If ever there was an example of throwing the baby out with the bath water, the frantic desire of the ‘progressive’ camp to make an agreement — any agreement at any cost — with the Palestinians is it.
Look at what the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is sending to its base as its “Ten Minutes of Torah” [!] offering today. It’s an article from a (where else?) San Francisco Jewish newsweekly called J. It begins with a false equivalence:
One would be hard pressed to find Jews who do not value the Torah and the Holy Land. Every square inch of biblical Israel is significant to the Jewish people. But many of those same biblical sites are just as important to Palestinians. And there’s the rub.
One could easily argue that in fact these sites are not as important to Islam as to Judaism, and that the Palestinians have just created another club to beat Israel with. But why bother; making them “Jewish Heritage sites” does not assert that they are exclusively Jewish. Arab objections, on the other hand, imply — and in many cases explicitly assert — that they wholly belong to Islam.
The Palestinians have consistently denied Jewish claims to any holy sites, including and especially in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat claimed — and today, Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah insists — that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Backing down on this issue lends credence to these absurd and insulting claims, just like backing down on the issue of building in East Jerusalem buttresses the Arab and American claim that Israel is not sovereign in Jerusalem.
We understand why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Jewish historical sites warranting new funding for upkeep. However, we question his timing. Because both sites are in the West Bank, the declaration deepened Palestinian suspicions that Israel is insincere about a peace deal that would transfer parts of the West Bank to a new Palestinian state.
Israel should be doing everything reasonable to bring the Palestinians to the table. This just gives them an easy excuse to say “no.”
They have no problem finding excuses to say “no.” They grabbed at the opportunity to say “no” after the Obama Administration raised the issue of the settlement freeze. They are saying “no” because they know that the Obama Administration has not yet gone far enough to agree with them that the Arab refugees may ‘return’ to Israel proper, and they are not prepared to compromise on this in negotiations.
The Palestinians are doing everything they can to do nothing while putting the blame on Israel, so that the US and the rest of the ‘international community’ will force more and more concessions out of Israel. Thus they jumped on the settlement freeze, thus they jumped on construction of any kind in East Jerusalem, and thus they have chosen to make an issue of the holy places — what could be better, a religious issue, to inflame their constituency even more, and to score fervor-points against Hamas.
Israel has long understood that the bumpy road to peace has required painful sacrifices. Giving up the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, not to mention the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists over the years, attest to that.
Thus it makes little sense to make this declaration now. Not because we dispute the historical significance of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb. That is beyond measure. But such a declaration has real consequences on the ground. Israel would certainly renovate the sites, spurring tourism and perhaps prompting more Jewish settlement. Despite a government spokesman saying the declaration does not change the status quo, in fact it does.
Palestinian protests quickly erupted in Hebron, and they may spread. In the near term, this could cause Israel security headaches. Or worse.
Yes, Israel has given up a lot in the past, and the results have been zero or negative. One would think that this would be an argument that Israel should not give up anything further until it begins to get something in return. The writer, though, draws the opposite conclusion. He or she thinks that Israel should make almost any concession — even if the significance of what is demanded is “beyond measure” — because it would be a pity if all the previous sacrifices were shown to be in vain.
A very poor argument, which implies that one should always throw good money after bad.
And what determines when Israel should fold? Clearly not the ‘historical’ significance — note that the writer studiously avoids the words ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ — but only the reaction of the Palestinians! Although the significance of these places is “beyond measure,” the minute the rocks and firebombs start flying, we are expected to surrender.
Do we really want to enshrine as an axiom the principle that the Palestinians get to define what is important to us by their bad behavior?
In truth, this is the worst kind of issue to give in on. By doing so, Israel grants the Arabs possession of the historic and spiritual tradition of the land of Israel. It’s true that most Israelis are secular, and apparently it’s true that Reform Judaism — or at least the “Ten Minutes of Torah” editor — thinks that these sites are irrelevant to the claim of modern, high-tech Israel to exist. But then there’s no longer a reason for the Jewish state to be here, rather than, say, Uganda. And if the tomb of Rachel is really only the ‘Bilal Mosque’ then maybe there isn’t a Jewish people at all, and we can all go live in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.
What have we been fighting for for the past century?