at the price of being hauled before the Supreme Court.
Specifically, the parents of 9-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky of Beit Shemesh, born just 17 days after the law was passed, wished to avail themselves of its benefits, and asked that their Jerusalem-born son be listed as having entered the world in “Jerusalem, Israel.” The American consular officials refused. The Zivotofskys then took the government to court, lost, appealed, won partially, and, in short, the case is to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in November.
The suit is “about forcing the State Department to follow a law that merely codifies a long-established reality,” Dr. Zivotofsky has written, namely, that “Jerusalem, and certainly the western part of the city where Menachem was born, has been an integral part of Israel since 1948; no one has suggested changing that status, even after ‘final-status’ talks are concluded.”
This is precisely the point: Perhaps the U.S. is thus suggesting precisely that – that the Israeli status of western Jerusalem be changed.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, against whom the suit is officially filed, has explained that “any unilateral action by the U.S. that would signal, symbolically or concretely, that it recognizes that Jerusalem is a city that is located within the sovereign territory of Israel would critically compromise the ability of the U.S. to work with Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region to further the peace process.”
In other words, she does not recognize “that Jerusalem is a city that is located within the sovereign territory of Israel.” This is certainly not a position Congress or the American public agrees with – yet the State Department is willing to go the Supreme Court with it.
In the 1950s, the American government took the position that Israel should take no actions in Jerusalem that would impede the city’s internationalization. Even if this idea was widely discussed prior and following Israel’s establishment, no one truly takes it seriously today. Can it be that the U.S. governmental bureaucracy is so sluggishly out-of-tune that it still adheres to irrelevant, five-decade-old policies?
Furthermore, if the status of all-Jewish western Jerusalem is in such danger in American officialdom, what does this say about the U.S. commitment to retaining the Israeli status of the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the Temple Mount and Western Wall? And what about Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, Gilo, N’vei Yaakov and many other old-new areas of Jerusalem that were liberated in 1967 and have become thriving Jewish centers for the ingathering of exiles and Israelis alike in the dynamically rejuvenating Jewish homeland?
Once again, we are made to understand that even – or perhaps especially – regarding Jerusalem, we are a “nation that dwells alone.” Whatever we felt was self-evident regarding our national, historic and religious links to this unique city, and the world’s official acceptance of these links, is once again shown to be supported by shaky pillars in loosely packed earth. Though Jewish history in Jerusalem is marked by a host of laurels for the Jewish nation, we can never rest on them.
We must constantly remember the Psalmist’s refrain, “If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.” It must be ever on our minds: the subject of letters to congressmen and publications, phone calls, classes and lectures in our shuls, articles in our local newspapers, blogs, talkbacks, and the like.
             Jerusalem has room for many things, but complacency is not one of them.
To take an even more active role in the struggle to Keep Jerusalem Jewish, we invite you to visit and take part in our bus tours of critical but little-known parts of Jerusalem and environs. Come see for yourselves the implications of dividing our Holy City. Send an e-mail to tours@keepjerusalem.org or visit our website at www.keepjerusalem.org.

Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, continues to write and edit. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now live in Beit El.

Did Netanyahu Blink?

3 Av 5771 – August 3, 2011

An Associated Press report on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the 1948 Armistice lines understandably created quite a stir. Mr. Netanyahu’s public confrontation with President Obama over this very issue remains vivid in everyone’s memory, as does the enthusiastic and virtually unanimous bipartisan support for Mr. Netanyahu’s position expressed by Congress.


That this “red line” would be so abruptly and unceremoniously abandoned can hardly be deemed a simple matter. Did the AP somehow get the story wrong? Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters certainly hoped so, but then on Monday more news outlets, in Israel and abroad, confirmed that the prime minister had in essence accepted President Obama’s proposal that Israel affect a near total withdrawal from the West Bank.


To be sure, by Tuesday the AP was reporting that the Israeli government was “distancing” itself from the initial report, and that government sources insisted Mr. Netanyahu was merely willing to “show some flexibility” on the border issue.


When all the platitudes are put on the shelf, the gulf between President Obama and the Netanyahu government has been about whether Israel will be required to concede pre-1967 land as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, formalizing an end to the 1967 Six-Day War, spoke of Israel’s entitlement to defensible borders with no mention of accompanying land swaps. The notion of land swaps arose only as a way to account for changes on the ground subsequent to the 1967 war involving the growth of Israeli population centers in the West Bank.


Thus, when President Obama spoke of “land swaps” with the pre-1967 lines as the starting point, he was extending the notion of an exchange of land to Israel’s minimal entitlement to defensible borders rather than only post-1967 changes in reality on the ground. And this was a monumental shift.


In the weeks since the Netanyahu-Obama brouhaha, the administration has, for whatever reasons, been eager to downplay the implications of the president’s initial statement. At the same time, it’s clear from statements made by Mr. Netanyahu that there is a dynamic in play, driven no doubt by the Palestinian Authority’s determination to win UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

              In the run up to the final Palestinian push for that recognition come September, one can only hope that principle will prevail.

Title: The Borders of Inequality: Where Wealth and Poverty Collide

27 Tammuz 5771 – July 29, 2011

Title: The Borders of Inequality: Where Wealth and Poverty Collide

Author: By Iñigo Moré

Publisher: University of Arizona Press



   Behind “the news” there’s almost always a story that isn’t being reported, and certain kinds of phenomenon occur almost simultaneously all over the world in almost every era.


   Thus the juxtaposition of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs across several mid-Eastern borders almost equals the disparity between Mexicans and Americans, and quite a few other “hot spots” around the globe.


   Moré’s thesis is that it is that disparity of income that helps to create phenomena, such as the smuggling of illicit drugs from poverty-stricken countries such as Mexico into Southern states of Continental U.S., and even from Egypt through Gaza into Israel.


   Aside from the occasional rocket attacks and violence aimed at Israel from within the Gaza Strip, and the occasional Suicide Bomber crossing into Israel, the much less publicized story is that a steady stream of illicit drugs are crossing those borders to feed the bad habits of many thousands of addicted Israelis.


   Of course, we readily see the vast extent of Israeli compulsion in asocial habits of cigarette smoking and use of chewing tobacco, as well as alcoholic beverages, but the relatively high income of Israelis makes them a target for the importation of illicit and illegal products entering on all sides.


   Another aspect of the fluidity of borders are the illegal immigration of laborers for industries dependent upon the unskilled physical laborers, for restaurants, warehouses and other industries not requiring personnel who are fluent in language and other specialized skills. In America they stream across the Rio Grande – in Israel they are flown in from South Asia.


   Sometimes the immigration is officially sponsored, such as what The U.S. did to grant immigrant status to many Cambodians and Vietnamese, or Israel gathering in Jews, including Falashas from Ethiopia and the B’nai Israel from India, but often it is not as well publicized as the Cuban emigration to The U.S., or the North Korean emigration to Israel, but the story – including that of Palestinian Arabs and Israelis is never clear cut and often multi-faceted.


   In chapter 3 we learn that from 2003 through 2011 the South Central Border unit of the Israeli border police seized 10 tons of marijuana, 14 tons of contraband tobacco, 6 kilos of hashish and 750 grams of heroin, and had arrested 88 people, most of whom are Israeli citizens or Egyptians. Coincidentally, our own country – The U.S. – has a problem with the illegal importation of an hallucinogenic drug, Ecstasy, which is one of the current “Club Drugs” of choice – resulting in quite frequent arrests of American and Israeli drug dealers by both American and Israeli drug enforcement agency personnel, often working in collaboration.

Needed: A New Narrative For Israel

12 Tammuz 5771 – July 13, 2011

As Israel’s leadership digs in its heels in the face of escalating Palestinian demands for statehood, the Jewish state faces a new, rapidly changing dynamic. The Palestinian Authority’s intent to seek United Nations recognition of a new Arab state based on pre-1967 borders, coupled with reconciliation between the PA and Hamas, further complicates the issue.

The Palestinians plan to submit a proposal for statehood to the UN Security Council in September. If vetoed by the U.S., it will be presented to the General Assembly, where the PA is confident of winning the required two-thirds majority. This unilateral strategy, which effectively rejects negotiations with Israel, declares the Palestinians’ intent to bypass Israel on their path to statehood.

While the Obama administration has criticized Palestinian unilateralism, it has empowered the Quartet (the U.S., European Union, Russia, and the UN) to supplant the U.S. as mediator in the Middle East. The Quartet is now working on its plan for Palestinian statehood, to be presented to Israel as a fait accompli.

If there is broad consensus within Israel on any single issue, it’s that maintaining the status quo has caused a precipitous deterioration in the country’s geopolitical status. Branded an occupier, Israel is viewed as not interested in peace. Hostility toward Israel has reached a new low. The Palestinian-initiated Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions campaign against Israel enjoys broad support. The model BDS campaign and other efforts to delegitimize Israel mirror the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. The status quo has become ever more difficult for Israel to sustain.

Paradoxically, Israeli proponents of maintaining the status quo publicly espouse support for a two-state solution and bemoan the suspension in negotiations. Privately they view the two-state solution as an existential challenge they are not confident Israel can survive. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in advance of his address to the U.S. Congress, outlined his “redline” positions for Palestinian statehood, confident the Palestinians would never agree to such requirements.

For their part, the Palestinians have made it clear they will never accept Jewish sovereignty even in pre-1967 Israel. Many within their leadership call openly for Israel’s annihilation. For Hamas, the obliteration of Israel remains a prime component of its charter. The two-state solution – stillborn in 1948, reconjured for the 1993 Oslo Accords – remains a fantasy, with no more agreement between the parties now than 18 years ago.

With Israel at a precipice, its future in the balance, a new paradigm is desperately needed. More than at any time since its founding, the Jewish state needs its leaders to craft a new and unifying narrative, one that will inspire the nation and serve as a vision for its future. A narrative that will unequivocally set Israel’s permanent borders, define its relationship to its varied communities, establish its rightful place among the family of nations, and proclaim its inalienable right to its ancestral heartland.

The narrative begins with borders, which are integral to security, as without security there is no Israel. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “A nation without borders is not a nation.” In geographic terms, this applies to no other nation as it does to Israel. No one can currently delineate with precision Israel’s or Jerusalem’s borders, or where they might lie under any future agreement. With the fate of many communities uncertain, lives are destabilized and the nation is disheartened.

Given that borders are the first line of defense, it is essential they provide strategic depth should they be breached. A country nine miles wide at its center is indefensible, an axiomatic assessment currently shared by virtually every Israeli and American military expert.

