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A Blast From The Past

This article was published in the Yated Neeman on March 5, 2003.

I was wrong. I admit it. Two weeks ago I wrote in this space that unless we change the course of events by doing teshuvah, the first item of business for America and its allies after ridding the world of Saddam Hussein will be establishing a state for the poor Palestinians.

The column predicted that after having dealt the coup de grace to the tyrant of Iraq the West will attempt to prove that the war was not motivated by hatred of Arabs, nor was it the beginning of a culture war pitting Christians against Muslims. The West will prove its sincerity to the Arab world by pressuring Israel to finally establish a Palestinian state.

 

Some of you called and wondered how I could say that. After all, President Bush has declared a war on terror; how could I suggest that he would force the establishment of another terrorist haven? Others said I was a kofui tov. Bush has been so kind to Israel. How can you accuse him of being just like his father?

 

I admit it. I was mistaken. I said Israel’s turn would come after the Iraqi war, but lo and behold, it hasn’t even taken that long. Before the first shot has been fired, before the Arab street has had a chance to erupt, both Bush and Blair in public speeches last week called upon Israel to establish a state for the downtrodden Palestinians.

 

This is what President Bush said: “The new government of Israel … will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state (applause) and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity must end.”

 

It is noteworthy that, according to the transcript, it was the only part of his speech interrupted by applause. His speech was highlighted in the New York Times under a page one headline, “Bush Says Ousting Hussein Could Aid Peace In Mideast.” The sub-head read, “Backs Palestinian State.”

 

The Times reported, “President Bush declared tonight that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq would bring stability to the region and could set the stage for peace between Israel and a ‘truly democratic’ Palestinian state.

 

“In his first significant remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in eight months, the president, under pressure from European and Arab nations to re-energize the lapsed Middle East peace negotiations, reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to a Palestinian state and to a three year timetable outlining the steps for its creation.”

 

In a sidebar column to the news story, the Times wrote that “Mr. Bush put himself more firmly in the steps of his father, who told Congress after American forces defeated Kuwait: ‘The time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.’”

 

Do you remember Bush the First and his secretary of state and their plans for Israel? Boruch Hashem they are gone and their plans are history, but history does have a way of repeating itself.

 

Our other friend, Tony Blair, also has weighed in on the subject. Speaking last week in Madrid following meetings with the Spanish prime minister on the subject of Iraq, Blair said, “Britain and Spain again share a very common position on the absolute priority of restarting the peace process in the Middle East.”

 

So what’s wrong with peace, you wonder. Blair went on to explain, “We now have a very clear common agreement across the world that the fairest solution is two states — an Israel confident of its security, a viable Palestinian state — living side by side. It is our desire that we re-begin that peace process and reach that objective as soon as we possibly can and both of us will play our full part in realizing that.”

 

So, the two brave men heading up the international campaign against terror are capitulating to terror and working towards a state based on fiction, deceit, corruption, lies and terror.

 

Why is that? How can it be that they see the threat posed by Saddam so much more clearly than other world-class politicians but don’t comprehend the danger that a Palestinian state can pose to Israel and the Jews.

 

Let’s take a look at what’s going on in Israel; we may be enlightened.

 

One of the heroes of Israel’s right wing was once considered too tough to ever be elected to high office in Israel. His actions [or inaction] in the massacre which occurred inside the Lebanese-Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Shatilla, during the Lebanon war of 1982, came close to destroying a long and illustrious military career. That unfortunate incident made him anathema to Israel’s left wingers. But following the disastrous administration of Ehud Barak and his near wholesale giveaway during peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton, Israelis gave Arik Sharon the mantle of power to lead the country out of its quagmire.

 

The religious community rallied around him, seeing in him the answer to the anti-religious revolution launched by Barak and his crew. Sharon was also an architect and founder of the settlements, which earned him extra brownie points.

 

After enabling him to run for prime minister by co-operating with him on a parliamentary trick, the 17-seat strong Shas party, together with the other religious parties, gave him a coalition majority. Sharon always said all the right things and many believed he was actually their friend.

 

BACKSTABBING FROM A “FRIEND”

 

They found out the hard way last week what kind of friend he really is. Rather than working with the various religious parties, he chose the NRP and cut a deal with the virulently anti-religious Shinui party. Shinui, headed by the rabid, Torah-hating demagogue, Tommy Lapid, captured 15 seats in the Knesset by blaming many of the country’s ills on religious Jews, promising to fight them if it got close to power.

 

The fact that Sharon even stooped to negotiate with a hater like Lapid is contemptible, but to bring him in and make him Minister of Justice is clearly beneath contempt. The religious parties outside of NRP were left standing on the sidelines in shock. Unfortunately, some of the religious Knesset members may lack finesse in the fine arts of negotiating skills, diplomacy and public relations. But does that warrant putting into power a political party driven by the most corrupt of agendas – by people hell-bent on creating an internal cultural – and perhaps— civilwar?

 

Sharon not only made minced meat of the religious politicians, he displayed incredibly poor judgment in firing the best spokesman Israel has had in decades. During the election campaign Sharon had Netanyahu seated next to him at every opportunity, but once Sharon won the coveted spot, Netanyahu became expendable. Sharon figured he would neutralize him by sending him packing from the foreign ministry.

 

He filled his spot with the man who oversaw the country’s steadily worsening economy. Silvan Shalom is not known for his diplomatic, rhetorical or negotiating skills. He was only good for one thing, and that was to get the popular Bibi out of Sharon’s way.

 

Netanyahu, however, will remain a thorn in Sharon’s side in the thankless position of trying to right the nation’s teetering economy.

