Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Shamrak Report: The Jewish National Goal

The Jewish National Goal
by Steven Shamrak.
Many Jewish groups, organizations and individuals are actively involved in signing petitions, writing letters and monitoring anti-Semitism worldwide. These are very important activities, but they all are missing direction.
Jews must unite behind the most important objective - the Jewish National goal: "Jewish people have the right to live in peace on all the Jewish ancestral land". Only by uniting behind the National Goal Jews will have the chance to survive the modern, internationally orchestrated, anti-Jewish onslaught!
This is the only goal that is worthwhile to pursue. It is the right of the Jewish people and must be pursued regardless of a political affiliation and external factors such as the Arab intentions to destroy Israel, and International anti-Semitism! It is the National right that Jewish people have dreamed about for 2000 years! Therefore, regardless of the political affiliation of any Jewish group, political party or individual, communist or capitalist; Orthodox, Secular or Atheist - all of them can support and be united behind this goal. And, it would not contradict their ideology. 
It is impossible to achieve anything without setting an objective. We need to revive, re-ignite and be clear about the Jewish National Goal and aspirations. We can’t afford to waste time anymore. Our enemies declared their intention clearly, recently and in the past. Our ambiguity is just inflaming their hate!
Jewish national aspirations are not against Arabs or Muslims. It is about the identity and rights of Jewish people. The International community has done everything possible to deny the Jewish people the achievement of our destiny. The time has come to take control of our own destiny!
The useless internal political bickering has to be stopped. The Jewish National Goal must be the main priority and motivation for all Israeli politicians, Jewish people and organizations around the world. The personal ego has to be put aside. This idea is the only one that can unite Jewish people.
History is full of examples of a great number of people who became idealistic and enthusiastic when they were lead to the achievement of seemingly unattainable goals. They were unstoppable and pursued worthwhile goals with zeal. 
Jews have this goal embedded in the Jewish soul. It would be more natural and easier for Jews to support the creation of the Jewish state on all Jewish lands. On the contrary, it is unnatural and self-destructive to impose on Israel the agenda of our enemies and the duplicity of their supporters!
Food for Thought by Steven Shamrak
The new President, Donald Trump, is in White House. He is open to Israeli suggestions. For too long international anti-Semites have been telling Israel what Jews must do or sacrifice, with intention to facilitate the destruction of Israel! A vital opportunity is presented for Israel to end the conflict with so-called Palestinians on Zionist terms! Prior to meeting Trump in Washington, Prime Minister Netanyahu must have a strategic national plan of reunification of Jewish land and freeing it from enemy occupation - intention to implement it is also pivotal! We must state with confidence and conviction that Judea, Samaria and Gaza belong to Eretz-Israel - Jewish land! 
Israel has approved another 153 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem and planning permits for another 11,000 buildings. The bold new policy approach has come into effect since US President Donald Trump – who is sympathetic to Israeli interests – took office last week. The planned permits had been previously held up until the end of former President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that 376 people were killed in 2016 on Israel’s roads, compared to 356 in 2015. Although Arabs are just 20 percent of the population they account for 30% of road deaths, 43% of the drivers killed in car accidents were Arabs.
The European Union is funding dozens of projects that are dedicated to the destruction of Israel, according to a new report by the NGO Monitor. The EU is the “single largest donor to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, accounting for NIS 28.1 million in 2012-2014 to politicized Israeli NGOs alone.
The Woodmont Country Club, mostly Jewish golf club in Maryland, has invited former President Barack Obama to join following a contentious debate. Obama played at the club four times during his presidency. He has not indicated whether he will seek a Woodmont membership. Obama would be invited to join under the “special membership” provision to “welcome” senior government officials, which waives the initiation fee of $80,000. (The Israel-hating anti-Semite has not even asked to be a member of the club!)
Quote of the Week:
“Netanyahu has been hiding behind Obama for too long. Now is the time to stand up for Jewish sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria. Maybe Bibi doesn't really want Judea and Samaria after all. He has played all sides of Israel’s politics for years. Now that his bluff is called, we will find out who he really is. Will the real Bibi stand up? Israel is an independent country, not the 51th state of the US – it is time to start behaving as one and do what must be done for the future of Jewish people” – FaceBook comment
U.S. Friendship and Jewish Assertiveness
by Steven Shamrak (Dec 2005).
Quite often an idea that the United States is the strong supporter of the State of Israel and Jewish people is expressed. Many Jews feel quite nervous when the United States is criticised by Jews and US friendship toward Israel is questioned. 
I would like to state clearly and without any reservation: I am a strong admirer of U.S. democracy. I spent half of my life living in the Soviet Union. Therefore the notion of equality of every individual, freedom of speech and self-expression are very dear to me. I even appreciate the American government’s selfishness, as they put the interests of their own country and people first.
If Israel is to become a true democracy, I can only hope that purity of all these principles will be adopted by the Jewish State.
But let us be truthful and face the reality of historical facts:
1. Knowing the German policy toward Jews before the WW2, Jews were not permitted to immigrate to America. The U.S. state department reprimanded and scared Hollywood Jewish producers by accusing them of “War mongering”. It was Charlie Chaplin, a non-Jew, who broke the taboo by making the comedy “The Great Dictator” exposing fascism. Not a single bomb was dropped on concentration camps, railroad lines or bridges leading to them. After the war, American officials were actively involved in providing safe passage to Nazi criminals! 
2. The United States supported the UN embargo of arms sales to the region after Israel declared independence in 1948. In the 50's, the US abandoned Israel. And Israel was forced to find ‘new masters' - France and UK - and fought the Sinai War on their behalf.
3. Consistent sabotage of Israel’s military successes through the years effectively perpetuated the Arab-Israeli conflict and prevented Israel from attaining decisive victory over her enemies. The current pressure on Israel by President Bush and Condoleezza Rice is just another symptom of the same ‘old sickness’!
I have stated many times that being pro-Jewish does not make me anti-anything. I am not against Arabs or Christians, nor against USA or Europe. I strongly believe that the Jewish people, in Israel and the Diaspora, must be united in pursuit of their own National Goal: “The right of Jews to live in peace on all Jewish land!”
This goal is completely justifiable morally, historically, religiously and even legally. We must not pay any attention and disregard what the anti-Israel demagogues and spin-masters are saying or fabricating. Their interests are in conflict with Jewish goals and should not be our concern! For too long, Jews have been accommodating and pleasing others with the detrimental effect to their own needs and interests. It is time to become assertive and give high priority and consideration to Jewish national aspirations. History teaches us that nobody else did, does or will!

Womb with a View

In the special haftara for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh several days ago, we read the stirring words of the prophet Yeshayahu: “Who has heard of anything like this? Who has seen anything like these? Can a land be born in one day, can a nation be born at once, as Zion went into labor and bore her children at once? Will I bring [Yerushalayim] to the birth stool and not cause her to give birth?... Should I now shut the womb, says your G-d?” (Yeshayahu 66:8-9)

Israel has been freed of Barack Obama’s heavy hand and unsympathetic heart but now faces an even more problematic adversary: itself. After years – to some extent, decades – of Israel’s leaders avoiding tough decisions and eschewing what some deem “provocative” actions, all out of fear of the “American” reaction, the tide has now turned dramatically, and an American president is asking Israelis, in effect, what do you want? What are your objectives? What are your goals? An American president is allowing Israel to write its own destiny, and being told, wait. We haven’t quite figured it out. The womb of redemption is opening, and Israel’s leaders are saying, again, “not so fast.”

This has become most clear in the tiptoeing around the issue of the proposed move of the American embassy in Israel to Yerushalayim. Despite a Congressional act mandating such a move that dates back to the 1990’s, no president has carried it out, despite several promising to do so. President Trump has made similar promises and now seems to be hesitating, quite uncharacteristically it should be added. Why?

It is time to realize that the obstacles to the move of the embassy are not in Washington but in Yerushalayim, and, it seems to me, this same Israeli reluctance bedeviled President Bush (41) who also would have moved the embassy but was rebuffed by Israel. In essence, Israel plays a game – declaring Yerushalayim to be its eternal, undivided capital and demanding that the world acknowledge that fact and then, behind the scenes, working to ensure that it does not happen for fear of whatever the fear of the moment is.