Adjacent to this nine-mile demarcation line lies Israel’s central mountain range, which straddles Judea and Samaria as it slopes toward the coastal plain. Israel’s coastal plain is home to 70 percent of the country’s population, 80 percent of its industrial capacity, and Ben Gurion Airport. No country can survive with its major population centers and only major airfield in close proximity and vulnerable to devastating Gaza-style rocket and mortar bombardments. The central highlands and defensive advantage they provide must remain with Israel.

Given the Middle East’s instability, secure borders safeguarding maximum strategic depth are imperative. Israel’s leading military analysts have warned since 1967 that Israel’s survival depends on control of the Jordan Valley. Its high ridgelines provide a natural barrier against the threat of hostile armies from the east. Israel’s previous narrative, of borders “from the River to the Sea,” must be revived.

Remembering Shimie – The ‘Pied Piper’ Of Flatbush

5 Sivan 5771 – June 7, 2011

I have never used my column to eulogize friends who have passed away, as their loss affected me and an inner circle of people who knew them – but not necessarily the community at large. But that is not the case for Shimie Silver, a”h, for without exaggerating, his circle of friends numbered in the thousands and transcended borders.

Without a doubt, expatriates from New York who now live in communities both near and far-flung, in the US, Canada, Israel, the Orient, and everywhere in between, reeled at the news that the brilliant light that was Shimie Silver had gone out. Though they might not have seen him for years, even decades, so strong was the impact he had on people that their world dimmed somewhat with the news of his petirah.

Shimie single-handedly enhanced the lives of hundreds, even thousands of men, women and children who came from every walk of life; individuals who represent the melting pot that is Brooklyn -Jewish and gentile, religious and secular, rich and poor, “cool” and not so cool.

No one was invisible to Shimie. Shimie personified ahavas Yisrael and showed exemplary respect for all of Hashem’s creations. We are taught that all human beings are made b’ tzelem Elohkim – in G-d’s image. Shimie took that lesson to heart, treating everyone – no matter who they were – or weren’t – with consideration and thoughtfulness, never forgetting that they were Hashem’s handiwork. He understood that looking down on someone because they were different or “outsiders” – not Jewish, not frum, not educated, socially awkward, poor etc. was disrespecting their Creator.

Shimie had unconditional love and respect for everyone, even for those who were problematic and would have deserved a cold shoulder. I once witnessed how he handled the anger-inducing comments of a close-minded individual whose disparaging remarks on a certain subject were based on ignorance fueled by religious fanaticism. I could tell Shimie was deeply perturbed, even furious by what he heard, but he eloquently, and in a calm, respectful tone pointed out the flaws in the other person’s reasoning. Shimie maintained his dignity and that of the other person and did not allow their opposing points of view to turn into a heated shouting match.

(I am convinced that if Shimie becomes aware of a Heavenly gezarah against Am Yisrael, he will, in his typical charming and persuasive manner, engage Hashem in a deferential but passionate debate to get Him to cancel it.)

But Shimie went beyond just being respectful to people. He brought simcha into their lives. There is a Judaic concept called “choteh v’machti” – a sinner who leads others to sin. For the sinner, it is not enough that he sins; he wants others to follow his ways. L’havdil, Shimie was a “smiler” – but it wasn’t enough for him to smile. He led others to smile and to be b’simcha. Shimie had a joy for life that he shared with everyone who crossed his path. It is said, misery likes company; in Shimie’s case, his joyfulness loved company, and even the most morose person was pulled into his vortex of happiness. In that sense, Shimie was the “pied piper” of Flatbush. He had this almost magical ability to pull people out of the crevices of their sadness and follow him in his celebration of life. To that end he would do his best to alleviate whatever it was that “ailed ” them – whether it was something as simple as lending a sympathetic ear; approaching a “wallflower” and showering her with compliments; networking for those who were financially down and out and helping them get a job. He internalized what Torah is all about – treating others how you would want to be treated – and having fun in the process. No matter what. Despite the many “curveballs” life threw his way- and some were “real doozies “- Shimie would not let them pull him down. He was that rare person who had a true hakaras hatov and hence was sameach bechelko.

Yet he didn’t see himself as being a big deal. During a long ago conversation, we talked about his days at Brooklyn College. He told me that at some point he decided to find out who was very popular on campus. To his utter shock, he found out that HE was.

Despite his very handsome looks, his impressive musical talents (playing his guitar and bongos at a very late night impromptu kumsitz in Niagara Falls many years ago almost got him arrested), his graceful, head-turning moves on the dance floor, his keen wit and his sharp intellect that produced insightful, enlightening, yet entertaining d’vreiTorah, Shimie had no idea how “cool” he was.

He was an anuv in the true sense of the world – someone who had a lot to “crow about ” but didn’t. Not because he refrained from bragging – but because he truly didn’t think he was special.

But everyone who came within his orbit was not clueless. They knew they were in the presence of someone “yotzeh min ha’klal. ” Someone extraordinary.

Shimie did not have any children in the traditional sense of the word, but if a parent is someone who offers unconditional love and acceptance; who does his best to enhance quality of life; who freely gives of his time, strength and resources to nurture the vulnerable; and who does his utmost to bring simcha to another – then Shimie left a legacy of thousands of “children” to mourn him, to remember him and to learn from his unwavering example of ahavas Yisrael and yiras Shamayim.

Cheryl Kupfer can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com

Obama’s Jackie Mason Moment

21 Iyyar 5771 – May 25, 2011
President Obama’s speech at AIPAC straddled the line of a Jackie Mason
standup routine. It turns out that when the president said last Thursday that Israel should return to its ’67 borders, it wasn’t exactly what he meant. Who said I was referring to 1967? I meant 1867. I didn’t mean CE, I meant BCE. And why did you assume I was talking about Israel’s border? I was talking about French Guyana’s borders.
This was the first time I actually felt sorry for Obama – an incongruous statement to make about such a talented individual who also just happens to be the most powerful man in the world.
So why did he elicit my sympathy? Because you could see, both in his body language and the utter absence of passion, that he had been defeated. The president dithered, bobbed and weaved. He came into a room filled with 10,000 pro-Israel activists knowing he’d blown it, not just with the American Jewish community but with history as well.
For months, Arab democracy has been breaking out all over the world but Obama had yet to give one major policy speech on this unprecedented uprising. Yet when he finally chose to do so and thus recapture the American president’s traditional mantle as leader of the free world, he could not help but insert a highly inflammatory line about Israel that was immediately seized on by the media, thereby extinguishing the speech’s other content. And even on the Israel front he was forced to so dilute the ’67 border statement that it became utterly meaningless.
As Obama put it at the AIPAC convention:
“It was my reference to the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed swaps – that received the lion’s share of the attention and since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what ‘1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 . It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu could not have expressed it better.
So why did Obama sabotage his Arab democracy speech, not to mention further erode his already tenuous Jewish support, with a reference to the ’67 borders he has now climbed down from? Here we have a president with the eloquence of Martin Luther King but who has yet to make a single memorable speech as president aside from the moving and dignified words he offered the night bin Laden was terminated. Last Thursday at the State department was his chance. Why did he blow it?
The president’s explanation at the AIPAC convention was that he had no idea the ’67 borders line would inspire such an angry backlash.
“My position has been misrepresented . If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance . What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”
But the president’s claims to naivet? are ridiculous. To his detractors Obama is many things, but he is no fool. He knew full well that to publicly call for a return to the ’67 lines was a bomb waiting to detonate. Obama knew the demand to return to the pre-Six-Day War borders spoke directly to the Palestinian narrative.
So why did he say it?
I believe the answer speaks directly to the growing mistrust that American Jewry, which gave the president 78 percent of its vote in 2008, has for Obama and why Democratic Jewish donor purses are closing.
Stated simply, this president has a strange obsession with Israel. Even when he’s talking about the unprecedented breakout of democracy across oppressive Arab regimes, he has to connect it to Israel. He could easily have given a stand-alone speech about Israel and mentioned the ’67 lines there. But he believes to his core the oft-repeated falsehood that the secret to wide-ranging Middle East peace is a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and that Israeli intransigence is largely responsible for Arab anger and Middle East strife.
And even as history proves him wrong and the Arabs start directing their anger against their real oppressors like Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, Khaddafi of Libya and Assad of Syria, Obama still thinks that at its root the protests are against Netanyahu of Israel.
Every president wants to be a historic figure and Obama has decided that a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will define his presidency. If he successfully pressures Israel to remove any military presence from the Jordan Valley and return for the most part to its ’67 borders, he will achieve what no president has before him.

Sadly, Obama has forgotten that Jimmy Carter pulled off just that kind of breakthrough, brokering peace between Israel and Egypt, yet is still remembered as a failed president because he lost the larger battle of freedom to Islamists in Iran who initiated a war against the West we are still fighting.




Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international bestselling author of 25 books, including his recent “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.

What The President Got Wrong

21 Iyyar 5771 – May 25, 2011

When President Obama spoke last week of the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring, he got a lot right. His calling out of the Arab states was long overdue and dead on.

But he got some big things wrong.

Why the 1967 borders didn’t work in 1967: When the president said Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps, he missed an opportunity to put the issue of borders in an important historical context for the world.

The borders of Israel changed because then, like today, the Jewish state came under attack from all sides.

The Arabs rejected the 1967 borders with Israel by waging war. Egypt cut off Israel’s only supply route to Asia and amassed troops on its borders with the Sinai. Syria attacked from the Golan Heights. Jordan started shelling Jerusalem. Before the outbreak of war, Arab terrorism had grown more frequent, with 37 attacks in just the first four months of 1967.

For anyone to discuss the ’67 borders without mentioning this is like discussing our war with Japan without mentioning Pearl Harbor.

A U.S. “plan” becomes a Palestinian demand: We saw how the ill-fated U.S. demand for a total “settlement” freeze wound up grinding peace talks to a halt when the Palestinians then demanded nothing less before they would even sit at the bargaining table.

The call for a 100 percent stop to all building activity did not take into account ongoing construction of buildings in naturally growing areas, as well as several areas like Gilo that are certainly not “settlements.” Soon even Israel’s capital was called a “settlement.”

The administration eventually withdrew this condition, but not before the damage was done. The Palestinians have refused to even start talking unless this impossible and unreasonable condition is met. The president has now repeated the mistake by giving the Palestinians yet another American-created precondition: 1967 borders.

We will now certainly hear a new refrain from them – that they won’t talk about any “swaps” until the ’67 borders are returned.

