Originally published at Sultan Knish.
In our modern age, things no longer exist to perform their function. Washing machines aren’t designed to clean clothes, but to save water and energy. Food isn’t there to be eaten, but not eaten. And armies aren’t there to win wars, but to be moral. And the truly moral army never fights a war. When it must fight a war, then it fights it as proportionately as possible, slowing down when it’s winning so that the enemy has a chance to catch up and inflict a completely proportional number of casualties on them.
Forget charging up a hill. Armies charge up the slippery slope of the moral high ground and they don’t try to capture it from the enemy, because that would be the surest way to lose the moral high ground, instead they claim the moral high ground by refusing to try and capture it, to establish their moral claim to the moral high ground, which they can’t have because they refuse to fight for it.
Israel has been engaged in a long drawn out struggle for the moral high ground. The moral high ground is to the modern Israel what the land of Israel was to their pioneer ancestors who drained swamps, built roads and shot bandits; some of whom were later discovered to be the oppressed peoples of the region, fresh from Syria or Jordan, and protesting the settlements built on that stretch of swamp that had been set aside in their revisionist history as belonging to their great-grandparents, complete with oversized house keys to some of the choicer logs in the swamp.
Sadly the only way to win the moral high ground is by losing. Just look at the massive Arab armies who repeatedly invaded Israel, did their best to overwhelm it with the best Soviet iron that the frozen factories of the Ural could turn out, and lost the bid to drive the Jews into the sea, but won the moral high ground. Then their terrorist catspaws spent decades winning the moral high ground by hijacking airplanes full of civilians, murdering Olympic athletes and pushing old men in wheelchairs from the decks of cruise ships.
All these killing sprees accomplished absolutely nothing useful, aside from the killing of Jews, which to a certain sort of mind is a useful thing in and of itself, but that failure won the terrorist catspaws the moral high ground. Their failure to win a war by hijacking buses full of women and taking the children of a school hostage conclusively established their moral superiority and nobility of spirit.
The world was deeply moved when Arafat waddled up to the UN podium, with his gun, wearing a mismatched cotton rag on his head that would decades hence become the modish apparel of every third hipster standing in line with a can of 20 dollar fair trade Lima beans at Whole Foods, because his commitment to killing people in a failed cause that even he didn’t believe in exchange for money from his backers in the Muslim world showed his deep commitment to the moral high ground.
In the seventies, after Israel had ton a few too many wars, Henry “Woodcutter” Kissinger, suggested that it lose a war to gain the sympathy of the world. Golda wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea, but with the old woodcutter in charge of handing out the axes, there wasn’t much choice about it. Israel came close to being destroyed in ’73, but just when it might have won the sympathy of the world, its armies of young men dashing from synagogues into overcrowded taxis to get to the front lines, turned the tide. Israel won. The woodcutter of Washington lost and Israeli scrapyards filled up with piles of Soviet steel, which was good news for the big sweaty guys who ran them, but bad news for those pining for the lofty fjords of the moral high ground.
In ’91 the Israelis went nuclear and decided to beat Arafat at his own game. Rabin and Peres talked the old terrorist out of retirement and down to Washington D.C. where they surrendered to him in an official ceremony at the Rose Garden overseen by a beaming Bill Clinton. Finally Israel had won the moral high ground. And the United States had carved off a chunk of that delicious moral high ground, even though Clinton was forced to fidget in his chair at Oslo when his Nobel Peace Prize went to the greasy terrorist, though perhaps he should have considered that defeat to be another victory of the moral high ground. But the moral high ground proved notoriously elusive for the Jewish State. There was a brief lull when it seemed that the original sin of kicking ass had been atoned for in the Rose Garden, but then the terrorists started killing Israelis again and the Israelis insisted on fighting back. In no time at all the moral high ground was roped off with a special reserved section for terrorists and a sign reading, “No Israelis Will Be Admitted Unless They Renounce Their Government, Zionism and the Right of Self-Defense.”
Under pressure to restart talks with Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, Israel has diverged from its refusal to accede to Palestinian preconditions and agreed to free 104 Palestinian terrorists from its jails. It’s a mistake. Israel should withstand the pressure and say no. Why?
Because it makes a mockery of justice – and inflicts unimaginable pain on families of the victims – when multiple murderers walk free. It also boosts the standing of terrorist groups; encourages the kidnapping of Israelis for the purpose of extorting the release of further terrorists; demoralizes Israeli counter-terrorism personnel who risk life and limb to capture these murderers; erodes Israeli deterrence to vanishing point when the most bloodthirsty murderers know they are likely to be freed early; and, above all, results in the subsequent murder of additional Israelis by terrorists freed under such deals.