To be sure, the location of the American embassy in Israel is not the most critical issue facing Israel or the world today but it is an important symbol. David Ben Gurion located the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv because he thought it unwise to place military headquarters in Yerushalayim, what was then a border town. But no other country on the globe has its capital so disrespected by all other nations, and there is no American embassy elsewhere in the world that is not located in that country’s designated capital. However it is rationalized, it is bizarre, and the claim that such will “pre-judge the negotiations” is even more bizarre and risible. Life cannot be put on hold indefinitely, and there are no negotiations on the horizon that will ever result in Arab recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital. So how long should Israel wait? Seventy years since independence? Fifty years since reunification? Maybe 150 or 200 years? Enough is enough. It is either important or it is not important, and if it is not important enough to demand it, then Israeli leaders should stop using the Yerushalayim cliché as an applause line at speeches to American Jews.

The subtext here is the assertion that moving the embassy will constitute a provocation and inflame the Arab world. But the Arab world is already aflame, if anyone has been paying attention, and moving the embassy can be added to a long list of “provocations.” That list includes Israel’s declaration of independence, victories in battle, the original settlement of the land, and pre-emptive raids against terrorists. One of the most common excuses for inaction in Israel is fear of provocation. Arab prisoners must be treated royally or the Arab street will be provoked; building in Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, Hevron or really anywhere in Judea and Samaria is a provocation; not releasing the bodies of Arab terrorists (even as Hamas holds the bodies of IDF soldiers) would be a provocation; and even demanding payment from the Palestine Authority for water, electricity and the like is considered a provocation. Cutting off funding to the PA terror apparatus can’t be done, as that too would be a provocation. There is a pattern; some people must be easily provoked.

Saeb Erakat, who functions today as the PA Minister to Christiane Amanpour, declaimed that such a move of the embassy would constitute the end of all of Israel’s agreements with the PA (agreements, he failed to note, that the PA has routinely breached, including, most recently, seeking unilateral disposition of the conflict before the United Nations). He added that the PA would go out of business, and Israel would then be forced to assume responsibility for all the salaries and services provided by the PA. But this is petulance, a tantrum masquerading as a policy. The reality is that the PA is sustained by the billions of dollars funneled its way by the EU, UN, US and other world bodies. It generates little revenue on its own. If the PA would disappear (it won’t, of course), that same foreign money could be provided directly to Israel that could then administer those lands. And with Israel not siphoning off tens of millions of dollars into private bank accounts, as the PA leadership is rumored to do, perhaps that money would even filter down to the average person, and, one can only hope, actually build new housing for Arabs still languishing in refugee camps after more than twenty years of rule by their own leaders. One can only hope. But of course it won’t happen because the PA business is too lucrative.

The broader point is not merely that succumbing to the threats of violence and terror only rewards and encourages the bully but that Israel finds itself (again!?) at a crossroads. The friendly Trump administration enters with no illusions that peace is possible under present circumstances, and well aware that Israel is both a friend and cherished ally. The real question then becomes: what does Israel want?

People generally become so attached to the status quo that any attempt to change it, at all, evokes gasps of horror. (Change the one-China policy? Oy vey! Really?) Netanyahu has become adept at managing the status quo but strategic thinking is also in order. Life also cannot be put on hold pending a resolution of the Iran problem, and to assert that the embassy move should be postponed (forever) because Iran must be dealt with is a non sequitur. Nations can defend themselves, build homes, manage an economy and maintain a capital at the same time. And an American embassy in Yerushalayim would send a powerful message to the world, Arab and European, that the State of Israel exists, will continue to exist, and its just demands deserve recognition.

Why then would Israel be reluctant to insist that now is the time for the fulfillment of what is the elementary right of every nation – to designate its capital? Perhaps it reflects the ongoing struggle over Israel’s Jewish character and its biblical past, a reality that is not universally appreciated in Israeli society. We must return to Israel’s official disinclination as a sign of its current reluctance to see itself as the fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s vision cited above. But that too can and should change.

“Who has heard of anything like this? Who has seen anything like these?” Has a people ever returned from the dead, from millennia of exile and reconstituted itself? No. It is miraculous, notwithstanding that we are living through it. “Will I bring [Yerushalayim] to the birth stool and not cause her to give birth?... Should I now shut the womb, says your G-d?”

One stage in the redemptive process is world recognition of Yerushalayim, the capital of G-d’s kingdom, which will be transformed into a magnet for seekers of G-d. Should we continue to procrastinate and hinder the next stage of the redemptive process?

“Should I now shut the womb, says Your G-d?” The prophet then continues: “Rejoice with Yerushalayim, exult in her, all those who love her. Gladden with her, with complete joy, all those mourn over her” (66:10). The opening of the womb – the renaissance of Jewish national life after the dormancy of almost two millennia – naturally culminates in the establishment of Yerushalayim as the center of spirituality and the reign of G-d. We are on the verge of that era, if only we want it.

There are moments in the history of nations when the status quo causes stagnation and becomes harmful. It should be obvious that this new President, not tethered to old policies that haven’t worked and not encumbered by the diplomatic shibboleths of the past, presents new opportunities for Israel to advance its destiny. It should embrace it, not run from it. The location of the embassy is not the most significant issue (building, settling, defending and prospering are more meaningful) but it is an important symbol. In a few months, Jews and other lovers of Yerushalayim will celebrate fifty years since the reunification of the city. One-half century, time enough to proclaim that Yerushalayim is Israel’s eternal capital, and to act like it is so. Those who continually kick the can down the road eventually run out of road.

An appropriate 50th anniversary gift would be the relocation of America’s embassy to the city that has been the center of Jewish life for more than 3000 years. The brief tumult it will cause will quickly recede, we will wonder what took so long, and Jewish destiny will edge ever closer to its glorious climax.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Two-State Solution? Just Not According to the Clinton Parameters

By Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 401

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: With the start of a new era in the White House, Israel must let go of the two-state solution as defined by the Clinton Parameters. It is time for a reassessment of Rabin's approach, which stressed the importance of the preservation and development of Area C in Judea and Samaria under Israeli control as a prerequisite for defensible borders.

The entry of President Trump into the White House marks a new era in the US and around the world, giving rise to crises and upheavals as well as new opportunities. The demands of the State of Israel, in the context of its overall vital interests in the region, will be reviewed and reassessed. It is imperative that Israel formulate a clear stand on central issues based on wide public support. As a first step, Israel must let go of the two-state solution as laid out in the Clinton Parameters.

The time has come to inquire what Prime Minister Netanyahu means when he speaks of his commitment to a two-state solution. When even the leaders of the Zionist Left agree that settlement blocs should remain under Israeli sovereignty, it must be clarified for the public what these blocs actually mean. Do they contribute anything towards Israel's need for defensible borders?

The course Israel has taken since the signing of the Oslo Accords requires critical examination, regardless of the essential reassessment in anticipation of the Trump era. Since the autumn of 1993, almost everything has changed. Above all, new threats have emerged with a previously unknown military logic of their own.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue, too, has undergone significant changes. The ​Oslo idea, in its quest to end Israeli control over Palestinian citizens, was largely realized. It was already complete in January 1996, when Israel concluded the withdrawal of its forces from the populated territories of the West Bank. The Palestinian population living in Areas A and B, or approximately 90% of the total Palestinian population of the West Bank, has been controlled since then by the Palestinian Authority (PA). How can this be described as "apartheid"?

In the summer of 2005, the Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip ended (control over the Palestinian population in the Strip had already been transferred to the PA in May 1994). Gaza has been a sovereign entity controlled by Hamas since its seizure of power in the summer of 2007. East Jerusalem and Area C in the West Bank remain in dispute, including settlements, army bases, major roads, vital commanding areas, and the open expanse towards the Jordan Valley.

These areas, held by Israel, are the minimum required for the conservation of a defensible territory. They fill two necessary conditions for a secure Israel. The first is the buffer area of the Jordan Valley, without which it would be impossible to prevent the quick arming of Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria. The second is the advantage of Israeli control over the main longitudinal and lateral routes, which, together with the hold over the commanding areas, enables speedy access of IDF operational forces deep into Palestinian concentrations. Relinquishing these prerequisites in the Gaza Strip enabled the emergence of the Hamas military threat.

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and the Paris Conference further solidified the notion of ​​two states as requiring a complete overlap of two not-necessarily congruent trends: the ending of Israeli control over the Palestinians, and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and a full Israeli withdrawal. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was disinclined towards this overlap, as expressed in his last speech in the Knesset (October 1995). He was resolute on Jerusalem and emphasized the crucial hold by Israel of the Jordan Valley and the lateral routes leading to it.