Negotiated settlement? OK, but with whom? The president expressed many important sentiments in the speech that reflect our values as a nation. For example, he rightly called Hamas a terrorist organization. But how is that fact compatible with the demand that Israel make concessions?

The sad truth is that it is no longer possible to pretend that there is a “good” and “bad” Palestinian entity. As Hamas and Fatah move closer to formalizing their reconciliation through a power-sharing agreement, the more moderate elements in Fatah are being pushed out.

Further, Hamas has yet to make any progress in moving away from its militant stand against Israel. Even the European Union calls Hamas a terrorist entity, and United States law makes this clear. The merger of Hamas and Fatah must put an end to the myth that the Palestinian Authority seeks peace in the region.

A “negotiated settlement” is what we all want, but it’s unrealistic and unfair to demand it of Israel until Hamas is gone.

I honor the president for his desire for peace. The Israelis have demonstrated they share the same aspiration. But taking a correct approach to history and being realistic in our description of today’s realities are vital to that goal.

Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents New York’s 9thCongressional district (parts of South Brooklyn and South Central Queens) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Geographical Silhouettes

20 Tevet 5770 – January 6, 2010

Peter Krausz: (No) Man’s Land

Through January 16, 2010

745 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor, New York




Per Deuteronomy 21, when a corpse is found in the wilderness, an elaborate ceremony ensues that is clearly intended to disrupt the regular routines of the townspeople living nearby. The judges and elders determine which city is closest to the crime scene, and the elders of that city take a young calf, which has never been yoked, to a dismal valley, which could never sustain agricultural life, where they break the calf’s neck. The Levites then arrive to observe the elders washing their hands over the bloody calf and declaring, “Our hands did not spill this blood, nor did our eyes perceive it. Therefore, God, forgive your people Israel, whom You redeemed, and do not allow innocent blood to flow amongst your nation, and let this blood atone for them.”


Everything about the episode of the Eglah Arufah – the broken calf -screams desolation, wilderness and boundaries. Since the murder victim is found outside the city limits, culpability is measured by the closest city, perhaps because that is likely to be the killer’s hometown or because that city should have better policed its outskirts. The calf, like the victim, is pure sacrificed potential, having never been worked, and the valley is so remote that even the flora avoids it. What better place for contemplation of the corpse and the atonement than the wilderness which cleansed the Israelites after they departed Egypt and which helped mold prophets and leaders like the shepherd boys Moses and David?



Peter Krausz. “(No) Man’s Land No. 14.” 2008. Secco on panel. 24 x 80 inches


Just as in life, it is necessary to set boundaries in art, although there are of course different sorts of boundaries. In a drawing, lines are used to capture the contours of objects (negative space), while paintings are shape based (positive space). An artist either draws around an object or paints the actual forms of the object. In a C?zanne still life, an apple ends where a pear begins, and in a Thomas Cole landscape, the horizon line separates a stormy sky and a mountain. But though it is necessary to set borders in art, not all artists are thrilled about the notion of setting limits.


Montr?al painter Peter Krausz knows enough about borders – the real sort, not just the aesthetic ones – to be suspicious of them and the people who tend to set them up. Krausz and his family escaped from Eastern Block Romania in 1969, which has led to his “long-standing preoccupation with the concept of borders,” according to a press release from Forum Gallery, which is showing his work through January 16, and with “the frontiers that sometimes follow natural geographical features but which are often arbitrarily, even brutally, imposed on nature, landscapes, and human beings.”


Peter Krausz. “(No) Man’s Land No. 9.” 2008. Secco on panel. 40 x 30 inches



Krausz created the 15 works of the Forum Gallery show using a mixture of high and low-tech techniques. Using satellite photographs from Google Earth, Krausz identified “no man’s land” areas, which are either unoccupied or disputed. He traveled to the areas and photographed them. Based on his photographs and the satellite images, Krausz painted the areas from a bird’s eye perspective, which he compares to Japanese emperors looking out over their land from a high vantage point as a way of owning the land. It also resembles Moses standing on Mount Nebo overlooking the land of Naftali, Ephraim, Menasseh and Judah, as well as the sea, the south and the plains, and as far as Jericho and Tzoar – all effectively no-man’s lands to him.


Krausz, who was born in 1946 in Romania, trained at the Bucharest Academy of Fine Arts. Today he is professor of fine art at the University of Montr?al. He uses a painting technique called secco, where he starts with a dry plaster surface and then applies a series of thin layers (like watercolor) of egg-based paints. The paintings have rich, earth tones, and seem to go on forever, since Krausz crops out the horizon line. This has the effect of making the landscape look like a story sea of continuous waves (even if they have trees on them) for as long as the eye can see. In the documentary “Peter Krausz: No Man’s Land” (Doina Harap Productions, 2009), Krausz says he also removed figures from the landscapes to arrive at an “almost biblical,” pre-human sort of scene. “Before the houses, the roads and the telephone post,” he says, “a universal landscape.”


Peter Krausz. “(No) Man’s Land No. 6.” 2008. Secco on panel. 36 x 80 inches


In the documentary, Krausz explains that he learned he was Jewish when he was the victim of anti-Semitism. “I could say I became a Jew the moment my little schoolmates called me a dirty Jew – that’s when I realized I was one. Because otherwise there was nothing else in my surroundings in Bucharest to let me know I was one,” he says. “So when that happened I became one and it stayed with me. Especially the history – the history of the Jewish people is of particular interest to me. Why this ongoing persecution that never ceases and is still continuing?”


Anti-Semitism has become a part of some of Krausz’s other series, like “De Natura (Humana),” where out-of-focus images of a man in a public bath echo Concentration camp iconography. In their book “Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust,” Shelley Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz argue the images’ sense of “vulnerability” and “menace,” coupled with Krausz’s larger body of work, suggests a World War II theme. Krausz himself says that the photographs, coupled with an installation of long keys reminiscent of factory keys to open valves, evoke the Holocaust, and “you cannot help but think of the concentration camps, of the shower rooms where people were killed, gassed.”



Peter Krausz. “(No) Man’s Land No. 7.” 2008. Secco on panel. 40 x 30 inches



But even where Jewish themes and content is not so blatantly apparent, one gets the sense that Krausz’s work has a Jewish component to it. “For many years, even crossing the border into the United States was hard. We arrived at the border and there was … a little fear,” he says. “This might be hard to understand for Canadians or Americans, but for us the border still represents something dangerous and closed.” When Krausz returned to Berlin in the late 1980s, seeing the Berlin Wall, which was “extremely visible and heavy,” his fears of borders were renewed.


But no matter how much fear and pain bred Krausz’s work, the borders in his paintings are created by a generous hand, which seeks to understand the landscapes rather than to enforce rigid limits on them. It is a clich? amongst art instructors to tell students to allow the paint (or charcoal) to speak, but that is exactly what Krausz does for the landscapes he observes, studies and then recreates. It would be presumptuous and coy to call his mapmaking Tikkun Olam (the pop-Kabbalistic notion of repairing the world) or even progressive (in Hegel’s sense), but some viewers may well see a redemptive aspect mixed in with the wilderness of the no man’s land.


“It is often said that when you’ve left your home and you’ve immigrated and traveled, you’re always trying to rediscover the landscape of your childhood,” Krausz says. “So when I started focusing on landscaping in my work, I wondered if it was because I was trying to find this landscape that I had not seen again until 1994, when I returned to Romania after 25 years.”


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.

Warsaw Completes Ghetto Project

4 Tevet 5769 – December 31, 2008

    Poland’s capital recently marked the completion of a massive restoration project that marks the borders of the former Jewish Ghetto that was walled in by Nazis occupiers during World War II.

     The mayor of Warsaw, along with the minister of culture, inaugurated the project that included 21 new information points along the boundaries of the former Jewish Ghetto. The project also placed a beige line, labeled “Ghetto Wall,” along the city streets that outlined the furthest reaches of the Ghetto’s borders.

   The line snakes along sidewalks and around apartments and offices, broken only when it reaches roads or tram lines.

    Paid for by the city of Warsaw and the Ministry of Culture, the project was launched last year by a team of historians.

    “When you ask people in Warsaw about the Ghetto, they can tell you about it and have an idea of where it was,” said Tomasz Merta of the Ministry of Culture. “But in reality, nobody could tell you how big it was and how it was a huge prison in the heart of the city.”

    Varsovians  (people that live in Warsaw) can now easily find the line running along several major streets near downtown and curling around what is now the Jewish cemetery.

   “Now it’s here, and we can see it and touch it. And it’s very difficult to remember because of how hurtful it was,” Merta said, “but at least now we can remember. This is our responsibility.”

   Until now the only reminder of the Ghetto #20 Wall was a small section that was preserved at 60 Zlota Street. But even that historic monument was in the back of a building’s courtyard and if you didn’t know where to look for it a person would have a hard time finding it.



Last remnant of the original Ghetto Wall at 60 Zlota St.


     Another participant in the ceremony said that until now people in Warsaw had been able to just forget about the Jews and the ghetto by not going to the Ghetto Park and monument. Now they have a tangible marker that traverses the center of the city that many thousands of people will see on a daily basis. It cannot be ignored.”

     Nazi officials cut off the Jewish Ghetto from the rest of the city on November 16, 1940. At its broadest circumference, the ghetto wall enclosed 307 hectares (approximately, 760 acres).

    Some 360,000 Warsaw Jews and 90,000 from other towns were forced into the ghetto, according to the city of Warsaw. Some 100,000 people died of hunger.

     “It’s not only important to Warsaw, but it’s a universal lesson about memory,” Merta said.

     The inauguration ceremony included a bus tour that took people along the former borders and stopped at the information points that marked important sites or events in the ghetto’s history.

    A crowd of project officials, local residents and historians went along for the trip. Older residents recalled the disquiet in the city when the wall was first built.

    “Nobody was sure if their house would lay in the ghetto, or where the borders would be,” said historian Jan Jagielski, author of a book about the Ghetto. “Walls had been built earlier, and people were worried that there would be a ghetto. From November 16, people couldn’t leave.”

    Jagielski, a non-Jewish historian, who is a leading authority of Jewish history in Poland, lead a group of mostly elderly women through a park and wondered at how modern Warsaw sits atop borders that are gone but not forgotten.

    “This is all real and unreal,” he said. “That we’re here walking, through these streets.”

Warsaw Completes Ghetto Project

4 Tevet 5769 – December 31, 2008

    Poland’s capital recently marked the completion of a massive restoration project that marks the borders of the former Jewish Ghetto that was walled in by Nazis occupiers during World War II.