 

The prime negotiator between Likud and Shinui was Ehud Olmert, another supposed friend of the religious community. If not for the religious Jews he’d never have been elected mayor of Yerushalayim. They not only got him elected, they propped him up in power for over a decade. So now he got his chance to repay the favor. His entry ticket to the Likud Knesset list? Keeping the “parasitical” chareidis out of power and putting in the demagogues.

 

Let’s consider some of the more glaring lessons from this debacle. It seems we became too comfortable with secular politicians. We got to thinking that they liked and respected us. We thought we sensed that they really harbored warm feelings for religion and for our Knesset representatives.

 

We’ve had quite a rude awakening. Perhaps had we remembered what this is really all about, had we known a bit of Zionist history, we may have remembered what their real intentions are, we might have been forewarned. We might have behaved differently while in the Knesset and on the street of public opinion.

 

Yes, Begin was different and there were other exceptions, few and far between. It behooves us to learn that lesson and remember it next time a politician with a pasted-on yarmulke comes calling at your door. Most of them couldn’t care less about you or your concerns; all they want is your vote. Dollars don’t hurt. Next time the guy next to you in shul tells you how he has an in with this or that elected official, don’t be impressed, know that it’s all fleeting and meaningless.

 

PLASTIC CONVICTIONS

 

In his book, Sharon writes that, “Reaffirming the identity between Israel and Judaism seems to me a prerequisite for survival… First of all this country must be a Jewish state and Jews must be proud that it is Jewish and they are Jewish… Once Israeli youngsters have graduated high school they should have the knowledge to feel proud of themselves as Jews and proud of living in the Jewish state of Israel.”

 

But now he has placed corrupt demagogues in charge of the country’s Justice and communications ministries. How could he? Doesn’t he know better? He does, but he doesn’t care. All he wants is to keep himself in power. So it doesn’t matter to him that his new coalition partners are liable to bring the country to ruin. All that matters is that they were the easiest to bargain with. Voila Israel, here is your new government! Get ready for the onslaught.

 

It’s not just the religious community, the religious character of the state and the one-time political allies of Sharon who will suffer as a result of his small-minded, ego-centric choices, the entire country is being placed in peril.

 

In his autobiography he wrote, “Whatever the political rhetoric, the reality here is that a Palestinian state exists in Jordan with its capital in Amman, and a Jewish state exists in Israel with its capital in Jerusalem… In the harsh light of a hundred years of experience, I cannot see any political solution that will put a stop to the terror… And we must say very clearly that concern for our own survival does not permit the establishment of a second Palestinian state on the West Bank.”

 

How do such statements from the “old” Sharon jive with the “new” Sharon’s declared willingness to create a Palestinian state? Throwing overboard his once dearly held principles doesn’t seem to faze him. When the time comes, he will do the same with the NRP and National Union parties, who emphatically oppose a terrorist Palestinian state in Israel’s backyard.

 

After they are sent packing, Labor will rush to join the coalition, falling over themselves in their eagerness to hand the Palestinians the tools they crave to destroy Israel, chas veshalom.

 

Tragically, these leaders have no core. Their ideals and beliefs are plastic. There is nothing they are not willing to sacrifice on the altar of their own ambition and their hold on power. Sharon, Bush, Blair – they are all cut from the same cloth.

 

We all know people with those traits; they appear as friends and come up to us softly and nicely. But once they are done using us, they take out their big sticks. We should learn to be wary of such people. When the going gets tough they all beat a hasty retreat and leave you alone and lonely. Seek out the ones who are true friends, the ones who stick with you through thick and thin. As Chazal teach us, kenei lecho chaver. There is no shortage of good people, find them, grab hold of them and make life-long friends of them.

 

THE MASTER PLAN IS HIDDEN

 

In a couple months we will be studying the Megillah. We will be reading the peirushim which explain that the name of Hashem does not appear throughout the entire Megillah, and yet every step of the miraculous course of events recounted in those pages was directed by Him alone. Let us remember that the next time we read the news and think that we understand the schemes and machinations of various government leaders, or when we marvel at how a tough-guy prime minister goes against everything he espoused his entire life.

 

We can speculate and come up with compelling thesis and rationales. We can try to anticipate history. But it is all meaningless. We cannot see beneath the surface nor comprehend what is really going on. Our prognostications of the future are little more than exercises in wishful thinking.

 

Let us remember that just as Hashem caused Achashveirosh to act foolishly and sent Haman to his downfall through his own maniacal machinations; in the same way He caused Esther Hamalkah to ascend the throne and elevated Mordechai Hayehudi to power. So, too, He causes the leaders of our day to wreak havoc by behaving in foolish or sinister ways, or conversely, to take wise and courageous moves that counteract global evil and insanity. They are but pawns acting out a Divine plan; Lev melochim vesorim b’yad Hashem.

 

The people of Shushan who dutifully bought and read the local paper sat around pontificating. They studied Achashveirosh’s every move and argued over the edicts of his ministers, but they had no inkling of what the Master plan was all about even as it was unfolding.

 

So, too, in our day people gulp down the news and debate Sharon’s moves. They banter over the acts and statements of his ministers. They try to figure out how the president who has declared war on terror can preach about establishing yet another Arab haven state. They analyze every innuendo of the world’s leading statesmen. They digest all the information and come up with reasoned commentaries and forecasts for the future.

 

Chances are they have it all wrong; and aren’t even close.

 

Mordechai and Esther worked to penetrate the veil of darkness which was obscuring the Yad Hashem. They were able to perceive Him orchestrating the rescue of the Jewish people from behind the curtains on the stage of history. They found Him for themselves and for their descendants throughout the generations.

 

Hashem is zoreiyah tzedokos and matzmiach yeshuos in the most desperate of situations, is even now planting the seeds of our salvation. Let us be mispallel that His compassion and love will protect us and bring us safely out of the maelstrom, and that we will all merit the geulah shelaimah bekarov.