The Clinton Parameters for conflict resolution, laid out in December 2000, were a step back from Rabin's position. The turnaround was summed up in two premises not held by Rabin. The first was that the solution required the establishment of a continuous, fully sovereign Palestinian state, whereas Rabin envisaged a political entity short of a fully-fledged state. The second was that the border between Israel and Palestine should be based, with minor changes, on the 1967 borders in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

These premises left very little room for negotiation. Some clarification is required on how the Israeli position pulled away from the Rabin solution and towards the Clinton solution, which, in all likelihood, Rabin would not have accepted.

It is noteworthy that Rabin exploited the implementation of the Oslo accords to reshape the area as delineated by Israeli security interests. As part of this effort, he led a drive to construct a network of bypassing roads in Area C, without which the IDF would have had great difficulty advancing its forces to the deployment areas during Operation Defensive Shield (2002). The IDF could not, for example, have transferred a tank division hauled on tank transporters from the Anatot Base to Nablus if its route had passed through Police Square in Ramallah.

The fast, advanced road network outlined by Rabin gave Israel control over routes and flexibility in operating IDF forces, and demonstrated during Operation Defensive Shield the operational significance of utilizing to the full an area that is defensible. Rabin's expanse-shaping moves were conducted concurrently with progress on the implementation of the Oslo Accords, and the international community made no claims that he was misleading it.

By contrast, any advance, however small, made in building up Jerusalem raises the suspicion that Netanyahu may not be sincere in his intentions about two states. There are many reasons for this difference, one of the most important being that Rabin did not commit to a continuous Palestinian state in the form of the Clinton Parameters. Netanyahu, especially during his term after 2009, found himself tied to that frame of reference.

At the strategic crossroads where we now stand, the Israeli government must re-clarify the complex of security interests inherent in Israel's control over Area C. In this reexamination, Israel must depart from the idea of ​​two states as interpreted, for example, by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former head of the National Security Council. He has argued and continues to argue that while current circumstances do not allow the reaching of a permanent agreement, and it is dangerous to rush towards unilateral withdrawal, the idea of ​​dividing the area into two states on the basis of the 1967 borders, with amendments made for "settlement blocs," is nevertheless the only reasonable option by international standards. Therefore, according to his understanding, settlement activity in all remaining areas that might someday be included in a Palestinian state should be avoided. Statements along these lines and in this spirit have also been made by Dennis Ross. Herein lies the main disagreement on what to do in Area C.

An Israeli reassessment has the potential to introduce a change in Jerusalem’s position by renewing its demand for the preservation of a defensible area, which depends on consistent Israeli hold over Area C.

The Israeli and international dominant discourse puts the State of Israel at an imaginary crossroads with only two options: preserving the democratic Jewish state by retreating to the 1967 areas, or becoming trapped in a conflicted binational state in which apartheid is inevitable. This is a conceptual trap not devoid of manipulation, as a crossroads allows more than two directions. The Israeli discourse, caught between these two dichotomous choices, ignores the potential security threat stemming from loss of control over the depth of the area and the Jordan Valley.

Senior security officials who support withdrawal assure the public that the army would be able to meet the country’s security challenges even with withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Their position ignores important changes that have taken place. If, after the withdrawal, the West Bank is taken over by an organization similar to Hamas in Gaza – Hezbollah, in all likelihood – the IDF would struggle to provide an adequate response to the possibility of simultaneous attack on Israel on several fronts.

These officials claim that even after uprooting the Jewish residents, the IDF would be able to operate throughout the area. But they ignore the level of forces that would be required for this undertaking. Without the mass presence of a Jewish population, the IDF will be defeated, and will withdraw as it did from south Lebanon in May 2000.

In the new war, under the new logic, citizens have a significant role to play in the general fighting effort. This was visible in the fighting in Donetsk, Crimea, and Abkhazia, as well as in the Chinese expansion into the China Sea via thousands of civilian fishing boats. It is a familiar necessity resonating from the early days of Zionism: to maximize the civilian presence together with a military foothold.

In short, without a constant hold on the whole of Area C, Israel has no defensible borders. The way Rabin delineated the expanse of Area C demonstrates his farsighted understanding of the importance of those areas beyond the 1967 borders, which must be in Israel’s full control.

It is time to emphasize that there is more than one way to realize the two-state logic. It is in Israel's security interests that it embark on full-scale construction in Area C.

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Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research associate the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. He was a Corps commander, and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Makor Rishon on January 20, 2017.

Chosenness and Unity

By Rabbi Mordechai Willig


Hashem brings punishment upon the nations so that Yisrael should hear and be afraid, as it says (Tz'fania 3:6,7), I have destroyed nations etc. I said "Just fear Me, accept mussar" (Rashi Shemos 7:3). According to the Chafetz Chaim (Kuntres Bais Yisrael, Hashmata 2, Ma Lecha Nirdam) Hashem does this in modern times as well. Thus, while Divine justice is always present, a distant natural disaster which claims many lives is a message to Am Yisrael to fear Hashem and repent.

World events are ordained by Divine Providence. This extends beyond earthquakes and floods. It applies to human actions as well. Like streams of water, the heart of a king is in the hands of Hashem. Wherever He wishes He moves it (Mishlei 21:1). Hashem restricts a king's freedom of choice (bechira) since his decisions affect all those under his rule (Ralbag). Therefore, we should pray to Hashem, since He controls the decision of the king (Rabbeinu Yona).

Israel is the land that Hashem investigates (Devarim 11:12), and, through it, other lands as well (Rashi). Hashem's eyes are always on it (ibid.) to see what it needs and to initiate decrees for good or bad (Rashi). Divine Providence is more intense in Israel (Ramban Vayikra 18:25), and affects other lands and nations as well.

In his opening comments on the Torah (Breishis 1:1) Rashi presents these ideas. The Torah begins with the story of creation so that that if the nations of the world will say to Yisrael "You are robbers that captured the land of seven nations", they will respond "Hashem gave it to us". Moreover, the world was created because if of Yisrael who are called reishis.

These ideas are part of the nature of the chosenness (bechira) of Am Yisrael, emphasized repeatedly in our daily tefilla, in birchos haTorah, birchos Krias Shema, and elsewhere. This idea, which is a cardinal principle of Judaism, will ultimately be accepted by all of mankind. That acceptance is an eschatological phenomenon emphasized repeatedly by the Nevi'im. Historically, nearly all Jews, including many non-observant ones, accepted that we are the Am Hanivchar - the chosen nation.

Nowadays, however, some Jews question our biblical right to the land of Israel and our unique state of chosenness. The zeitgeist of liberalism and universalism rejects particularism and nationalism of any kind. (See The Failure of Jewish Universalism, American Thinker, Jan. 11, 2017). Idealism and utopianism, essential elements of proper Jewish belief and practice and of our ability to survive as a nation despite persecution and temptation, have been misappropriated by Jews who deny their chosenness.


The recent elections and presidential decisions, veritable political earthquakes, have exposed seismic fault lines within the Jewish community as well (See Trump's Jews and Obama's Jews).  Reaction to Trump's election and to Obama's UN abstention was, predictably, split along political lines. However, the vitriol and unqualified denunciations within the Jewish community itself are cause for great concern.

The Seforno (Breishis 37:2) comments that the events of Parshas Vayeishev (which was read on the day after the aforementioned abstention) resemble the events of the second Beis Hamikdash and its destruction. Specifically (37:18), the brothers imagined that Yosef plotted to kill them physically, spiritually, or both, in order that only he would survive as the blessed son. Since the Torah said, "one who tries to kill you, kill him first" (Sanhedrin 72a), they decided to kill Yosef.

Ultimately (37:28), they sold Yosef. Similarly, during Bayis Sheini, when Hasmonean kings quarreled they sold one another out to the Romans. This caused our present exile, just as selling Yosef caused the exile in Egypt (Shabbos 10b).

On Yom Kippur (Mussaf) we link the ten martyrs of Roman times with the ten brothers who sold Yosef. The Netziv (Meishiv Davar I, 42) writes that the dispute of that time between the Prushim and the Tzdukim led to the baseless hatred and illicit bloodshed. One who saw a fellow Porush sin would, because of sinas chinam, decree him a Tzduki and lower him (into a pit, see Avodah Zara 26b).

Writing in the late nineteenth century, the Netziv fears that one who sees a fellow observant Jew who serves Hashem in a different way will decree him a heretic. He will distance himself, and they will pursue (rodfim) one another permissibly according to their false imagination, chas veshalom.