     The mayor of Warsaw, along with the minister of culture, inaugurated the project that included 21 new information points along the boundaries of the former Jewish Ghetto. The project also placed a beige line, labeled “Ghetto Wall,” along the city streets that outlined the furthest reaches of the Ghetto’s borders.

   The line snakes along sidewalks and around apartments and offices, broken only when it reaches roads or tram lines.

    Paid for by the city of Warsaw and the Ministry of Culture, the project was launched last year by a team of historians.

    “When you ask people in Warsaw about the Ghetto, they can tell you about it and have an idea of where it was,” said Tomasz Merta of the Ministry of Culture. “But in reality, nobody could tell you how big it was and how it was a huge prison in the heart of the city.”

    Varsovians  (people that live in Warsaw) can now easily find the line running along several major streets near downtown and curling around what is now the Jewish cemetery.

   “Now it’s here, and we can see it and touch it. And it’s very difficult to remember because of how hurtful it was,” Merta said, “but at least now we can remember. This is our responsibility.”

   Until now the only reminder of the Ghetto #20 Wall was a small section that was preserved at 60 Zlota Street. But even that historic monument was in the back of a building’s courtyard and if you didn’t know where to look for it a person would have a hard time finding it.



Last remnant of the original Ghetto Wall at 60 Zlota St.


     Another participant in the ceremony said that until now people in Warsaw had been able to just forget about the Jews and the ghetto by not going to the Ghetto Park and monument. Now they have a tangible marker that traverses the center of the city that many thousands of people will see on a daily basis. It cannot be ignored.”

     Nazi officials cut off the Jewish Ghetto from the rest of the city on November 16, 1940. At its broadest circumference, the ghetto wall enclosed 307 hectares (approximately, 760 acres).

    Some 360,000 Warsaw Jews and 90,000 from other towns were forced into the ghetto, according to the city of Warsaw. Some 100,000 people died of hunger.

     “It’s not only important to Warsaw, but it’s a universal lesson about memory,” Merta said.

     The inauguration ceremony included a bus tour that took people along the former borders and stopped at the information points that marked important sites or events in the ghetto’s history.

    A crowd of project officials, local residents and historians went along for the trip. Older residents recalled the disquiet in the city when the wall was first built.

    “Nobody was sure if their house would lay in the ghetto, or where the borders would be,” said historian Jan Jagielski, author of a book about the Ghetto. “Walls had been built earlier, and people were worried that there would be a ghetto. From November 16, people couldn’t leave.”

    Jagielski, a non-Jewish historian, who is a leading authority of Jewish history in Poland, lead a group of mostly elderly women through a park and wondered at how modern Warsaw sits atop borders that are gone but not forgotten.

    “This is all real and unreal,” he said. “That we’re here walking, through these streets.”

‘To The Land That I Will Show You’: Mapping The Holy Land

9 Sivan 5768 – June 12, 2008

Imaginary Coordinates

Now through September 7, 2008

Spertus Museum

610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago



Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972) imagines a dialogue between the explorer Marco Polo and the emperor Kublai Khan. The young Polo captures the aged Khan’s attention with his vivid descriptions of his travels, and though the ruler appears to be living vicariously through the young traveler’s adventures, it quickly emerges that Khan and Polo share no common language. There is no way of knowing whether Polo’s gesticulations and drawings in the sand actually convey anything to Khan, and even if they did, Polo’s tales are based on fictive (or “invisible”) cities rather than true cartographic ones.


Polo’s accounts of the 55 invisible cities are so innovative, because maps are generally thought of as pragmatic tools that stand or fall, based on their ability to successfully and coherently decipher actual spaces and teach strangers how to navigate those places. Yet, as the Spertus Museum’s exhibit “Imaginary Coordinates” shows, maps as tools for steering are relatively modern inventions.


“The central understanding that maps have less to do with landscape than with the intention of their makers and that they are produced within socially manufactured contexts is the starting point of this exhibition, whose chief purpose is to explore the limits of mapping; what or who remains absent from the map; and where, if not on the map, this difference might be found and recognized,” writes Rhoda Rosen, the director of the Spertus Museum, in the catalog.


Heinrich Bunting’s woodcut map “Die ganze Welt in einem Kleberblat” (1581), which appears in the Spertus show, depicts the world as a three-leafed clover, with Jerusalem (spelled “Ierusalem”) in the central position. The leaves represent Europa (including Roma, Italia, Hispania, Germania, and Graecia), Africa (including Lybia, Aethiopia, and Caput Bonae), and Asia (including India, Persia, Syria, Arabia, Armenia, and Mesopotamia). A cropped American continent lies in the bottom left corner of the map, while a boat and three fish occupy the oceans, whose waves resemble a cross between many pairs of lips and lightning bolts.



Shirley Shor. “Landslide” (2004). Sandbox, custom software, projector. The Jewish Museum, New York, Promised gift of Jane and Ishaia Gol. Courtesy of Moti Hasson Gallery, New York.



In the clover formation, Bunting betrays his birthplace, and indeed the full text above the map reads, “Die ganze Welt in einem Kleberblatt welches ist der Stadt Hannover meines lieben Vaterlandes Wapen” (“The Whole World in a Cloverleaf, Which is the Coat of Arms of Hannover, My Dear Fatherland,” translation by Naomi Verchovsky).


Though Bunting’s map would prove fairly useless to a traveler trying to get from point A to point B, Shirley Shor’s “Landslide” (2004) would not even strike most viewers as a map to begin with, if it did not appear in an exhibit about maps. Shor, an Israeli artist born in 1971, creates her “map” by projecting patterns (via a mirror) onto a sandbox. The projection initially looks like a very colorful game of Tetris or an abstracted puzzle or funky camouflage. But as the projection unfolds, the colors gradually overtake each other until the projection is just two colors – more closely resembling two bordering countries on a map.



Palphot, Herzeliyah, Israel. Refrigerator Magnet with Map of Israel, c. 2007. Plastic, printed paper, magnet, mercury; 56 × 56 mm. Spertus Museum, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago.



Other maps like “Rabbinical Map of the Holy Land,” published in 1545 based on a map Rabbi Eliae Mizrachi, offer visions of biblical landscapes. According to the “Imaginary Coordinates” catalog, the “so-called Rabbinic or Rashi map” is based on “boundary drawings” created by Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (French, 1040-1105), also known as Rashi (an acronym for “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki”), “to help elucidate and illustrate biblical geography.” The rectangular map, labeled in English and in Hebrew, depicts the Red Sea as a pair of parallel horizontal lines on the bottom of the map. The rest of the map tracks the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the places they camped, including: Kadesh Barnea, Etham, Succoth, and Rameses.


Yet, if the Israelites’ trip truly followed the Rashi map, they would have walked south from Egypt, turned left and continued on an eastern path at a 90 degree angle to their original direction, and then again turned 90 degrees and walked north again. (The entire trip would assume the form of the letter ‘J,’ composed from bottom to top.) This map, though it does use biblical places, does not follow actual geography, and must therefore be viewed as a religious and perhaps symbolic statement, rather than a scientific one. The creator of the map succeeds in debunking the view that the Jews actually crossed the Red Sea (they actually followed a horseshoe-shaped path, doubling back to the original side), but all other aspects of the map are symbolic and literary.



Heinrich Bünting (German; 1545-1606). “Die ganze Welt in einem Kleberblat (The whole world in a clover leaf).” From a translation of Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae. Woodcut; 225 × 360 mm. Mark R. Pattis, Highland Park, Illinois.



Bunting’s, Shor’s, and Rashi’s blends of mapmaking all illustrate how complicated it is to translate three-dimensional space into art without projecting one’s nationality (like Bunting) and without choosing symbolism over actual landforms (Rashi). But Shor’s sandbox map arrives at another controversial aspect of mapmaking that specifically applies to mapping the Holy Land: where are boundaries placed, and who gets to place them? Are not all maps, Shor might wonder, just projections upon sand which knows no boundaries or borders?


This slippery application of boundaries surfaces in Abraham bar Yakov’s 1711-1712 copperplate engraved map of Israel in an Amsterdam Haggadah. Bar Yakov, a German whom the Spertus catalogue presumes to be a convert to Judaism delineates the boundaries of the tribes in his map, which is a copy of Christian van Adrichom’s 16th century map. Bar Yakov places his own mark on the landscape by introducing Hebrew and editing out all of van Adrichom’s references to Christianity and the New Testament. The 18th century map is also a collage of different phases of history (Abraham’s tent and Jonah and the whale make appearances, even as the land is separated by tribe, and thus dates at earliest to Joshua’s life). But even the land dividing is guesswork, for the Bible only offers cities as guides, but never actual borders. Bar Yakov improvises the actual boundaries, much like the Jews in Joshua’s time, no doubt, had to create the actual borders.


The Spertus show gets even more controversial in its exploration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it unfolds across the Holy Land. There is perhaps nowhere more at stake in maps and mapmaking than there is in the Middle East, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims all turn to their scripture to claim the land. Spertus includes Palestinian maps in “Imaginary Coordinates” in an effort to show how different nations and religious groups view the Holy Land and its boundaries.


Some viewers will see a moral or religious relativism in this curatorial move, and others will see an anti-Israel move in the decision to show Palestinian maps. Perhaps the curators intended to legitimize all sorts of maps of the region and to question who holds the correct maps. But these questions are beside the point and it would be wrong to judge the entire show on political or religious grounds.


Spertus has to be commended for bringing attention not only to controversial maps, but also to the ways in which all maps carry invented components. Not every map is propaganda per se, but neither can they be trusted to approach land from an objective standpoint. In this light, every map in the show ought to be examined (indeed admired) from a skeptical distance.


A final story illustrates this point. At the end of a tour of the show that she led, Amanda Friedeman, museum educator, revealed that the museum had to take steps to disrupt the reflective aspects of the windows in the museum’s gorgeous, new building, to prevent the many birds that migrated off Lake Michigan from flying straight into the glass. The birds needed help to prevent them from blindly carrying on into a mirage, but viewers who spend time with the many maps in the Spertus show will never take what they see for granted on their next trip.


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.   

Jimmy Carter’s Disingenuous Diplomacy

1 Kislev 5767 – November 22, 2006

       Jimmy Carter’s new book – Palestine Peace Not Apartheid – should, by all rights, be headed for the remainder bin. Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, calls it a “tendentious, dishonest and stupid book.” Norman Finkelstein, one of Israel’s harshest critics, admits the book is “filled with errors small and large, as well as tendentious and untenable interpretations.” There is not a single blurb on the book.