In short, we’ve been here before and the results have been tragic. The Almagor Terrorist Victims Association (ATVA) disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the previous five years had been killed by terrorists who had been previously freed from Israeli jails.
An earlier ATVA report showed that 123 Israelis had been murdered by terrorists freed during the period 1993-99. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has observed that the terrorists released in the 2004 Elhanan Tenenbaum prisoner exchange deal caused the death of 231 Israelis.
In agreeing to this morally unjust, tactically unwise, strategically harmful, militarily hazardous and life-endangering unilateral concession, we see the profound and purposeless erosion of Israeli will.
In the past, Israel at least scrupled not to free those with “blood on their hands” and demanded the return of living Israelis, however lopsided the exchange. In July 2008, however, Israel agreed to release to Hizbullah a gruesome murderer, Samir Kuntar, and four others prisoners in return for merely the corpses of two kidnapped Israelis. In August 2008, Israel freed 198 jailed terrorists, including two with blood on their hands and 149 others guilty of attempted murder, as a “confidence-building measure.”
In October 2009, Israel freed 20 Palestinian terrorists – not for a life or a corpse, but for a video of a kidnapped Israeli. And in October 2011, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of convicted terrorists, in exchange for a single kidnapped Israeli serviceman, Gilad Shalit, leading Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal to crow that “This is a national achievement for the Palestinian people…we promise the rest of the Palestinian detainees to liberate them…. Those released will return to armed struggle.”
On this occasion, however, Israelis cannot even take refuge in the consolation that they freed a loved one, retrieved a corpse or even obtained a video. They cannot even say that they exacted any concession from the PA. To the contrary, Mahmoud Abbas just reiterated that he will not permit “the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu is not unaware of the danger; to the contrary, he once warned against the very thing he now intends to do. In his 1995 book Fighting Terrorism, Netanyahu observed that refusing to release terrorists was “among the most important policies that must be adopted in the face of terrorism.” With this release, he erodes his credibility by dishonoring his pledge to withstand Palestinian preconditions.
U.S. pressure alone explains Netanyahu’s decision, not some valuable quid pro quo. How else to account for a decision opposed by 85 percent of the Israeli public and the Shin Bet head, Yoram Cohen? The Obama administration has not expressed a new determination to see Iran cross no red lines in its march to a nuclear weapon. Obama has not altered his earlier negotiating baseline of an Israeli return to the 1949 armistice lines. Abbas’s goal of a judenrein Palestinian state has just been reiterated, not withdrawn.
Those trying to make sense of the decision speak of Israel keeping the U.S. on board in dealing with Iran – which suggests that Israel has lacked this all along. The idea that the U.S. needs some Israeli concession to unify its Arab allies against the Iranian nuclear threat is in any case absurd, given the imploring of Arab leaders for Washington to deal with the problem, as revealed by the Wikileaks documents.
Thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to swallow a painful and embarrassing concession to please the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry had his moment of triumph.
In announcing the start of a new round of Middle East peace talks, Kerry has seemingly justified the way he has concentrated his efforts on an issue that was not in crisis mode and with little chance of resolution while treating other more urgent problems such as Egypt, Syria, and the Iranian nuclear threat as lower priorities.
But now that he has had his victory, the focus turns to the talks where few, if any, observers think there is a ghost of a chance of that the negotiations can succeed despite Kerry’s call for “reasonable compromises.”
The reason for that is that despite the traditional American belief that the two sides can split the difference on their disagreements, as Kerry seems to want, the problem is much deeper than drawing a new line on a map.
Ironically, proof of this comes from a new poll that some are touting as evidence that both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. The poll was a joint project of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. It shows, among other often-contradictory results, that a majority of Israelis (62 percent) supports a two-state solution while 33 percent oppose it. Among Palestinians, 53 percent support and 46 percent oppose the two-state solution.
But the question to ask about this poll and the conflict is what the two sides mean by a two-state solution. The answer comes in a subsequent query:
We asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 57% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 37% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 42% support and 56% oppose this step.
In other words, Israelis see a two-state solution as a way to permanently end the conflict and achieve peace. But since a majority of Palestinians cannot envision mutual recognition even after all issues are resolved and they get a state, they obviously see it as merely a pause before the conflict would begin anew on terms decidedly less advantageous to Israel.
There are many reasons why the peace negotiations are likely to fail. The Palestinians are deeply split, with Gaza being ruled by the Islamists of Hamas who still won’t even contemplate talks with Israel, let alone peace. Kerry has praised Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, but he is weak and hasn’t the ability to make a peace deal stick even in the unlikely event he signs one.