The erroneous labeling of another Jew as a rodef, which existed in biblical, Roman and modern times, is a present danger as well. Notwithstanding the danger of anti-Zionist activities by Jews lobbying the governments of the U.S. and Israel, a direct and violent clash between the Jews themselves presents an even greater danger. Moreover, the ultimate decision of rulers in both countries is in Hashem's hands. By avoiding sinas chinam and respecting even Jews with whom we strongly disagree, we can earn Hashem's positive intervention (see Yerushalmi Peah 1:1, contrasting the armies of David and Achav) and hasten the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.

Moshe Feiglin: Legalization of Cannabis is part of my Program for Liberty

Miracles and Nature

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Parshat Bo begins (Shemot 10:1-2):

Hashem said to Moshe, "Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I can put these signs of Mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt ... that you may know that I am Hashem.

Miracles are the foundation of belief. Thus, G-d opened the Ten Commandments with the declaration, "I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt." (Shemot 20:2) We find, however, an apparent contradiction regarding the issue of miracles.

There are times that we are told to sit by passively and not to do anything, but rather to rely on miracles. For example, at the splitting of the Red Sea Bnei Yisrael were told, "Hashem shall make war for you, and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:13) Similarly, Gideon was told in his war against Midian that there were too many soldiers with him, "lest Israel aggrandize itself over Me, saying, ' My own strength has saved Me.'" (Shoftim 7:2) He maintained only three hundred men, and through them Israel was saved. In the same way, King Hezekiah said, in contrast to previous kings, "I do not have the strength neither to kill, nor to chase, nor to sing [praise]. Rather, I will lie on my bed and You will do. G-d said, 'I will do,' as it says, 'An angel of Hashem went out and struck down the Assyrian camp.'" (Midrash Rabbah Eichah 4)

On the other hand, we find that in the battle of Ai Yehoshua was required to take action and to employ military tactics. Similarly, we are familiar with the rule, "We do not rely on miracles." (Pesachim 64b)

Rav Kook zt"l explains that the resolution to this issue depends on the spiritual state of the nation. When Bnei Yisrael are on a high spiritual level and are firm in their belief in G-d, there is no need for overt miracles. The opposite is true; the greatest demonstration of faith is when one follows a natural course of human hishtadlut (endeavor) and Divine help accompanies him in whatever he does. The Ran writes this same idea in his Drashot, on the pasuk, "Remember Hashem, your G-d; that it was He that gave you strength to make wealth." (Devarim 8:18) The pasuk does not say that G-d makes the wealth for you while you sit idle, but rather all the doing is yours and Hashem supports you and gives you the strength to make the wealth!

In this vein, Chazal comment (Shabbat 118b), "One who recites the Hallel every day disgraces and blasphemes," because in doing so he bases belief only on overt miracles alone. However, true belief is recognizing the Divine assistance that is always present in all courses of nature. This is what we say in davening, "On your miracles that are with us every day, and on your wonders that are at every moment."

However, when the nation falls from its spiritual stature -- when it is preoccupied with materialism and does not see the hand of G-d in everything -- man's hishtadlut will not lead to belief. Just the opposite! The more he expends human effort, the more he will think, "My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth." (Devarim 8:17) In such a situation, it is necessary to increase the performance of miracles and to minimize human attempt and effort.

In the period of Egypt and the Wilderness, when the nation was young, there was a need for overt miracles in order to establish belief in Yisrael. However, when they entered Eretz Yisrael and were already accustomed to miracles, it was possible to rely on human effort and to see G-d's hand evident in it. In contrast, in the time of Gideon the nation had already sunk to a low spiritual level. The same was true in the times of Hezekiah, after his father, Achaz, tried to abolish the name of G-d from Yisrael. Thus, there was a need to refrain from human initiative and to rely on a miracle in order to strengthen belief.

The ultimate redemption can come in one of two ways. The first is miraculously, "As in the days when you left Egypt I will show it [=the nation] wonders." (Micha 7:15) The second is in a natural manner, "little by little." The superficial view is that if we are worthy we will merit overt miracles; if not, the redemption will come about through natural means. However, according to what we explained above, the opposite is true. In the ideal situation there is no need for miracles, and only if the nation declines will there be a need for miracles.

The Gemara in Yoma (29a) compares the miracles of Egypt and of the first Temple to night and Esther to dawn. "Just as dawn is the end of the night, so too Esther is the end of all miracles." When the dawn breaks there is no longer any need for a candle and it is possible to extinguish it. In the ultimate redemption there will be no need for miracles since there will be a great light, and the Divine Providence will be recognized also in the course of nature.

The Process of Redemption

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein 

Salvation and redemption do not come easily. In this week’s parsha the cost of Israel’s redemption is graphically detailed in the Torah. Though the major cost and punishment is meted out to the Egyptian Pharaoh and his nation, the oppressors and enslavers of the Jewish people, Midrash teaches us that the Jews also suffered great loss in this process of redemption and of gaining their freedom. According to certain midrashic opinion most of the Jews never were able to leave Egypt at all. Only a minority successfully followed Moshe out of the house of slavery. And ironically, even most of those who did leave Egypt would eventually be unable to live to see the promised land of Israel. Why must the process of redemption and independence be such a long and painful one?

After all, the Lord could certainly have made it much easier on all concerned. The obvious lesson is that freedom and redemption, both physical and spiritual, has little value if it is not hard won. That is the symbol of the blood on the doorposts that signaled the immediate moment of redemption. "And I [the Lord] said unto you: With your blood [and sacrifice] shall you live!" The rabbis interpreted the repetition of this phrase twice as referring to the paschal sacrifice and the blood of circumcision. Redemption is apparently meant to be hard won. It is not a gift that entails no cost. Becoming a Jew entails blood at the beginning of life. Becoming the truly free Jew that the Torah commands us to become entails lifelong sacrifice and the blood that this entails.

Our generation is also involved and absorbed in a struggle for redemption and salvation, both personal and national. This struggle has taken a great toll on our enemies but in a psychological and spiritual measure perhaps even a greater toll upon us. Much blood has been spilled in this struggle and, truth be said, no imminent success is yet visible to us. A great portion of world Jewry in the twentieth century did not survive to see the beginnings of our redemption and restoration to sovereignty in our ancient homeland. Many others have now faltered in their resolution to see it through until reaching the Promised Land. Whereas the Jews leaving Egypt had dominant figures such as Moshe and Aharon to lead and inspire them our times and situation lack such towering personalities. But that may be precisely what the rabbis meant when they stated; "We have no one that we can truly rely upon except for our Father in Heaven." Every generation experiences crises of faith and belief. Our generation which is witness to the death of all of the false ideals that permeated Jewish society over the past two centuries is truly left with no one to rely upon "except for our Father in Heaven." But the prophet has assured us that "as the time when you left Egypt, so too now will you witness wonders and greatness." The bitter and costly process of redemption is upon us. May we be privileged to see its successful completion with great speed and minimum pain.

Liberation Built on Self-Sacrifice

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l 

based on Siach Shaul, p. 217-8

The pasuk in Yechezkel (16:6), which we read in the Haggada, repeats the phrase, "In your blood you shall live." The midrash (P’sikta 17) says it refers to the blood of mila and the blood of Korban Pesach. We are forbidden to give the Korban Pesach to a non-Jew or to one who does not have a brit mila (Shemot 12:43,48). Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer says: "In the merit of the blood of brit mila and Korban Pesach, they were liberated from Egypt, and in the merit of the blood of brit mila and Korban Pesach, they will be liberated at the end of ‘the fourth kingdom.’"

The Korban Pesach represents the liberation. We are to eat roasted lamb with the whole family celebrating as a unit at an elaborate meal, on the one hand, and eat matza and maror to remember the past, as well. Only if, at the time of success, we remember the times of affliction, can we be sure that the light of success will not blind us. This is best accomplished when there is first a brit mila.
There are many who are ready to sacrifice for independence as long as that independence seems fit for posh festivities. At that point, one does not want to have to remember the past with its difficulties. One wants to see in the independent nation a new nation, in our case, not the same "Yiddelach" from the exile. A certain self-pride is born, as we see, with a hollow boastfulness, which can eventually turn into empty disregard for others. To combat that, we need the blood of mila. The independence of Israel is a chain of self-sacrifice, whose purpose is not to let us rest on our laurels. Indeed, one who is not circumcised cannot take part in the full Pesach celebration. Without a life of purity, independence can be dangerous.