        But while it may be tendentious, dishonest, stupid, and filled with errors and untenable interpretations, it could still have an impact. Carter says he’s “going to promote [it] pretty widely,” so his tendentious and erroneous assertions may ripple into the public consciousness.


        Responsible people will ignore Carter’s attempt to tar and feather Israel with the word “apartheid.” Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs live together in peace – a country where Arabs not only vote but serve in the Knesset. But Carter has done something even worse in his book: He egregiously misstates both the relevant diplomatic history and the long-standing U.S. diplomatic position, and then he blames Israel for not complying with it – demonizing Israel even more insidiously.


Carter, Resolution 242 and the Road Map


        At the end of his book, Carter has a chapter in which he issues his plan for peace. The chapter includes a discussion of the alleged requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the Quartet’s Road Map. Carter states that (emphasis added, here and in all following quotes):


          The unwavering official policy of the United States since Israel became a state has been that its borders must coincide with those prevailing from 1949 until 1967 (unless modified by mutually agreeable land swaps), specified in the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, which mandates Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories. . . . [A]s a member of the International Quartet that includes Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union, America supports the Roadmap for Peace, which espouses exactly the same requirements.


        A reader would receive the impression from that paragraph that the 1967 borders are specified in Resolution 242 as Israel’s final borders (perhaps with minor adjustments compensated by land swaps), that the Road Map says the same thing, and that this has been “unwavering U.S. policy.” All of that, as we will demonstrate, is false.


        Carter’s false impression is reinforced by the final paragraphs in his book, where he asserts that peace will come only upon Israel’s “Withdrawal to the 1967 border as specified in U.N. Resolution 242 and as promised in the Camp David Accords and the Oslo Agreement and prescribed in the Roadmap of the International Quartet.”


        Carter continually refers to the 1967 borders as Israel’s “legal borders.” He concludes that the “bottom line” is Israel must “comply” with the Road Map and with “official American policy” by “accepting its legal [1967] borders.” In exchange, he says, all “Arab neighbors” must “pledge” to honor Israel’s right to live in peace.


        Even Charlie Brown wouldn’t kick that football. Abba Eban famously called the 1967 lines “Auschwitz borders,” and he did so for a reason: they are indefensible, and it was precisely their indefensibility that provoked Arab aggression against Israel in the first place.


        Nor could a “pledge” of peace be enforced by U.S. or NATO troops (much less UN ones), once Israel moved to indefensible borders – and it would be unreasonable to expect the U.S. or NATO to commit troops to defend such borders (even assuming an Israeli willingness to place its defense into the hands of others).


        But there is an even more fundamental objection to Carter’s plan. Contrary to his repeated assertions about Resolution 242 and the Road Map:


        • The 1967 borders are not specified as Israel’s “legal borders” in Resolution 242.


        • Such borders are neither “espoused” nor “required” nor “prescribed” in the Road Map.


        • It has never been “unwavering U.S. policy” that Israel’s final borders must coincide with the 1967 borders, nor that changes in them be “minor,” nor that any changes be compensated with “land swaps.”


        • U.S. policy – both in the past and today – contemplates that Israel’s borders will be where Israel’s security requires, not the place from which the prior war commenced – and the U.S. has officially stated that any Palestinian expectation to the contrary is “unrealistic.”


        The terms of Resolution 242 do not provide for “land for peace,” much less “land for [a pledge of] peace.” Instead, Resolution 242 envisions that land be exchanged for “secure” boundaries (since such boundaries are the only practical guarantee of peace). Moreover, the drafters of Resolution 242 recognized the 1967 borders were not secure.


        The Road Map took this one step further. It did not envision a simultaneous exchange of land for secure borders, but rather a phased-in peace, starting with the dismantlement of terrorist infrastructure (Phase I), followed by a provisional state (Phase II), followed by final status negotiations on borders (Phase III). It did not require that Israel return to the 1967 borders, either at the beginning or the end of that process.


History of U.S. Policy on Israel’s Borders


        Since Carter provides no footnotes in his book, he provides no support for the alleged “unwavering official policy of the United States” that he asserts requires an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders.


        By reviewing published sources, however, it is possible to trace a straight line from (a) President Lyndon Johnson’s policy in 1967 underlying Resolution 242, to (b) President George W. Bush’s April 14, 2004 letter to Israel – and the picture that emerges directly contradicts Carter’s assertion.


        Resolution 242, adopted November 22, 1967, includes as one of its principles the “[w]ithdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” as part of a permanent settlement of the Middle East dispute. But it does not require withdrawal from “all the territories,” nor does it mention the 1967 boundaries. On the contrary, it calls for recognition of “secure” boundaries that will enable Israel to live “free from threats or acts of force.”


        The omission of the word “all” or “the” from Resolution 242 was neither accidental nor inadvertent, nor the result of imprecise wording. The words “all” and “the” were proposed and rejected in 1967, after being considered at the highest governmental levels.


        As Dore Gold, Israel’s former UN ambassador, has explained, “President Lyndon Baines Johnson himself decided that it was important to stick to this phraseology, despite the pressure from the Soviet premier, Alexei Kosygin, who had sought to incorporate stricter additional language requiring a full Israel withdrawal.”


        Gold notes that Kosygin had written to Johnson on November 21, 1967, requesting that the resolution include the word “the” before the word “territories,” to indicate that a complete Israeli withdrawal was required. But Johnson refused the Soviet request. The Soviet deputy foreign minister likewise tried to insert the word “all” before “territories,” but was rebuffed.


        The meaning of Resolution 242 – in view of the fact that heads of state were involved in its drafting and the words “all” and “the” were purposely omitted from the resolution – was, according to Gold, “absolutely clear” to those involved in the drafting process:


    Joseph P. Sisco, who would serve as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, commented on Resolution 242 during a Meet the Press interview some years later: “I was engaged in the negotiation for months of that resolution. That resolution did not say ‘total withdrawal.”


        George Brown, the British foreign secretary in 1967, summarized Resolution 242 as follows: “The proposal said, ‘Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,’ not ‘from the territories,’ which means Israel will not withdraw from all the territories.” Gold notes that both President Johnson and Ambassador Arthur Goldberg made other contemporaneous statements supporting that reading of Resolution 242:


    President Johnson’s insistence on protecting the territorial flexibility of Resolution 242 could be traced to his statements made on June 19, 1967, in the immediate wake of the Six-Day War. In fact, Johnsondeclared that “an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4,” before the outbreak of hostilities, was “not a prescription for peace, but for renewed hostilities.” He stated that the old “truce lines” had been “fragile and violated.” . . .


    Ambassador Goldberg would additionally note sometime later another aspect of the Johnson administration’s policy that was reflected in the language of its UN proposals: “Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate.”


        This policy was also reflected in statements by President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz. Reagan himself stated in his September 1, 1982 address that became known as the “Reagan Plan”: “In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.” . . . .


        Shultz was even more explicit about what this meant during a September 1988 address: “Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders.”


        In the April 14, 2004 letter from President George W. Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the United States reiterated Israel’s right to secure and defensible borders, and expressly noted that a return to the 1967 borders was unrealistic. The letter stated that:


          “The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”


        On June 23-24, 2004, the U.S. Senate and House passed Concurrent Resolution 460 stating that each body “strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004 to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon” – expressly referencing the portions of the letter dealing with Israel’s borders.


 U.S. Position vs. Jimmy Carter’s Plan


        The concept of “secure, defensible borders” differs significantly from the simplistic “land for [a pledge of] peace” doctrine underlying the Geneva Accord, which Jimmy Carter wanted to substitute for the Road Map back in 2003 (and in his book today). The Geneva Accord presumes that a return to the 1967 borders, in exchange for a “peace agreement,” would produce peace. In contrast, “secure, defensible borders” recognizes that an enforceable peace agreement depends on borders Israel can defend on its own.


        Defensible borders are also an important American interest, since the U.S. would not want to obligate itself to defend indefensible borders; such borders are themselves an invitation to the aggression supposedly foresworn in a “peace agreement.”


        Thus Israeli settlements that command the high ground around Jerusalem (such as Ma’ale Adumim) or provide strategic locations in the West Bank (such as Ariel) are a critical part of any ultimate peace agreement, because they are essential to defensible borders. Such settlements do not preclude a contiguous Palestinian state; but they preclude it from serving as a staging area for a new war.


        Given the history of Resolution 242 – the manner in which it was negotiated, the words that do and do not appear in it, and the U.S. statements about it since – it is impossible to assert, as Carterrepeatedly does, that the resolution contemplates (much less requires) a return by Israel to its indefensible 1967 borders, or that Israel is preventing peace by insisting on defensible borders as a part of any peace agreement.


        Carter’s book never mentions, much less discusses, the April 14, 2004 letter that assured Israel of the U.S. commitment to secure, defensible borders; promised the U.S. would not support any plan other than the three-phase Road Map; and placed particular emphasis on Palestinian compliance with Phase I as a condition of peace.


        In a June 27, 2005 appearance before the American Enterprise Institute, Dore Goldnoted that the emphasis in the April 14, 2004 letter on secure and defensible borders was “not a revolutionary break in the foreign policy of the United States or in U.S.-Israeli relations, but actually laid at the heart of a consensus that existed for many years among Israeli and American leaders. I just want to run you through this becausemany people have either forgotten it or never knew it.


        One would never have thought that among the people who have “either forgotten it or never knew it” would be a former president of the United States.


        Carter seeks to ignore both Phase I and Phase II of the Road Map, to move instead immediately to Phase III, and to substitute a withdrawal to the 1967 borders for the secure and defensible borders that Resolution 242 envisions and that the April 14, 2004 letter promises – and then Carter repeatedly castigates Israel for its alleged failure to comply with Resolution 242, the Road Map and a specious “unwavering U.S. policy” that Carter has created himself.


        It is hard to imagine a more disingenuous effort than the one Carter has embarked on with his book – but it is of a piece with his reprehensible characterization of Israel as an “apartheid” state.


                        Rick Richman edits “Jewish Current Issues” at http://jpundit.typepad.com. His front-page essay discussing the April 14, 2004 exchange of letters between the United States and Israel appeared in the September 9, 2005 issue of The Jewish Press.

Au Revoir, Oriana

28 Elul 5766 – September 20, 2006

Oriana Fallaci, the Italian journalist who late in life did a profound about-face – going from leftist supporter of revolutionary movements to resolute defender of the West and vocal opponent of Islamic fundamentalism – died last week in Florence.