Though Netanyahu went out on a political limb to enable the talks to begin by releasing scores of Palestinian terrorists, Abbas has shown in the past that he will say no, even when offered virtually everything he has asked for. Netanyahu will rightly drive a harder bargain and refuse to contemplate a deal that involves a complete retreat to the 1967 lines or a Palestinian state that isn’t demilitarized. But it’s hard to imagine Abbas ever recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
The real problem, however, isn’t about where negotiators would draw those lines. As the poll indicates, even after Israel withdraws from almost all of the West Bank (reports indicate Netanyahu is ready to give up 86 percent of it), a substantial majority of Palestinians still can’t fathom the possibility of mutual recognition and normal relations.
How can that be?
The reason is very simple and is not something Kerry or his lead negotiator Martin Indyk (a veteran of numerous diplomatic failures who hasn’t seemed to learn a thing from any of them) can fix. Palestinian nationalism was born in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism, not by focusing on fostering a separate identity and culture from that of other Arab populations. That doesn’t mean Palestinians aren’t now a separate people with their own identity, but it does explain why they see that identity as indistinguishable from the effort to make Israel disappear.
The Knesset bill mandating a national referendum before the government gives away areas of sovereign Israel passed its first reading in the Knesset in a vote of 66 to 45. The bill will now go to committee for deliberations and amendments and is expected to be presented to the Knesset plenum during its fall session.
The vote on the referendum was taken on the last day of the 19th Knesset’s first session, ushering in the much needed summer break.
According to the national referendum bill, should Israel be forced to give back territories within the 1948 green line—in case of land exchanges—as well as the annexed territories of East Jerusalem and the Golan heights, the voter will have to decide for or against the move in a special referendum.
The bill, which has already been approved by the 18th Knesset, is up for adoption as a “Basic Law,” which is as close as Israeli law gets to a constitutional amendment. The upgrade would mean that it would require a majority of 61 MKs to change it.
The law distinctly avoids any reference to Judea and Samaria, which to date have not been annexed and therefore are not governed under Israeli law. This fact is likely to be forgotten as the “peace negotiations” are proceeding without a hitch. In other words, the government should be able to evict Israelis from anywhere east of the 1967 border without the voters’ input via the referendum, and such an eviction—quite like the Gush Katif expulsion—can still be undertaken with a simple majority: 20 MKs in favor, 19 against, could finish off Jewish life in Judea and Samaria as we know it.
The new, upgraded law was promoted most heavily by Jewish Home and its leader, Naftali Bennett, who boasted like week that his party has proven “why the Jewish nation needs the Jewish Home in the government… We said openly that we would not remain in a government that would deal on the basis of the ’67 borders – and this will no longer happen. It shows that when we insist we get results.”
Not quite. The fact is that, as far as the half million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria—most of whom are Jewish Home voters—the parameters of the national referendum bill certainly are on the basis of the ’67 borders. From the point of view of any Jew living in Ariel, Karney Shomron, or Efrat, the new bill constitutes their betrayal by Bennett et al.
The bill is a huge loss to Jewish Home, whose leader is just not astute enough, apparently, to realize how his lunch money was taken a second time by smarter politicians. Netanyahu is the huge winner of last night’s vote, because he will get a year of industrial peace out of it. Despite the subtle point regarding Judea and Samaria, Israelis would be convinced that, come givebacks time, they would be able to influence the process with their referendum votes – but they won’t.
Should the Palestinians be smart enough not to attack Israel with rockets or start an intifada while negotiations are in session (a Yid can always hope), Tzipi Livni and the gang could forge a peace agreement that would satisfy a majority of Israelis. For one thing, the Palestinians could easily avoid any discussion of the Golan Heights – it’s not their territory. As to East Jerusalem – the two sides could decide to co-own it. There have been similar proposals in the past, which died only because the Arabs rejected them (thank God). This time around they might agree that East Jerusalem would be governed by both Israel and the PA, and local residents would be asked to decide which ID card they prefer (two bits they’d all opt for the “blue card”).
Most Israelis would embrace such a deal, which, on its face, does not take away East Jerusalem and maintains their free access to the holy sites (except Temple Mount). Having achieved majority support this way, Netanyahu and Livni can basically give back all of Judea and Samaria and it won’t affect the results of the referendum.
Of course, Jewish Home would then leave the coalition government in a huff, fallen heroes and whatnot, to be replaced swiftly by Labor, or Shas, or both.
In the immortal words of the president of Freedonia Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx in Duck Soup): “Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you: he really is an idiot.”