This is what Chazal (Shemot Rabba 3:4) meant in saying that Bnei Yisrael went down to Egypt with the word "anochi," were taken out with the word "anochi," and will be redeemed at the end of time with "anochi" ("Alas, I (anochi) am sending you Eliya the Prophet"). Some think that one can be liberated without calling out in the name of Hashem (anochi), as the other nations can. Without anochi the hearts of the fathers are not lined up with the hearts of the sons (see Malachi 3:24). This is not only in regard to Torah observance but when things are done wrong, the younger generation will be disillusioned with that which their fathers cherished and fought for. We already see the emergence of youth who feel over-entitlement. That is because one who does not keep on a straight line, will grow increasingly crooked.

For the liberation at the end of the fourth liberation there is a need for preparation done by Eliyahu before the "day of Hashem" and "the offering of Yehuda and Yerushalyim like the days of the past." The navi (ibid. 4) referred to it in a double language that hints about the time of Moshe and the time of Shlomo (Vayikra Rabba 7:4). Both before the time of the particular national emergence (time of Moshe) and before the time that will usher in an era where all of mankind will learn from the Torah emanating from Zion (time of Shlomo) there is a need for Eliyahu to set the stage.

The Torah's Vision of Our National Role

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

1. Speaking Confidently 
2. Why the Plagues?
3. Unraveling a Mishna
4. Subtle Distinction
5. A Two-Fold Duty

At the opening of this week's Torah portion, God says to Moshe: "Come to Pharaoh, because I have hardened his heart so that I can multiply My miracles in his midst." Question: Why does God not simply say, "Go to Pharaoh?" or "Speak to Pharaoh"? To gain an insight into the answer to this question, we must first understand the predicament of the nation and its leader Moshe at this juncture.

Until now, the start of Parshat Bo, Pharaoh and his nation had already experienced seven major plagues, but had refused to give in and free the Jews. In this situation, many Jews had likely resigned themselves to the status quo, feeling that there was no point in really trying to convince Pharaoh to permit them to leave; it's possible that these doubts even trickled down to Moshe Rabeinu. In response, Hashem had to deliver words of encouragement, a statement that would clarify for them that all of the hardships blocking their immediate redemption were part of a Divine plan, that there was nothing to fear from Pharaoh. "Come before him - showing self-confidence, not as if you've been sent, forced to speak with him, but like someone who has come to fulfill his mission..."

At first glance, it seems that the plagues that befell the Egyptians constituted a punishment for their refusal to release the Children of Israel from bondage. Our sages tell us, however, that there was another reason for the Egyptian suffering: "The Egyptians were evil," say the rabbis, "as it says, 'I (Pharaoh) and my nation are wicked people.' What caused them to suffer each successive plague? They were firmly convinced of the power of their idolatrous gods to save them. So what did God do? He smote their gods along with them."

On the surface of things - from a purely human perspective - it is possible to offer various "political" explanations for the numerous wars that have erupted between Israel and the other nations throughout history. Just as one may understand the conflict with Egypt as a purely economic conflict (i.e. that Egypt did not want to lose all of its free, efficient manpower, its Israelite slaves.) there are those who would argue that our conflicts with other nations stem from economics, security, territory, and the like.

And yet our sages teach that such is not the case. The deeper roots of the war between Israel and the nations is not political or economic, but spiritual. The Jewish servitude in Egypt was merely a manifestation of the spiritual opposition that Egypt posed to everything that the nation of Israel represents. Therefore, it was not Egypt's desire to hold onto Israel that invited the plagues, but the Egyptians' certainty, their faith in their idolatry, that sparked their suffering.

In our day, too, the nations that rise up against Israel are, in practice, not trying to harm Israel per se, but, rather, so to speak- to harm the God of Israel. The Jewish national renaissance of the last 100 years contradicts the conviction that the Jews should have faded into insignificance, the dustbins of history. According to this view, God has "traded the Jews in" for another nation; He has rejected Israel and chosen others. Thus, our true struggle with other nations is a spiritual one. In response to their efforts to stand in the way of our fulfillment of our duty, we must be sure to raise our voices even more and call in the name of Hashem; we must, through our deeds, continue to prove our complete dedication to Him, and our devotion to the task of sanctifying God's name in the world. By following this plan, we will surely succeed in squelching our enemies: "They rely on their chariots and horses, and we shall call in the name of our God..."

The mishna in Tractate Berachot states:
"We recite [in the blessings for the Shma prayer] the passage dealing with the redemption from Egypt [even] at night. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria said: I am nearly 70 years old, and I never understood why the passage of the redemption of Egypt is recited at night; that is, until Ben Zomah arrived and explained the verse, "...so that you should remember the exodus from Egypt all of the days of your life." If it were only to have said, "the days of your life," I would have learned that the exodus need be recited in the daytime hours only. But the Torah says "All the days of your life." From this, I understand that the relevant passage should be recited during the entire 24 hour period of each day. The sages [disagreed] and said: "[If it had said,] 'the days of your life,' [I would have recited the exodus during] the present period in history. [Now that it says] 'all the days', [I understand that] the exodus will even be recited in Messianic times".

Rabbi Yechezkel Segal Landau points out that the above-quoted verse does not explicitly command us to recite verses dealing with the exodus; rather, it refers to the mitzvah as if it is was well-known, and then defines when it should be performed!

If so, Rabbi Landau asks, is the source in the Torah for the specific obligation to mention the exodus? In his answer, Rabbi Landau explains that there is no need for a special mitzvah (commandment) to teach us that God wants us to mention the exodus, since the main theme of numerous mitzvot is to remind us of the redemption from Egypt. Once we were commanded to adhere to these mitzvot, it is obvious that God wishes us to recount the exodus! This is also the possible reason for the fact that Maimonedes - Rambam - does not enumerate the mitzvah of mentioning the exodus as a separate commandment in his "Sefer Hamitzvot." ("Book of the Commandments")

Recalling the exodus from Egypt is more than just a private commandment; it is in fact related to the entire Torah, and all of the Torah's mitzvot. The exodus from Egypt was the first and most overwhelming manifestation of the chosenness of the Jewish people, of the fact that we are a nation treasured by the Creator of the World. This act of "choosing" us was unilateral, a Divinely-ordained reality that transcends the parameters of a particular mitzvah act. We are bidden to live this truth every waking moment. Thus, the fact that there is no separate mitzvah to recount the exodus, not only does not testify to the fact that there is no value to recounting the exodus, but is rather a testimony to the fact that the obligation to do so transcends the parameters of regular mitzvot.

An additional reason can be offered to why this mitzvah is missing from the Torah is that we are ecstatic to be the nation which God chose from among the other nations, and He imposed upon us to be the carriers of Hashem's ideas in this world. We announce: "Happy our we, how good is our portion, and how pleasant is our lot." We are not in need of a specific commandment that imposes upon us to remember the exodus. It is a pleasant obligation for us that obviates the need for a commandment.

According to Rabbi Yosef Babad, the author of the renowned "Minchat Chinuch," there is an important difference between the obligation to recall the exodus from Egypt during the daytime, and the obligation to recall it at night. In his view, since the mitzvah to recite it at night stems from a rabbinic "drasha" (derivation) and is not learned from the plain meaning of the Torah text., the obligation to recite it at night is not as serious as reciting it during the daytime. This point has great implications for a person who takes an oath not to recite the verse of the exodus from Egypt. Regarding all of the mitzvot of the Torah - there is a rule that a person cannot take an oath to refrain from performing a mitzvah, since he has already "been sworn in" at Mt. Sinai to fulfill all of the mitzvot, "and one oath cannot overwrite another." However, this is only true with respect to mitzvot explicitly mentioned in the Torah, but this is not true regarding mitzvot derived indirectly from the Torah - regarding which we were not specifically sworn in on Mt. Sinai. Therefore, when a person takes an oath that he will not recite the exodus verses during the daytime, his oath is invalid. In contrast, someone who takes an oath not to recite the exodus from Egypt at night, his oath is valid, and he must fulfil it.

At first blush, it seems as if that is the night-time recitation of the verses relating to the exodus should be considered the main mitzvah, since the night is when the miracles of the redemption took place. The author of the Passover Haggadah says: "And you should tell your son, saying...it is because of this [that God redeemed me from Egypt - at a time when matzah and bitter herbs are placed before you.] i.e. night." The Mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt -with all of the graphic symbols of the servitude and redemption - must be at a time when the exodus actually took place - at midnight. If so, why is it that, as far as recalling the exodus daily, the prime mitzvah is in the daytime.