The 77-year-old Fallaci had been battling cancer for years, but her illness had no discernable effect on her legendary combativeness – which after 9/11 was directed almost exclusively at what she described in vivid, often angry, prose as the threat posed by radical Islam to Western values and the suicidal indifference to that threat on the part of Western elites, particularly those in Europe.

Her book The Rage and the Pride, published in Italy just months after the 9/11 attacks and in the U.S. in September 2002, unabashedly celebrated the United States as a bastion of freedom even as it acknowledged the country’s “flaws and mistakes and faults.”

In her follow-up book, The Force of Reason, published in the U.S. earlier this year, she detailed the legal attacks (Muslim groups in France and Italy filed lawsuits against her and called for a ban of The Rage and the Pride) and the death threats that had come her way since she’d begun writing on Islam.

In The Force of Reason she stated that Islam “sows hatred in place of love and slavery in place of freedom” – a choice of words that reflected the tone of her writing in her final years and that led critics to slam her for what in their view amounted to a blanket condemnation of all Muslims.

Although Fallaci was for decades decidedly pro-Palestinian, she painted an unflattering picture of Yasir Arafat in the course of a 1972 interview she conducted with the PLO chairman. “He was short in height,” she wrote, “five feet three, I’d say. And even his hands were small, even his feet. Too small, you thought, to sustain his fat legs and his massive trunk, with its huge hips and swollen, obese stomach.”

When Arafat got angry, she added, “his soft voice becomes a loud one, his eyes become pools of hatred, and he looks as though he would like to tear you to pieces along with all his enemies.”

During that interview Fallaci also inadvertently exposed the then-still nascent myth of Palestinian nationhood.

Fallaci: But what does Palestine mean? ….The Turks were here, before the British Mandate and Israel. So what are the geographical borders of Palestine?

Arafat: ….From an Arab point of view, one doesn’t speak of borders; Palestine is a small dot in the great Arabic ocean. And our nation is the Arab one, it is a nation extending from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and beyond….

Later in the interview, when Fallaci again brought up the matter of borders, Arafat reiterated: “I repeat that borders have no importance. Arab unity is important, that’s all.”

In April 2002, Fallaci publicly repudiated her longtime (and largely uncritical and unquestioning) support for the Palestinian cause in a scorching essay on anti-Semitism. As Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent Ruth Ellen Gruber described it, “Repeating over and over the assertion ‘I find it shameful,’ Fallaci unleashed a brutal indictment of Italy, Italians, the Catholic church, the left wing, the media, politically correct pacifists and Europeans in general for abandoning Israel and fomenting a new wave of anti-Semitism linked to the Mideast crisis.”

In Fallaci’s memorable words, she was “disgusted with the anti-Semitism of many Italians, of many Europeans” and “ashamed of this shame that dishonors my country and Europe.”

“I find it shameful,” she wrote, “and I see in all this the resurgence of a new fascism, a new Nazism.”

Acknowledging that in the past “I fought often, and bitterly, with the Israelis, and I defended the Palestinians a lot – maybe more than they deserved,” Fallaci was characteristically unambiguous about where she now stood:

“…I stand with Israel, I stand with the Jews,” she wrote. “I defend their right to exist, to defend themselves, and not to allow themselves to be exterminated a second time.”

Plan To Abandon West Bank Based On Disputed Figures

17 Shevat 5766 – February 15, 2006

JERUSALEM – If acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party wins next month’s elections, members of Israel’s Knesset will be asked to determine Israel’s “permanent borders” in a vote on West Bank withdrawal, Olmert said.

Olmert justified his plan to vacate the West Bank, which borders most of Israel’s major cities, by claiming that unless Israel soon separates from the Palestinians, Arabs will outnumber Jews and threaten the country’s Jewish character.

But recent studies indicate that Olmert is relying on faulty demographic information, and that Jews likely will outnumber Arabs by more than double in 20 years.

“The members of the next Knesset, who will convene here in a couple of months, will have a series of historic missions,” Olmert told a special session celebrating the Knesset’s 57th birthday.

“Before our eyes stands a supreme goal of consolidating Israel’s status as a Jewish, democratic state. The first mission on the road to achieving this goal will be determining the state of Israel’s final borders,” said Olmert.

Announcing what had long been assumed, Olmert last week laid out his Kadima party’s platform of withdrawing from most of the West Bank. He said that under his plan, Israel will maintain select security zones and some of the area’s major West Bank Jewish communities, alluding to the evacuation of West Bank towns that fall outside Israel’s security fence.

Kadima is leading overwhelmingly in polls as Israel’s March elections draw near.

About 200,000 Jews live in the West Bank. The security fence, still under construction in certain areas, cordons off nearly 95 percent of the territory from Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

More than half the West Bank’s Jewish residents reside on the side of the fence closest to Israel. About 80,000 more Jews live on the other side of the barrier. Olmert said he is seeking a West Bank withdrawal to set “the permanent borders of the state of Israel to ensure a Jewish majority.”

But a new study presented last month by American researchers is picking up steam in academic circles here. It contends that a West Bank withdrawal based on demography is groundless because Israel’s Jewish population will more than double that of Arabs in 20 years.

The study, titled “Forecast for Israel and the West Bank 2025,” found Palestinians have inflated their population figures by as much as 1.5 million. It also said Jewish birthrates are outstripping Palestinian rates by far, and that Israel’s own statistics fail to account for even low levels of Jewish immigration when calculating national demographic trends.

Americans Bennet Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael Wise put the current Palestinin-Arab population of the West Bank at 1.4 million and Gaza 1.1 million, for a total of 2.4 million, instead of the 3.8 million reported by the Palestinian Authority Central Bureau of Statistics.

Zimmerman’s team has shown birthrates among Israeli Orthodox Jews are at their highest levels ever and that general Israeli Jewish fertility over the past five years has risen above top scenarios first considered by Israel’s Bureau of Statistics.

The study says Israel did not account for a likely continuation of Jewish immigration trends over the next 20 years.

The PA information was adopted by such prominent Israeli demographers as the University of Haifa’s Arnon Soffer and the Hebrew University’s Sergio Della Pergola, who both famously warned that by 2020 Jews will make up between 40 and 46 percent of the population in both Israel and the territories.

Under Zimmerman’s mid-case scenario, however, Israeli Jews maintain current fertility rates and immigration averages of 20,000 per year or 400,000 over two decades. Israeli Arab fertility rates, meanwhile, fall slowly over a 20-year period. The result is a Jewish majority in Israel in 2025 of 63 percent.

According to other likely scenarios contained in the new data, Jews could outnumber Arabs by 71 percent if Jewish fertility rates continue to rise and immigration increases further.

Some Israeli critics, a few of whom have been associated with Israel’s liberal parties, have slammed Zimmerman’s study. Della Pergola, who conducted previous studies in Israel upholding the PA claims, called Zimmerman’s findings “groundless,” politically slanted and baseless from a research perspective. But Della Pergola has changed his demographic forecasts several times and admitted in debates that he relied in part on PA population numbers.

Zimmerman’s study has been lauded by American demographers Nicholas Eberstadt and Murray Feshbach, among others.

“It is ironic that just as we now find Israel is in the best position ever with regard to population, Olmert announces a plan to run away and give up the West Bank, claiming Israel’s Jewish character is threatened,” said Zimmerman.

The Disengagement Deal

3 Elul 5765 – September 7, 2005

On the eve of the unilateral Gaza withdrawal, Ariel Sharon explained his action to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot:  “I’ve reached a deal with the Americans.  I prefer a deal with the Americans to a deal with the Arabs.”


            What, exactly, was that deal?  What did Israel receive for its disengagement plan?  And what — since Israel has now carried out its end of the bargain — does the United States owe Israel?


            The public record of the deal is the April 14, 2004 letter from George W. Bush.  Most attention has focused on two statements in that letter:  (1) it “seems clear” Palestinian refugees must be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than Israel, and (2) it is “unrealistic” to expect a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, in light of major Israeli population centers there.


            But the heart of Sharon’s deal is not in those two statements.  It is in three express assurances — contained elsewhere in the Bush letter — representing formal promises by the United States to Israel. 


            The significance of those promises has not been widely appreciated, perhaps because they cannot be fully understood without reference to Sharon’s letter to Bush dated the same day, and other matters external to the April 14 letters themselves. 


But if these sources are considered together, the deal Sharon made becomes clear. 


The April 14, 2004 Exchange of Letters


            Sharon’s disengagement plan arose from several convictions:  (1) unless Israel produced an alternative, the world would impose the Geneva Accord; (2) the Geneva Accord did not provide Israel defensible borders (and contained a “right of return,” purportedy limited, that would in practice de-legitimize Israel), and (3) Palestinian observance of such an agreement would be — to put it mildly — uncertain.


Faced with that conundrum, Sharon decided to negotiate with the United States instead.  He generated three promises in exchange for disengagement.


I.  The First Promise.


To understand the first promise in the Bush letter, it is necessary to review Sharon’s letter to him.  In his letter, Sharon was unusually specific with respect to the Roadmap, the three-phase “performance-based” plan formally accepted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


            The Roadmap, Sharon stated in his letter, was a “practical and just formula” for the achievement of peace; it “sets forth the correct sequence and principles for the attainment of peace;” and — most importantly — it was the only plan:


Its full implementation represents the sole means to make genuine progress.  As you have stated, a Palestinian state will neverbe created by terror, and Palestinians must engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. . . .  We are committed to this formula as the only avenue through which an agreement can be reached.  We believe that this formula is the only viable one. . . .


Progress toward this goal [of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement] must be anchored exclusively in the Roadmap and we will oppose any other plan.  [Emphasis added].


            Sharon thus emphasized — no less than five times in the space of two paragraphs   — that the Roadmap was the only way forward.  It was the “sole means” to make progress; the “only avenue” to reach an agreement; the “only viable” formula; progress had to be anchored “exclusively” in it; and Israel would oppose “any other plan.”


             Bush’s April 14 response gave three specific “reassurances” to Sharon — before turning to the now famous statements about refugees and the West Bank.  Bush stated he wanted to “reassure” Sharon that:

First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap.  The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.  Under the roadmap . . . . [t]he Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. . . .  [Emphasis added].

            Since “any other plan” could not conceivably be imposed against the will of the United States, Bush’s reassurance to Sharon — given the terms of Sharon’s letter — represented a promise the Roadmap would in fact be the “sole means” to make progress and the “only viable” formula.

