Recently, Israel’s Ambassador to the USA, Michael Herzog, was summoned to a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman. This might not seem like a big deal to you – after all, he was simply asked to attend a meeting, right? Wrong! In the diplomatic world of ambassadors, being “summoned to a meeting” is the equivalent of being asked to see the Principal in High School for something you did… not good!
The reason for this disciplinary, finger-pointing, “you-better-behave” meeting was due to the fact that the Knesset approved a law repealing the Disengagement in northern Shomron.
Here is how it was reported by JewishPress.com: ‘Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Tuesday met with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog to convey the US “concern regarding legislation passed by the Israeli Knesset rescinding important aspects of the 2005 Disengagement Law, including the prohibition on establishing settlements in the northern West Bank.” ‘
On Arutz-7 they pointed out that “a meeting of this type is very rare in Israel-US relations and constitutes an official diplomatic protest.”
The reports continued with a quote by Deputy State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel who said that “At least one of these outposts in this area, Homesh, was built on private Palestinian land, which is illegal under Israeli law” and that the US “strongly urges Israel to refrain from allowing the return of settlers to the area…”
Obviously, I was not at that scolding session of the ambassador, yet I have not stopped thinking about it. How insulting it must have been. How degrading and shameful did Ambassador Herzog feel as some Washington diplomat who is “here-today-yet-gone-tomorrow” rebuked him for an action Israel had every right to take.
I know Michael Herzog personally. He is the brother of Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, and is a quiet, unassuming guy.
For many years we davened in the same shul and he always impressed me as being a decent, modest fellow. There’s only one problem. While we are taught to be quiet and humble, a trait associated with Ambassador Herzog, that must be limited to the personal and individual level only. When it comes to the Nation of Israel – the people selected by HaShem to carry His flag, settle His land and teach His world – we are not allowed to be humble! When representing or speaking in the name of Israel, we must have national pride… as HaShem Himself does. (see Tehillim chapter 93 – “HaShem will have reigned, He wears His pride/grandeur…”)
Therefore, please allow me to write what my response to the Deputy Secretary of State would have been:
“My dear friend. Israel recognizes and appreciates the wonderful relationship it has with the United States. Throughout the years, as most countries condemned and criticized Israel, the US has generally stood by Israel’s side. Furthermore, the financial and military assistance that the US has given Israel has helped both Israel and the US fight terror and injustice in a volatile region. The State of Israel sincerely and genuinely has nothing but gratitude for our years together as friends and partners. That having been said, there are a few points that need to be clarified.
The modern State of Israel, who just celebrated its 75th birthday, is a continuation of the Jewish people’s connection to the land that started with our father, Abraham, over 3,700 years ago. The one and only G-d of the world promised the following to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, “To your descendants I have given this land (the Land of Israel) from the Egyptian River (the Nile) to the Euphrates (a river which rises in Turkey and flows southeast across Syria and through Iraq!)” This promise was repeated throughout the Bible to Isaac, Jacob and Moses who led the Children of Israel out of slavery and into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua 3,295 years ago.
Since the day we entered the land, the Jewish nation has valiantly fought against countless enemies for the right to settle, build and populate their G-d given land. Millions of Jews died, rather than live elsewhere. In this country, we built our Kingdom and our Temples. Even when we were forcibly driven from the land, we prayed to return there… and our prayers were answered! A desolate land was reclaimed by its rightful inheritors! A modern society was built, and a language was revived – something never before accomplished by any nation in the world!
Today, Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel – is a beautiful country with modern technology just steps away from 3,000-year-old archeological sites. Most of world Jewry has returned to live there and the millions of happy children attest to a bright future. Of all accomplishments, the greatest has been the return of the sweet sound of Torah which can be heard across the land and in every city. What greater pride can there be to our Father and King when He sees and hears His Bible and Talmud studied throughout the day and night? Today – in what you call 2023 – there is more Torah studied by men, women and children in the Land of Israel than ever before in Jewish history. How proud we are of that!
Furthermore, in addition to returning spirituality to the land, we have constructed homes, dried swamps and irrigated fields. We have planted millions of new trees and built communities in the very areas settled by Joshua and the Nation of Israel close to 3,300 years ago. Therefore, while we respect our relationship with the US – and would like it to continue – we hereby make it clear to you, Madam Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, that the Jewish people will build where they want and what they want in the land given by G-d… the Land of Israel.
In that land, there is no area “illegal” for us to build and we will never “refrain from allowing the return of settlers” to anywhere in the country. On the contrary! We will encourage Jews – from all over the world – to settle every inch of the Promised Land and will help them, in any way possible, to fulfill their dream of returning to Zion. If you want, you can summon me every day on this issue, but our position will never change. From time immemorial, we are Israel and Israel is us and that bond will never be broken.”
Am Yisrael Chai!