To understand this paradox, we should remember that two obligations exist: the duty to tell the story of the exodus and the mitzvah of recalling the exodus. Telling the story involves the publicizing of the great miracles that God performed for Israel back then. The purpose of publicizing the miracles is two-fold: 1) To praise and bring splendor to God for his miracles and wonders; 2) To warn the other nations of the world who may be planning to rise up against Israel: Observe what happened to the first nation that tried to do so!

The exact time of the main redemptive miracles was midnight. Our sages ask: Why did Moshe say, in the name of God, that "around midnight, I will 'come out' in the midst of Egypt" - instead of being more specific and saying - "at midnight"? To this query, the rabbis answer: "Perhaps Pharoah's magicians would say: "Moshe is just making this all up." If the magicians' calculation of midnight came out differently than the calculation made by Moshe, God's name would be desecrated. If Moshe were to have said that God would smite the firstborn boys - and at "midnight" according to the magicians, the plague had not yet occurred, the world would have experienced a "Chilul Hashem" - a desecration of God's name.

Some of you may ask: Why should we care if the Egyptian sorcerers err? At most, a minute later, the plague of the first born would begin, and all of the first born Egyptian boys would have nevertheless been killed. If so, why the insistence on saying "about midnight"? We can, however, deduce one central theme from this discussion : God wants to ensure that there is no room for misunderstanding, even for a second regarding His power and the complete truth of his promise to redeem Israel.

Until midnight, the night is at its peak, and, mystically, the attribute of God's strict justice is operative. From midnight and onwards, the strength of the night begins to dissipate, and the Divine attribute of mercy begins to shine on earth. Exact midnight represents the moment of synthesis of judgement and compassion: God's judgement of the nations of the world, and His compassion for the nation of Israel. Herein lies both a hint and a warning to Israel’s enemies in future generations who seek to delay the redemption of our people: The moment of Israel’s redemption is a time of compassion for the Jewish people and of strict judgement for those that try to bring the redemption to a halt! In light of the above, the main obligation of telling the story of the exodus from Egypt is at night.

The recitation of the verses relating to the exodus, however, relates to the recognition of God’s having chosen the Jewish nation to be the carrier of the Divine idea in the world - and the Jewish separateness enables our nation to fulfill its role. This recognition must totally fill the being of every Jewish person. With all of his power, each Jew is called upon to recognize the unique part he must play as a member of the treasured nation. This mitzvah is therefore fittingly placed - when people can best internalize it - at the height of the day, when everyone is up, around, and fully conscious.

Israel's Moment of Decision

Netanyahu’s mantra this week has been that he doesn’t wish to surprise Trump with a big Israeli initiative.


Over the past week, we were given new evidence of what many assumed for years. Former president Barack Obama and his administration weren’t interested in bringing peace to the Middle East. They were interested in harming Israel.

Last Friday, Makor Rishon published an interview with former Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold. Gold told the paper that Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice once said, “Even if Israel and the Palestinians reach an accord, it’s possible that the US will oppose it.”

Rice said the US would oppose any deal that it felt didn’t do justice to the Palestinians.

Rice’s statement is significant not merely because it shows the depth of Obama’s hostility. It is important because it tells us the truth about the so-called “two-state solution.”

Rice’s statement showed that Western pressure for Israeli concessions to the PLO isn’t geared toward making peace between the parties at all. It is about retribution.

Obama’s anti-Israel vision of justice for the Palestinians was revealed in another story Gold told the paper.

Gold related that after Obama and his entourage left Israel following former president Shimon Peres’s funeral last September, Obama phoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Air Force One. He told Netanyahu that if he wants to have a funeral like Peres’s, he needs to get moving with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu responded that he has no interest in having a funeral like Peres’s, “because I have no intention of participating in my country’s funeral.”

In other words, Netanyahu told Obama that the US leader’s understanding of what Israel needs to do to bring justice to the Palestinians involves Israel ceasing to exist.

Today, as excitement abounds in Israel about the new, friendly administration of President Donald Trump, we must understand what we just went through with Obama.

Obama’s vision did not die with him. Thanks to his leadership, the Democratic Party is now anti-Israel.

The millions of protesters who took to the streets throughout the US last Saturday voiced their opposition to Israel with the same enthusiasm and passion as they voiced their support for open borders.

Moreover, the American establishment supported Obama’s positions. Obama’s hostile policies were roundly supported by the State Department’s permanent bureaucracy. The diplomats who worked with Obama are still in place.

So, too, the Washington establishment, including US Jewish leaders, still support Obama’s policy of backing the PLO against Israel.

Immediately after Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that they approved plans to build 2,500 apartments for Jews in the so-called settlement blocs, David Harris, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, condemned the move as “not helpful.”

Harris gave a public relations victory to those who reject the very notion of Jewish civil and national rights, by proclaiming that the announcement of building permits, “alas, could hand anti-Israel forces a PR victory.”

Harris was joined in his campaign against Jewish property rights by former US negotiator Dennis Ross.

Ross published an article in the New York Daily News where he argued that Trump should limit his support for Jewish property rights to the so-called “settlement blocs.” In so arguing, Ross invited Trump to reject the property rights of 100,000 Israelis who don’t live in the so-called blocs. Ross effectively called for the new president to support a plan that would require their mass expulsion from their homes and the destruction of their communities.

Ross’s fellow mediators used the past week or so to lobby against Trump’s plan to keep his promise to move the US Embassy to Israel’s capital city. Speaking to The New York Times, David Makovsky, who was a member of former secretary of state John Kerry’s negotiating team, and Aaron David Miller, who served as Ross’s deputy in the Clinton years, both said that Trump should not move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Their comrade Martin Indyk wrote an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this month where he argued snidely that Trump should move the embassy to Jerusalem and simultaneously announce his plan to open a second US embassy in Jerusalem for the state of “Palestine.”

Last Wednesday, Trump he told Israel Hayom that he intended to keep his campaign promise to move the embassy. The next day Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters to “stay tuned” on the embassy move, intimating that an announcement could come as early as Trump’s first day in office.

On his first full day in office, Trump moved boldly to overturn Obama’s policies. He signed executive orders that effectively ended Obama’s environmental and health policies.

But he ignored Jerusalem. And Spicer made clear that the early plan to move quickly on the embassy has been abandoned. At his press briefing Spicer wouldn’t even commit to moving the embassy before the end of Trump’s term of office.

In other words, the Washington establishment won and Israel lost.

To be sure, the peace processors and the leftists weren’t alone in their opposition to the embassy move. The Arabs also voiced their disapproval.

PLO CHAIRMAN Mahmoud Abbas and his deputies threatened to open a new terrorist offensive against Israel and destabilize the Middle East if Trump kept his promise. Jordan’s King Abdullah reportedly threatened to withdraw his ambassador from Israel and suspend his security ties with Israel. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reportedly voiced opposition to the planned move as well.

But as former CIA director Gen. David Petreaus said during his visit to Israel this week, in recent years, the Palestinian issue, which was once the top concern Arab leaders voiced in their meetings with US officials, became a minor issue for them.

In an interview with Breitbart this week, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said that while moving the embassy “would… necessitate a lot of active diplomacy to calm down people who might be concerned about it,” reneging on Trump’s promise would be tantamount to “allowing other people, in other countries, to tell us… where we put our embassy.”

Trump’s abrupt about-face on the embassy move makes clear that now is no time for Israel to tread lightly.

To the contrary. As the government takes the first steps toward forging its relationship with the new administration, two basic truths need to inform its decisions.

First, in light of the hostility of the US Left and establishment alike to the notion that Israel is America’s ally, and given the speed with which Trump backed away from his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the only way Israel can expect to be treated with respect is to command respect. And you can’t command respect when you beat around the bush about your vital interests and rights.

Second, Israel cannot expect Trump to abandon Obama’s hostile policies in relation to the Palestinians if it doesn’t abandon them first.

This means Netanyahu must heed his government ministers’ calls to abandon the two-state paradigm.

So long as Netanyahu continues to support PLO statehood even to a limited degree, he gives legitimacy to the wholly anti-Israel PLO narrative.

Right after Trump was elected, government ministers from Bayit Yehudi and the Likud implored Netanyahu to abandon the two-state formula and apply Israeli law to Area C in Judea and Samaria. Under pressure from Netanyahu, who himself was under pressure from Obama, the ministers quickly ended their calls.

Obama’s decision to enable the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 2234 brought the two-state paradigm to its inevitable conclusion. The resolution criminalized Israel and legitimized Palestinian terrorists.

After the UN resolution passed, and as Trump’s inauguration approached, the ministers renewed their calls to end support for Palestinian statehood and replace the two-state paradigm with the paradigm of Israeli sovereignty.