Phase I of the Roadmap includes a requirement — expressly referenced in both Sharon’s letter and Bush’s response — of “sustained, targeted, and effective operations to . . . dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.”  There can be no Palestinian state

(even with provisional borders) in Phase II, nor any final status negotiations in Phase III, unless and until Phase I of the Roadmap is completed.

            Israel has its own obligations under Phase I, primarily the removal of settlement “outposts” constructed since March 2001, freezing settlement activity, and — as security performance progresses — withdrawal of Israeli forces to the positions held on September 28, 2000.  In many respects Israel has already exceeded these obligations, even though its formal position is that things are still in a pre-Roadmap status.[1]  In any event, as Condoleezza Rice recently explained in an interview with the New York Times:

“[T]he roadmap is assiduously not sequencing one step after another.  It gives, in parallel, certain obligations to both sides.  And the obligation of the Palestinians has to do with the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and organizations and they’re going to have to do it.”  [Emphasis added].

            The first promise of the Bush letter was thus that the only avenue forward would be the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist capabilities and infrastructure — before any negotiations on borders, refugees, Jerusalem or any other final status issues.

II.  The Second Promise.

            In his second reassurance to Sharon, Bush reiterated again the central importance of dismantling terrorist organizations, and then proceeded to address Israel’s future borders.  Bush reassured Sharon that:

Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations.  The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.  [Emphasis added]

            The reference to dismantling terrorist organizations re-emphasized the critical importance of Bush’s first promise.  But the central part of the second promise was the endorsement — as an explicit part of the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security — of “secure, defensible borders” that would enable Israel to “defend itself, by itself.”

            The concept of “secure, defensible borders” is a strategic doctrine significantly different from the theory of “land for peace” that underlay the Geneva Accord.[2]  The Geneva Accord presumed that a return to the 1967 borders (with very minor changes) would, in exchange for a peace agreement, produce peace. 

            But what if it didn’t?  What if it simply returned Israel to what Abba Eban famously characterized as “Auschwitz borders,” and simply set the stage for the next war?

            The concept of “secure, defensible borders” recognizes that Israeli security ultimately depends on borders Israel can defend on its own, even if the Palestinians do not honor their agreement, or there is a future dispute with a Palestinian state. 

            Such borders are also important because they do not depend on third-party guarantees by the U.N. or others — a mechanism that failed spectacularly in 1967.

            Moreover, defensible borders are also an important American interest, because the last thing the U.S. wants is to place American troops in a dangerous situation to secure the “peace,” or to obligate itself to defend Israeli borders not defensible by Israel itself. 

            Finally, borders that are not militarily defensible are themselves an invitation to the aggression supposedly foresworn in a “peace agreement.” 

            Defensible borders are thus indispensable to insure that any ultimate “agreement” will actually work.

The concept of “defensible borders” had been contained in U.N. Resolution 242 in 1967, whose heavily negotiated terms had intentionally referred to a withdrawal from “territories” — not “all the territories” — and which expressly envisioned “secure and recognized boundaries” for Israel.  

            But over the years, land for “secure and recognized boundaries” became land for “peace” — with Palestinians demanding a total withdrawal to the indefensible 1967 borders as the price of the promised “peace.” 

            The “land for peace” mindset reached its apogee with the December 23, 2000 Clinton Parameters, which envisioned a virtually total withdrawal from the West Bank in exchange for “peace” (with an “international presence” to “monitor” it).  Once they were rejected, Clinton had stipulated his parameters were “off the table,” and said they represented a personal proposal that was gone once he left office.  But they led instead to the disastrous Taba negotiations, and reappeared again in the form of the Geneva Accord. 

            Bush’s assurance regarding “defensible borders” Israel could defend “by itself” meant the Clinton Parameters could not be proffered again by the U.S. — and that future borders would depend on Israeli security needs, rather than Palestinian demands.


III.  The Third Promise

            Bush’s third assurance reiterated again the central importance of the dismantlement of terrorist organizations — and then not only endorsed it as a matter of American policy but promised to lead efforts to achieve it.  Bush reassured Sharon that: 

Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations.  The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.  [Emphasis added].


In other words, dismantlement of terrorist organizations was now not simply an Israeli demand on the Palestinians, but part of an American commitment to “lead efforts” to achieve it.  Israel not only retained the right to act against terrorist groups in Gaza; it received a promise the U.S. would “lead efforts” to prevent Gaza from posing a threat in the first place.

The Permanent Status Agreement


            The two famous statements in Bush’s letter relate to the final status agreement envisioned in Phase III of the Roadmap, which is intended to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on specified UN resolutions and a “realistic” solution to the final status issues.  The Roadmap envisions a settlement:


negotiated between the parties based on [UN Resolutions] 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide, and fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.  [Emphasis added].


             Noticeably omitted from the list of UN resolutions is Resolution 194, the resolution the Palestinians continuously (and erroneously) cite as the basis of a “right of return” to Israel.  Moreover, the Roadmap expressly requires that the solution to the refugee issue be “realistic.”  Since it “seems clear” refugees cannot be settled in Israel, Palestinian insistence on any refugee return will not meet one of the fundamental standards set forth in the Roadmap.


            The Bush letter also states that, in light of major Israeli population centers, complete withdrawal from the West Bank is “unrealistic.”  Although phrased as a statement of fact (rather than as a promise to Israel), the letter acknowledges what can realistically be expected from final status negotiations.


            The Bush letter thus makes it clear that — assuming the parties ever reach final status negotiations, something that depends on the prior dismantlement of Palestinian terror organizations and infrastructure — Israel cannot be criticized for insisting there will be no evacuation of major West Bank population centers, and no refugee return.  




            Sharon’s deal was thus to exchange disengagement for the following American promises:  (1) no political discussions with the Palestinians before they dismantle terrorist organizations and infrastructure; (2) no return to indefensible Auschwitz borders, but only to borders Israel can defend without reliance on Palestinian promises or third-party guarantees; and (3) American led efforts to insure Gaza does not threaten Israel.


Moreover, the U.S. reinforced these reassurances with a formal commitment to the Roadmap — with its dismantlement requirement in Phase I — as the exclusive way forward, not to be replaced by any other plan. 


Finally, the U.S. acknowledged what a “realistic” peace agreement would entail on the critical issues of refugees and West Bank population centers, and a “realistic” agreement is a requirement of the Roadmap.


            Was this a good deal for Israel?  Maybe, maybe not — reasonable people can differ.  But what we do know for sure is that:


            First, Israel paid a high price with its Gaza withdrawal:  establishing a precedent that terrorism pays; yielding neighboring territory to terrorist organizations; violating the democratic process (which re-elected Sharon in 2003 on a promise not to withdraw from Gaza, and then watched him not only renege but prevent a referendum); dividing secular and religious society and splitting the ruling Israeli party; acquiescing in a Judenrein

land; and destroying the homes, jobs and societies of nearly 10,000 citizens (equivalent to 450,000 people in the U.S.). 


            Second, having effected a difficult, dangerous and traumatic disengagement, Israel has performed its end of the deal, and perfected its right to what it negotiated:  Palestinian dismantlement as a precondition to further negotiations, ultimate West Bank withdrawal only to defensible borders, American-led efforts to prevent a Gaza threat, and — most importantly — no new plan once the Palestinians miss their final opportunity with this one.


Defending Israel’s Right To Secure Borders

15 Tevet 5764 – January 9, 2004

Following the Six Day War, UN Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw ”from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” while affirming Israel’s ”right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” The principal authors of 242 were Eugene Rostow of the State
Department, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg, and Lord Caradon of Britain.

Lord Caradon explained that ”It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948.”

Rostow wrote in The New Republic that Resolution 242 ”allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces ‘from territories’ it occupied during the Six Day War — not from ‘the’ territories nor from ‘all’ the territories, but from some of the territories.”

Goldberg concurred, saying ”the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.”

Unfortunately, in the last few years the intent and meaning of 242 have been ignored, resulting in unfair demands on Israel to withdraw from all or nearly all of Judea and Samaria (the ”West Bank”) and to redivide Jerusalem. The Sharon government’s plan to include several large towns within the security fence has been sharply criticized by the Bush administration, even though those areas were slated for annexation under the peace plans of Prime Ministers Rabin and Barak.

Colin Powell has praised the Geneva Accord, which calls for Israel to withdraw from 98 percent of Judea and Samaria, with almost all settlements to be surrendered intact after a detailed inventory is taken, so that Palestinians could move right in and turn the synagogues
into mosques. Geneva would divide Jerusalem, give Palestinians control over Jaffa Gate, the primary route to the Western Wall, relinquish control over the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, and make international parties such as the UN and the EU the
arbiters of any disputes. Israel would take in an undetermined number of refugees (there is no ceiling), and pay compensation to all refugees.

These concessions go far beyond what the drafters of Resolution 242 contemplated.

The prevailing trends are disturbing, but not necessarily irreversible. A determined media and public relations effort must be made to explain that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would leave Israel with indefensible borders; that Israel has strong legal and historical rights to Judea and Samaria; that those territories were captured in a defensive war in which Arabs attempted
to annihilate Israel; that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are not located on Arab land; and that annexation of those communities would not displace Arab residents.

An end to the demonizing of residents of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria must also be demanded. Whatever one’s political position, the routine comparisons of ”settlers” with Hamas terrorists is no less a Big Lie than were the blood libels in Christian Europe. The result has been a legitimization of the murder of Jewish civilians living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Until 2000, there was a bipartisan recognition in both Israel and the United States — shared by Likud and Labor, Republicans and Democrats — that Israel would not return to the 1967 borders, and would retain permanent control of a significant portion of Judea and Samaria.

In 1968, President Johnson said that ”a return to the situation of June 4, 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders.” In 1982, President Reagan noted that ”In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies.” Reagan promised, ”I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.” In 1991, the Bush
administration assured Prime Minister Shamir that the ”United States does not intend to issue a call for a return to the 1967 borders or for only cosmetic changes in these borders.”

Secretary of State Powell’s four most recent predecessors all expressed similar sentiments. George Shultz said, ”Israel will never negotiate from, or return to, the lines of partition or to the 1967 borders.” When James Baker was asked whether Judea, Samaria and Gaza are
”occupied Arab territories” or disputed territories, he responded, ”They’re clearly disputed territories. That’s what resolutions 242 and 338 are all about.” Warren Christopher assured Prime Minister Netanyahu, ”Israel is entitled to secure and defensible borders.” Madeleine Albright stated: ”We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 as occupied Palestinian territory.”

In contrast, Powell recently called the Green Line ”a recognized border” and territories beyond it ”Palestinian areas.”

