Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review March 15, 2002 /2 Nisan, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

No Shortage of Stupidity

Israel's ideologues have run out of ideas while the cost of terror grows | When in doubt, pray. That's the answer from Agudath Israel's Council of Torah Sages, the Orthodox Union and Israel's chief rabbinate. They responded to the escalating violence in Israel by calling for all Jews around the world to fast and say a special prayer on March 13 to ask their Creator for help. I'll venture to say that after the last 18 months of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's war of attrition against Israel, which has culminated in a crescendo of terror in the past few weeks, even the most secular of Jews is willing to entertain the idea that prayer might help.

After all, nothing else seems to be working.

The fact that the people of Israel are currently living in a nightmare of terrorism is horrifying. But as bad as the daily toll of terror is the fact that no one in authority seems to have a grip on what to do about it. Even worse are some of the dumb ideas being put forward as solutions by the Jewish left and right.


For the year and a half since Arafat decided to follow up his rejection of Israeli peace offers with a war, the Jewish left had, more or less, kept quiet. Their land-for-peace ideas were put into action at Oslo, and the dream of achieving a solution via almost complete Israeli withdrawal from Judea, Samaria, Gaza and much of Jerusalem was put on the table by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David. Yet rather than ending the conflict, the left-wing solution flopped.

But after holding their tongues for so long, the advocates of appeasement have come out of their ideological holes recently. Israeli novelist Amos Oz whined about Palestinian rejection of Barak's ideas and insistence on the "right of return" that is synonymous with the destruction of Israel on the opinion page of The New York Times in August of 2000. But he was back on the same page this week to say the failure to achieve peace was just as much the fault of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as it was of Arafat.

While the left is correct to say that Sharon had failed to give Israel's people peace and security, their jump to the conclusion that a return to the failed land-for-peace gambit is a dazzling display of illogic. Barak's concessions emboldened the Palestinians to attempt the current terror war in the first place. Why should anyone in possession of his or her faculties think that more unilateral Israeli retreats would bring peace?

The Jewish left believes that peace can only be made once Israel gives up all of the territories and Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders. Their religious-style faith in this notion is undiminished by the objective historical proof that the last decade of appeasement has provided. Instead, they merely keep repeating that eventually a peace deal along the lines of the Barak proposals will be signed and ignore the fact that the Palestinians have proven, time and again, that even if they accepted something like that, it would only be a temporary measure before insisting on more.

Why do they hold onto these failed ideas? Because the truth is too horrible for many, here and in Israel, to accept. The idea that the war with the Palestinians is not susceptible to being ended by Jewish goodwill and compromise is too awful to contemplate.

As one American Jewish writer put it recently, even if Oslo was a mistake, its advocates were still right and its critics still wrong because it was "the Jewish thing to do," and we would have felt badly if it had never been tried.

Maybe, but shouldn't that calculation take into account the hundreds of Jews murdered and thousands wounded by Palestinian terrorists who were funded and given secure bases by the Oslo agreements?


Equally as illogical is the drive by many on the Israeli right to throw Ariel Sharon out of office.

Granted, his first year in office has been one of the worst in Israel's history. Rather than squash Palestinian terror, Sharon has learned to live with it. That has earned him brownie points in Washington, but it is tough for Israelis to accept.

Only in the last week has he tried to destroy the bases of Arafat's terror infrastructure in Arab towns and refugee camps. But that was offset in the minds of many Israelis by his acquiescence to American demands to let Arafat out of Ramallah, coupled with his agreement that peace talks would not have to wait for seven days of quiet before resuming.

Indeed, his leadership has been short of the Churchillian symbolism that his supporters spoke of during last year's election. Sharon gives the impression of being a tired old man who is out of ideas. Listening to him makes you wonder just how Britain would have survived the Nazi blitzkrieg of London had Winston Churchill sounded more like Neville Chamberlain.

That said, what is the Israeli right offering as an alternative?

Benjamin Netanyahu. That's right, less than three years since he was tossed out of office, Bibi's on his way back.

Right-wingers who are ready to unload Sharon seem to have lost their short-term historical memory as much as their counterparts on the left. Bibi was, after all, the man whose three years in office were marked by a steady string of concessions and mishaps.

It was Bibi who had his pocket picked by Arafat and Bill Clinton in the Hebron agreement. And it was Bibi who has taken to diplomacy school by the same duo at the 1998 Wye Plantation talks.

Theodore Roosevelt's dictum was "talk softly but carry a big stick." Bibi made bellicose statements while never backing them up with tough action, giving him the worst of both worlds. Does anyone really think such a person would stand up more firmly against foreign pressure than Sharon?

Right-wingers want Sharon to overturn the whole applecart and get rid of the Palestinian Authority. It's hard not to sympathize with those sentiments, but actions that would place Israel in direct confrontation with an American president who is laying the groundwork for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq cannot be characterized as smart for Israel. Nor do the right-wingers have any other long-term proposals that make more sense.

Just as right-wing ideologues ditched the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1992 over a point of principle and wound up with a Labor government and Oslo, so, too, might current right-wingers wind up exchanging Sharon for something far worse from their point of view.

There is a lot more comfort to be found in the foolish proposals some of us cling to in a crisis than in the unpalatable truth. Meanwhile, the suffering continues. Maybe it really is time to get out your prayerbook.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

Jonathan Tobin Archives


© 2000, Jonathan Tobin