But pressured by Netanyahu, they scaled back their calls for Israeli administration of Judea and Samaria to a minimalist call to apply Israeli law to the city of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Over the weekend, calls for action grew louder. But on Sunday, just as Trump was backtracking on the embassy move, Netanyahu prevailed on his ministers to postpone consideration of their bill on Ma’aleh Adumim.

Netanyahu exhorted them to allow him to run Israel’s policy toward the Palestinian and toward the Trump administration. Netanyahu’s mantra this week has been that he doesn’t wish to surprise Trump with a big Israeli initiative. He insists that a new policy toward the Palestinians needs to be coordinated with the US administration.

Netanyahu also says that he continues to support a Palestinian state. But his vision involves establishing a state too weak to threaten Israel.

Trump’s sudden about-face on Jerusalem shows the weakness of Netanyahu’s gradual and careful approach. As Netanyahu preached caution, Israel’s opponents in the US worked hand in glove with the Palestinians to draw Trump into the anti-Israel logic of the “two-state” policy.

The situation isn’t lost. Even as he backtracked on Jerusalem, Trump has taken other steps that make clear that he really is a friend of Israel.

Due in large part to the UN’s hostility toward Israel, Trump moved resolutely to scale back US support for the UN. Trump also overturned Obama’s last minute decision to give the Palestinian Authority $221 million.

But so long as Trump continues to make establishing a Palestinian state the goal of US policy, including indirectly by failing to move the embassy to Israel’s capital city, Democrats and the Washington establishment will be able to keep on undermining Israel. They will point to Trump’s continued if indirect support for Palestinian statehood as an excuse to continue to require Israel to prefer the positions of terrorists sworn to its destruction over its national interests, in order to “preserve the two-state policy,” or “enhance prospects for peace.”

Moreover, so long as he supports the “two-state policy,” every supportive move Trump makes will be easily reversed by a successor administration. And it would be irresponsible, indeed reckless, for Israel to assume that Trump and the Republicans will maintain the upper hand in US politics indefinitely.

Eight years ago when Obama took office, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Pundits were near unanimous in the view that the Democrats would remain in power for a generation as the Republicans, smarting from their losses were fractured and leaderless.

Two years later, the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and for the final six years of his presidency, Obama was unable to get his policies through Congress.

Netanyahu is right. Israel shouldn’t surprise Trump.

But Israel must move immediately to take advantage of the time it has with Trump in power, and with the Republicans in control of Congress to ensure our interests in Judea and Samaria and to rally Trump to support our policies.

Time is of the essence. The one Obama legacy that is most likely to be lasting is his transformation of the Democratic Party into an anti-Israel party. His deep hostility toward Israel will likely be shared by his partisan successors.

And again, as Israel treads lightly, its opponents scored a victory.

If Netanyahu doesn’t seize the moment, the opportunity we have today will quickly slip away.

Vox Day Interviews Moshe Feiglin

VOX DAY: There are a lot of political parties in Israel. Why was another one necessary? What does Zehut offer the Israeli voter that Likud and Labor do not?

MOSHE FEIGLIN: Both sides, Likud and Labor, do not focus on the basic Jewish concept, which is liberty. The basic message of Judaism is liberty. As we know, the Founding Fathers of the United States based their deepest concepts on the Bible and the Jewish prophets. This message is very much needed in Israel. It is needed for Israel to become, not just another state, but a real Jewish state that brings to the world those old/new concepts. Otherwise, Israel will lose its identity and the meaning for its existence, and it will also start to lose its legitimacy. I believe the international community is actually waiting, longing, for some kind of a serious message that will come out from this wonderful, unusual experience where the oldest nation in the world is coming back to its homeland. The entire world is supposed to benefit from this, to achieve something from this beyond just another state in the world that is modern and democratic. Humanity is waiting for something deeper than that from us.

VD: You’re often described as being liberty-minded, even as a libertarian. What does that mean in a historically socialist state such as Israel?

MF: That’s exactly the point! The social concepts that were the basic roadmap of Israel’s founders in 1948, in the three first decades of Israel, those concepts are not Jewish concepts. With all due respect to the kibbutz and all the socialists’ ideas, these are not Jewish ideas. The basic Jewish ideas are freedom and liberty. There is also the frame of the Jewish values of mercy, and taking care of each other, and responsibility to society, but these should not be state regulations. They should be more of a national culture that has to be developed in the community. We know that in states that are more free and more capitalist, the situation of the poor is much better than in socialist states. So, there is no contradiction between freedom and humanity.

VD: What is the most serious challenge facing Israel today, and what is your plan for addressing that challenge?

MF: I think the most serious and important challenge, the crucial challenge, I would say, is to connect between Jewish identity and Israeli identity. Despite being very strong today, Israel must meet that important challenge or risk losing its legitimacy and ability to continue. The challenge is to create a modern state in a modern world, very technological, very democratic, and very open-minded on one hand, and very connected to Jewish identity and Jewish culture on the other hand. And I think the only way to do it is to take the state out of the picture as much as we can. The state should be as small as can be and leave an open space without interfering with the synergy between the population, the interaction between religious and non-religious, the synergy between Jews who came from the East and Jews who came from the West. Something big is going on, through which the whole world will enjoy the cultural and spiritual fruits. We have much more to give the world than just technology and medicine. This will only happen if the state will stop interfering, if the gun of the State will be taken off the middle of the table and Israelis will be free to develop their culture with free interactions with each other. And, of course, it also goes to the economy. Israel can be very successful, the richest country in the world, in my opinion, but the involvement of the government in the economy is still one of the worst in the OECD. We’re very far away from a free economy. There are so many regulations. The size of the government is enormous.

VD: You talked about the division between Israeli identity and Jewish identity, and the need to bring those two concepts together? Do you see any potential problem in the way Jews are perceived to be pro-immigration and anti-identity in the West while being anti-immigration and pro-identity in Israel?

MF: Look, Israel is probably the most open state to immigration to ever exist, maybe even more than America. I think Israel is the only state in the history in the world that sends its troops to Africa to bring black people to be its citizens instead of being its slaves. I’m speaking of the Jews from Ethiopia. We’re definitely not racist and we’re definitely a great example of a state that has opened its doors to immigration in a very successful way. However, this is a Jewish state and we have to maintain its identity, not lose it. Therefore, being that Israel is based on the Jewish identity – it’s a Jewish state, it’s not a state of all its citizens – we have to be very careful when we’re dealing with those questions of immigration.

VD: What would a long-term peace in the Middle East look like? Is there any possibility for genuine peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, or is this a situation more akin to the Cold War, which only time can resolve in its own fashion.

MF: You may be surprised, but I’m very optimistic. The reason for the conflict is that Israeli society did not make clear to itself what is our identity. I know for a fact, from talking to Arab members of the Knesset about the situation here in the Middle East that the reason why the Arabs do not accept the Israeli state is that they don’t see the new Israelis, the Zionists, those who are trying to create a new identity instead of the Jewish identity, they don’t see them as real Jews who belong to the region. Therefore they don’t accept them. I was talking to an Arab Knesset member once, and he told me, “with you, I will manage, because you belong here.” It’s not a territorial conflict, it’s a cultural conflict. I think that the wars we have around us, and against us, are a reflection of the identity war we have inside Israeli society. Once that inner war is settled, we’ll be able to make peace with our neighbors. It’s just like somebody who is fighting with himself all the time, he will also fight with his neighbors. It’s true for individuals and it’s true for nations. There was never a Palestinian nation, there was never a Palestinian state. That’s all one big lie. If, God forbid, Israel would disappear one day, immediately, the word “Palestinian” would disappear as well. When the Gaza Strip, or Judea-Samaria, or parts of the land of Israel were held by the Egyptian army, or by the Jordanian army, you never heard any voices calling for those pieces of land to be given back to the so-called Palestinians. They will always fight for a Palestinian state on the square inch where the Jew is standing. In order to solve the conflict, we need to start saying the truth. The truth is that the land of Israel is a Jewish land, it belongs to the Jews more than any piece of land on Earth belongs to any other nation, and they have more historical right to it than any other nation. We have to be ourselves. When we hide from our identity, we open the door to these demands and these wars.

VD: What should Israel’s position on Syria be? Was overturning the Assad government a legitimate and reasonable objective for the Obama administration? Should the West be involving itself in regime change in the Middle East?