Incidentally, last night Prime Minister Netanyahu came across positively Churchillian with his retort to Arab MK Jamal Zahalka. The latter cried from the podium at Minister Yuval Steinitz: “You are the enemy of peace, we were here before you – and we’ll be here after you.” Netanyahu asked to be allowed to speak, took the podium and said directly to Zahalka: “The first part of your statement is incorrect, and the second part will not happen.”
He received great applause, proving to anyone who cared to watch that he had been there before one Naftali Bennett got elected MK, and he would be there long after Mr. Bennett is asked by his party members to return to his promising career in hi tech.
Talks between Palestinians and Israelis will resume on Monday evening, the first such formal deliberations in almost three years.
Meetings between top negotiators will take place Monday night and Tuesday in Washington, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Secretary of State John Kerry has been pressing the sides for a resumption and has visited the region six times since assuming his post in February.
The Israeli side will be represented by Tsipi Livni, the justice minister, and Yitzhak Molcho, the national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, and Mohammed Shtayyeh, who directs the Palestinian Economic Council and who has ministerial status, will represent the Palestinian Authority.
The State Department release said that the talks would at first focus on the procedure for the talks, but added that the basis for negotiations is in place.
“As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” it said. It did not elaborate what the basis is.
“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks,” it said. “They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural workplan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership,” Kerry added in the statement.
The announcement came after Israel promised to release 104 Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet met Sunday to debate the prisoner release and to approve the resumption of talks. The 22-member cabinet approved the release by a vote of 13 in favor, seven against and two abstentions.
Likud MK and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon urged ministers to vote against the release, branding it “a diplomatic mistake, a moral mistake.”
It is still not clear whether the released prisoners will include 14 Israeli Arabs—which the PA made clear would be a deal breaker. Sources in Jerusalem told Kol Israel there has been no Israeli commitment on that issue.
Among the Israeli Arab prisoners whose release the PA is demanding are the four Arabs who killed three Israeli soldiers with pitchforks on the infamous “Pitchforks Night” in the early ’90s, the terrorist who threw a firebomb into the car belonging to the Moses family, murdering the mother Ofra and her son Tal, and the terrorist who threw a firebomb at a bus, murdering Rachel Weiss, mother of three children, and soldier David Delaroza, in the 1980s.
There were conflicting reports in recent days over whether the sides had achieved a basis for the talks, or whether negotiators would convene only to prepare the basis for talks.
Israeli and Palestinian talks have been suspended since October 2010, when the Palestinians walked out over Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month settlement construction freeze.
JTA content was used in this report.
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry Thursday released the names and pictures of a Canadian and an Australian wanted for the July 2012 Hezbollah terrorist bombing of a bus in Burgas that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian, while injuring 35 others.
“The authorities are sending an appeal for cooperation…regarding two individuals, who are suspected of having link with the bombing,” the ministry said in a statement. They are identified as Meliad Farah (a.k.a Hussein Hussein), age 32, and an Australian national, and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, 25, Canadian national.
Both men were spotted in late June and until mid-July last year in several regions in Bulgaria, including the Sunny Beach resort area, where the used fake identities to register at hotels under the aliases of Brian Jeremiah Jameson, Jacque Felipe Martin and Ralph William Rico..
They are also believed to have rented cars using false names, and Farah was identified as having rented a vehicle in the village of Ravda in July 2012.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev refused to comment further on the progress of the investigation of the Burgas bus bombing and on the suspects’ role in the terrorist attack in order not to interfere with the investigation.
He said that “international partners” have handed over information to Bulgarian authorities.
Bulgaria has stated several times that Hezbollah was behind the bombing of the bus with Israeli tourists, an assessment reinforced last week by Interior Minister Yovchev.
The European Union on Monday finally placed the Hezbollah military wing on its list of terrorist groups but did not include the political arm.
Saudi Arabia Airline refuses to issue tickets in New York for Israelis, even if they are only stopping off in Saudi Arabia for a connecting flight, a policy that contradicts federal law.
The airline’s website asks travelers for their citizenship but does not have an option available for “Israel” although it does have options for other countries, even Antarctica, The New York Post reported.
Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio was quick to jump on the report, and one of his staff called the airline, saying he was an Israeli trying to fly from JFK to India. The airline agent said he could not fly with Saudi Arabia Airlines.
United States law states, “[An] air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry.”
“No city in the world has closer ties to Israel than we do, and yet Israeli citizens are being discriminated against right here at JFK. It’s not only illegal; it’s an affront to who we are,” said Blasio.