Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:
I’ve been thinking about status quos (stati quo?) lately.
There’s the one on the Temple Mount, the absurd one that says that Jews may visit but may not pray. Lately Muslims have been trying to prevent Jews from visiting altogether. When you consider that this is and always has been the holiest site in Judaism, that Muslim colonialists built their triumphal mosque on top of the ruins of the Jewish Temple – which those Muslims now say wasn’t really there anyway – the absurdity is even more manifest.
I went up to the Mount around 1981, together with my cousin and her husband. Nobody asked if they were Jewish, and they even entered the Dome of the Rock. Nobody paid attention to whether any of us moved our lips, and needless to say nobody screamed curses at us from close range. Little by little, threats and violence have changed the status quo unfavorably for us.
Another status quo is the one the Left keeps calling “unsustainable,” the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. There’s no time left, they say, we’d better hurry up and surrender to our enemies who want to kill us before the European Union boycotts our products. It should be instructive that the EU is already working up its boycott of at least some of our products.
Here too, the balance is changing unfavorably for us as the Arabs build wherever they want (often with EU support) while Obama gives us ultimatums to freeze Jewish construction.
Finally, there is the status quo in which Israel’s government continues to support the Palestinian Authority financially and militarily, even though it incites murderous terrorism against Jews, operates a terrorist militia that kills Jews, runs a diplomatic and legal war against our state, and pays salaries to both Fatah and Hamas terrorists in Israel’s prisons. Our government even encourages the donation of billions of dollars by the US and European countries to the PA and to UNRWA, on the grounds that a Palestinian collapse would be worse than the present situation.
The PA runs an educational and media system originally set up by Yasser Arafat whose function is to indoctrinate young people to hate Jews and Israel and to prepare themselves to fight us. UNRWA, which operates schools in refugee camps both in Gaza and Judea/Samaria, does the same, often with teachers who are members of Hamas.
Today’s wave of terrorism and murder, especially the so-called “individual operations” in which a jihadist just gets up and kills Jews with knives or cars without any organizational support, can be traced directly to the incitement by the PA and UNRWA. But we prop this structure up because we are afraid of the alternative.
The Prime Minister’s reaction to the escalating terrorism of the last few months is an example. On the one hand, he wants to get tough with the stone- and firebomb-throwers. But on the other, he rejects the idea of changing the status quo with the PA, either by increased building or cutting off subsides. This is an attempt to treat the symptoms while feeding and stimulating the disease.
In all of these situations Israel is being forced to give up its sovereignty bit by bit. In each case, the government chooses to give in to blackmail. Our ‘strategy’, if you can call it that, is to walk between the raindrops. Unfortunately, as time goes on it rains harder and there is less and less room. We may have reached the point in all three of these cases that the old non-strategy no longer works.
We have allowed our fear of international reactions to keep us from exercising our rights in Judea and Samaria, and our fear of terrorism to limit actions against the PA. But at the same time, the US and EU keep increasing the pressure, and the PA keeps inciting and financing terror. So what have we gained?
As America abandons the Middle East, the various players – Iran, Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia – all maneuver to improve their own positions and damage those of their enemies. All wish to change the situation in their favor. Only Israel continues to stand pat without challenging any of the status quos that are becoming less and less acceptable.
I’m not going to try to provide a detailed prescription for solving these difficult problems. But in all of them we are moving in the wrong direction, from strength to weakness, from more to less independence and sovereignty.
There is a reason for this: it is because we haven’t articulated a clear picture of the desired end result. Lacking clear objectives, we are passive. Everything we do is a reaction to our enemies’ actions. No wonder we get boxed in – they are writing the screenplay and we are performing our role in it.
For example, is the desired end result in Judea and Samaria a peaceful Arab state – something which is geopolitically impossible – or is it Jewish sovereignty? If the latter, the government should say so and work toward achieving it, even if it is a long-term project.
Do we think that all faiths should be able to worship on the Temple Mount, including Jews? If so, we should insist on it. Rav Shlomo Goren wanted to build a synagogue on the Mount (not a third Temple, a synagogue). Why should this be an impossible goal?
And isn’t it past time that the PLO, the organization that has murdered more Jews because they are Jews than any other since the Nazis, joined their Nazi role models in oblivion?
I am not a fan of Vladimir Putin, but we could learn from him. The chaos of recent times is also an opportunity.