Among Israelis, there was almost unanimous agreement that secure borders require a united Jerusalem and annexation of the Jordan Valley along with a number of settlement blocs. Labor initiated settlement of the Jordan Valley and Gush Etzion, and the Allon Plan, under which
Israel would keep about one-third of Judea and Samaria, guided its peace plans. In the early 1980’s Yitzhak Rabin visited Lincoln Square Synagogue and urged congregants to move to the new community of Efrat that their rabbi, Shlomo Riskin, was founding.

Even the Oslo Accords did not shatter this consensus. In October 1995, one month before he was murdered, Prime Minister Rabin told the Knesset that Israel’s permanent borders ”will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 borders.” Rabin called for a ”united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Zeev,” and the annexation of the entire Jordan Valley, Gush Etzion (including Efrat)
and of settlement blocs. Rabin opposed the formation of a Palestinian state, preferring a limited ”entity which is less than a state.”

Similarly, in a visit to Beit El, Ehud Barak promised that ”Israelis will remain here in Beit El forever,” and that ”a united Jerusalem must remain under full and unequivocal Israeli sovereignty… under no circumstances will we return to the 1967 lines.” After he was elected prime minister in 1999, Barak insisted that Israel could make peace while annexing towns such as Beit El, Ofra and Ariel. A June 4, 1999 Jerusalem Post editorial stated what then
seemed obvious: ”No mainstream Israeli leader, and certainly not Ehud Barak, can imagine Israel leaving the towns of Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, or Efrat.”

On June 1, 2000, in a ceremony marking Jerusalem Day, Barak vowed: ”Never again will Jerusalem be under foreign sovereignty. Only someone who has no sense of reality, who does not understand anything about Israel’s yearning and longing and the Jewish people’s historical
connection for over 3,000 years would even consider making any concessions over the city.”

Barak quickly broke his vow, first at Camp David and again at Taba. In accepting the Clinton Plan, he agreed to divide Jerusalem and withdraw from the Jordan Valley and most of the communities in Judea and Samaria, including Beit El and Ofra. The IDF’s chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz (the current defense minister), blasted the Clinton Plan, telling Barak’s cabinet that it would expose Israel to ”great danger,” would ”threaten the security of the state,” was
”almost out of the question from a security standpoint,” and would leave Jews remaining in Judea and Samaria in an ”unbearable situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians.”

Unfortunately, despite more than three years of terror, Israel’s right to secure borders has been mostly forgotten, proposals offering territorial concessions even more extreme than the Clinton Plan are gaining legitimacy, and the Sharon government’s attempts to include within the security fence areas that would have been annexed to Israel under the Clinton Plan have been strongly condemned.

Worse, the Labor party has completely abandoned Rabin’s red lines and set forth principles calling for a return to the 1967 borders, including dividing Jerusalem. In doing so, Labor is undermining implementation of a plan based upon Barak’s concessions, by opposing the inclusion within the fence of towns that Barak would have annexed.

Tellingly, Barak rejects the Geneva Accord and has disavowed the Clinton Plan and Israel’s Taba concessions in favor of his less egregious Camp David proposals. Under Barak’s Camp David offer, Israel would have kept 8-10 percent of Judea and Samaria, and its concessions in Jerusalem applied to outlying Arab villages, but not to the Old City.

During his short tenure as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen told Newsweek that President Bush ”told us that he will stick to his vision of a Palestinian independent state and Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 borders.” Abu Mazen’s statement obviously cannot be verified, but the Bush administration has endorsed the road map, which says nothing about secure borders and references the Saudi plan, which calls for a full Israeli
withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Bush has opposed Israel’s desire to include the Western Samaria settlements (including Ariel) within the security fence, even though those settlements would have been annexed even under the Clinton Plan. The Clinton Plan called for settlements containing 80 percent of Judea and
Samaria’s Jewish residents to be annexed, but without Ariel’s 18,000 residents, it would be impossible for that percentage of settlers to remain. As a recent Jerusalem Post editorial stated, ”Bush should … be categorical that terrorism will not succeed in moving him to the left of Clinton, that is, by undermining the settlement blocs that even Clinton recognized must be annexed to Israel.”

Powell’s support for the Geneva Accord, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s lauding of a similar plan, are causes for serious concern. Also disappointing is that when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to Judea, Samaria and Gaza as ”the so-called occupied territories,” the Bush administration quickly clarified that Rumsfeld was speaking only for himself and that ”occupied” is the administration’s term for the territories.

Despite the negative trends, some assume that Israel would never leave Ariel and Efrat, and give up Rachel’s Tomb and all of Hebron. This view is naive; it is very possible that Yossi Beilin, the architect of Oslo, will persuade a future government to implement his Geneva

Israel’s right to secure borders has especially been undermined by the media’s acceptance of the Palestinian narrative, according to which all of the territory captured in 1967 is occupied Arab land. By never formally claiming any part of Judea or Samaria, Israel has contributed to this presumption. The ”settlers” are continually and falsely labeled as colonialists who ”unmistakably squat on land that was once Palestinian,” as Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post, and, particularly in Europe, as violent fanatics who scuttle prospects for peace. Little is being done in support of an accurate portrayal of settlements and their residents’ right to live peacefully within them.

Proudly proclaiming that Barak offered almost all of the territories, as Israelis and their supporters often do, is the wrong approach. Alan Dershowitz tried it recently on CNN, telling Lou Dobbs that Barak offered 97 percent of the West Bank. Dobbs asked what right Israel has to the other three percent, and compared Israeli retention of even a tiny portion to rat poison, because ”it’s that two percent that gets you.”

Netanyahu applied a better approach in a recent Washington Post column, explaining, ”most of Judea and Samaria is barren and empty. The combined Palestinian and Jewish populations live on less than one-third of this territory. But the empty swaths of disputed land, comprising
the heart of the Jewish ancestral homeland, are vital for Israel’s security.”

Joshua Schwartz recently wrote in The Jerusalem Post that Swiss reporters came to his town of Efrat, the largest community in Gush Etzion, and asked his daughter, a Bar-Ilan student, how she feels living on ”Arab land.” The young woman responded by informing the reporters of the history of Gush Etzion, where Jews lived from biblical times until 1948, when Arabs looted and then completely destroyed all four settlements, massacring 240 men and women. On June 7, 1967, hours after the liberation of Jerusalem, Gush Etzion was liberated. ”Thanks to my daughter,” Schwartz wrote, ”what they did not know before — they know now.”

Many dismiss the media as inherently hostile, and some of the media are. But in December 2001, MSNBC’s Gregg Jarrett (now of Fox) hosted a program live from Efrat. Jarrett’s tone was favorable toward the town and its residents. He quipped that Efrat looked like Palm Beach, and described the community as a ”resettlement,” explaining to viewers that Jews lived in the area until 1948 and had returned to reestablish their presence.

When the spotlight is not on ”the occupation” but on the universal right to live in one’s home, the results are favorable. For example, in a poll commissioned by the Zionist Organization of America asking whether Jews should be permitted to live and build homes in Judea and Samaria, more than 60 percent of Americans answered in the affirmative.

The goal must therefore be to shift the focus from Arab claims of ”occupation.” As a result of these claims, many people are under the erroneous impression that prior to Israel’s formation a Palestinian state existed. This myth must be destroyed. Contrary to what Richard Cohen wrote, Israelis do not ”unmistakably squat on land that was once Palestinian.” Palestinians never had a state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

It must be reiterated that Israel captured the disputed territories in a defensive war; that the PLO was founded for the purpose of destroying Israel in 1964, prior to that war; that Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzook boasted on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ that Hamas’ s Qassam rockets are able to hit Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem; that Israel must therefore maintain its presence in areas north of Jerusalem such as Beit El and Ofra and areas south of Jerusalem such as Efrat; that if Israel withdraws from Western Samaria, Qassams or shoulder-fired missiles could shoot down planes taking off or landing at Ben Gurion airport; that Israeli
control of the Jordan Valley is vital, because if the Jordanian border is controlled by Palestinians, smuggling of weapons from Jordan will occur, just as massive smuggling has taken place at the Gaza-Egypt border; that there is a long Jewish history in Judea and Samaria; that Judea and Samaria are mostly empty; that Arab towns and people have not been displaced as a result of settlements; and that annexation of 30 percent of Judea and Samaria would leave only a small percentage of its Arab residents under Israeli rule.

This is not a ”right-wing” issue. Support for territorial compromise is consistent with Israel’s right to secure borders, beyond the indefensible ones it held in 1967. That right is under severe threat. It must be asserted.

Joseph Schick is an attorney. His blog, The Zionist Conspiracy, is located at www.jschick.blogspot.com, and his e-mail address is josephschick@hotmail.com. Links and/or references to material cited in this column will be posted on the blog.

The President And A Palestinian State: In Any Event,The Timing Was Wrong

1 Kislev 5762 – November 16, 2001

In principle, we disagree with the notion of U.S. public support for a Palestinian state. The record is clear that, whatever Yasir Arafat and his crowd may claim to the Bush Administration, the Palestinians have no present intention of living as a peaceful neighbor with Israel.

Indeed, the continuing demonizing, anti-Israel incitements and continuing violence can in no way be deemed consistent with a vision of an harmonious future. Plainly, it will take a generation or more to allow the venom to dissipate. And the bellwether of necessary change will be when an agreement will be freely arrived at around the negotiating table.

The establishment of a Palestinian state must be the product of a desire for normalcy and not artificial pressure. So President Bush's and British Prime Minister Blair's joint trial balloon of recent days is most unfortunate. It is all the more so, because it comes at a time when it will inevitably be looked upon by the Palestinians as part of an urgent effort to induce the Palestinian Authority to stanch the violence and to forge a coalition of opportunistic Arab states against international terror.

At his recent press conference last Thursday, President Bush said:

I have met with Prime Minister Sharon, and I have assured him every time we've met that he has no better friend than the United States of America.

I also stated the other day that if we ever get into the Mitchell process, where we can start discussing a political solution in the Middle East, that I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist and will treat Israel with respect and will be peaceful on her borders….

So the President set out conditions for his support for a Palestinian state ? he would require a cessation of hostilities and negotiated borders. But why say that now? The inevitable signal is that post-World Trade Center/Pentagon, coalition politics are driving American foreign policy. Or, as Joseph Farah recently wrote,

The message is loud and clear: Keep up the violence, intensify it, keep raising the stakes, make the U.S. pay a price, and your demands will be met ? eventually.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/the-president-and-a-palestinian-state-in-any-eventthe-timing-was-wrong/2001/11/16/

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