MF: Israel is the strongest state in the region. When a humanitarian crisis, like what’s taken place in Syria, is happening right on our border, I don’t think Israel, as a Jewish state representing moral values, can stand aside and see vast massacres taking place. I don’t want our soldiers going in and getting involved with that war, of course. However, I think that a long time ago, Israel should have set up a safe zone, protected by the air force and artillery, where citizens running away from murderers, whether it is Assad, ISIS, DAESH, or whoever, can be safe. There should have been that kind of humanitarian involvement from Israel. Because Israel did not do that, we saw other forces come into the vaccuum, and they only escalated the violence.

VD: Is Iran a significant threat to Israel? Why should the various threats made by Iranian officials from time to time be taken any more seriously than, for example, Saddam Hussein’s threats preceding Desert Storm?

MF: I think that 70 years after the Holocaust, we should take very, very seriously every big state with a leader saying “I want to kill the Jews.” Today, the Jews are represented by the State of Israel. When you say you want to destroy Israel, you want to destroy the Jews. So we’re talking about a new Hitler. Was it good that the original Hitler was not taken seriously in the mid-1930s? So, yes. The answer is yes, the Iranian regime should be taken seriously. I think what Obama did was not any different than what Chamberlain did in the Munich agreement. The horrendous results of that are still ahead of us. I expected Netanyahu to deal with Iran exactly how Begin did with Iraq. Unfortunately, he did not have the courage to do so, and he got America involved. He transferred responsibility to the Americans, and that’s why we got this horrible agreement. And that’s why we are going to need to deal with the results of that later on.

VD: Jews are often, understandably, concerned about the Holocaust. But do you think there is a diminishing effect of appealing to the Holocaust, considering that it is beyond the living memory of most people today? How can anyone expect the Holocaust to make any difference to, say, the Chinese, who killed 50 million of their own people? Why would they care more about an order of magnitude fewer Jews being killed 70 years ago than they do about themselves?

MF: It’s a very important question. I agree with you 100 percent. When I’m talking about the Holocaust, I don’t think that it is something Israel needs to wave before the entire world, not at all. I don’t like that every VIP who comes to Israel is taken to Yad Vashem. Not at all! I’m not looking to embarrass anyone about the Holocaust and I don’t base Israel’s right to exist on the Holocaust. When I bring it up, I am saying that we, Israel, have to remember our own experience. When the head of a serious state, 60 million civilians, a member of the UN, with a serious army, talks about destroying Israel, we should believe him. I’m not turning to the Americans, or the Russians, or anyone else, to help me. I’m reminding myself that I should learn from my own experience. The right of Israel to exist is not Yad Vashem. The right of Israel to exist is not the recent past. The right to exist, and to flourish, is the message that the Jewish nation still needs to enlighten the entire world, and to help it flourish from Zion. This is our point. It is a positive point, not a negative one.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Who is the Religious Fanatic? A Torah Thought for Parashat Vaeira

By Moshe Feiglin

“For if you refuse to let them go, and hold them still, behold, the hand of G-d is upon your cattle which are in the field, upon the horses, upon the donkeys, upon the camels, upon the herds, and upon the flocks; there shall be a very grievous disease. And G-d shall make a division between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt; and there nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.. And G-d appointed a set time, saying: ‘Tomorrow G-d shall do this thing in the land.’ And G-d did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the children of Israel not one died.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Va’eirah, Exodus 9:2-6)

We can easily understand Pharaoh’s insistence on keeping the Jewish slave-nation in Egypt as the determination of a dictator intent on maintaining the existing regime’s order. The liberation of the Nation of Israel would certainly destabilize the entire Egyptian hierarchy and would eventually cost him his throne and probably, his head. Archeological research points to the fact that this is indeed what happened to Pharaoh after the Jews were liberated from Egypt.

The verses, however, point to a more underlying struggle; a conflict over the very recognition of the G-d of Israel. “And Pharaoh sent and behold, not one of Israel’s livestock had died.” (Exodus 9:7) Pharaoh remains obstinate, but nevertheless wants to know if the plague really did skip over the Jews. In other words, not only is Pharaoh determined not to follow G-d’s orders, he is also determined not to believe in Him!

One could possibly think that Pharaoh’s ruling position had made him so obstinate. But as the story unfolds, we see that even among the simple Egyptians, some believed in G-d and others did not – despite the plagues that they endured. Some of the Egyptians were so blindly stubborn that they did not even heed an exact, time-defined warning issued by the man who had foreseen all the previous plagues. These Egyptians were willing to endanger all their possessions when they could have easily brought them indoors.

Those of Pharaoh’s servants who feared G-d made his servants and flocks scurry into the houses. But those who did not heed the word of G-d, left their servants and flocks in the field. (Exodus 9:20-21) How can this lack of faith be explained? Would anybody we know today be willing to endanger his life and possessions in the face of explicit warnings issued by those who have already proven that they are connected to reality?

The Egyptians continued to believe in their religion. They attached some sort of idolatrous explanation to each of the plagues. They had their own magicians to face off against Moses’ staff. True, Moses’ staff defeated the Egyptian staffs, but the bottom line was that the idolatry belief system emerged unscathed in their eyes.

There are Israelis today who “do not heed G-d’s word” and continue to believe in their own religion. They are determined to continue with the Oslo process. It makes no difference at all that all the plagues foreseen by those who “fear G-d’s word” were completely fulfilled. It does not matter that they see with their very own eyes how their belief produces raging Arab violence on the one hand and the loss of Israel’s existential legitimacy on the other. All this, mind you, without “peace.” It simply makes no difference. Their religious fanaticism is strong enough to allow them to continue to suffer and to bring this suffering on their Nation. To understand the Egyptians, all that you have to do is listen to the news.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Beating Heart of the Land of Israel

By Moshe Feiglin

The Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth. It is the place chosen by the G-d of Israel from which to rest His Divine Presence throughout the world. This is the place that connects the physical with the metaphysical; the place where Adam was created and Isaac was bound. It is the place where life and the Nation of Israel were molded, the place where our First and Second Temples stood. Just as most of the prophecies about the Return to Zion have already miraculously been fulfilled, so the rest of them will be realized. When the time comes, our Third Temple will dwell on the Temple Mount for eternity.

The Temple Mount is the beating heart of the Land of Israel. Famous Israeli poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg accurately described the Temple Mount as the yardstick of Israeli sovereignty in the entire Land. When we lose our hold on the Mount, the heart becomes ill; circulation weakens and the organs suffer. When Israel transfers control of the Mount to the Jordanian wakf, Jerusalem becomes divided once again and Israel's cities become the target of missiles – a scenario that nobody would have imagined just a few years ago. There is a direct connection between the abandonment of the Temple Mount and the deterioration of the legitimacy for the very existence of a Jewish State anywhere in the Land of Israel. This approach has reared its head in the most respected and enlightened states.

When with our actions we declare that we have no connection to the Temple Mount, the world says the same at UNESCO. And when the world says it, the legitimacy of our hold on the Land is lost. When we lose the legitimacy of our hold on the Land, it becomes legitimate to attack us and illegitimate for Israel to defend herself. Surrender of the Temple Mount does not prevent war; it incites it. The "strategy" of Israeli administrations since the Six Day War has been to evade the actualization of Israeli sovereignty on the Mount and to pass on the "problem" to future generations. This "strategy" has brought about a continued depreciation in Jerusalem's status, to its essential re-division and to the transfer of most of the sovereignty at the heart Israel's capital – on the Temple Mount – to the Jordanian wakf. Today, places in East Jerusalem where Jewish children used to play safely are now void of Jews; it is impossible to build a home in Jerusalem without the personal authorization of the Prime Minister and UNESCO is turning Israel's practical policy into a principled international decision, determining that there is no connection between Israel and the Temple Mount.

The decision to give the keys to the Mount to the Moslems immediately upon its liberation was cited as diplomatic insight and the "realpolitik" acumen of Six Day War Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. But the truth is that Dayan's actions were not born of necessity; it was his strategy. Prior to that, in the War of Independence, a planned strategy brought about the fall of the Jewish Quarter and the loss of an opportunity to liberate the Temple Mount and Judea and Samaria. Before the Six Day War, Dayan (and the minsters of the National Religious Party) were against liberating the Old City. Even Paratrooper Division Commander Mota Gur, who conquered the Temple Mount, was sure that it would shortly return to Jordan.

Israeli-ness did not want the "whole Vatican" – in the words of Moshe Dayan. Religious-ness also didn't want the Mount, which returns the Torah from the personal-religion dimension of the Exile to the national-culture dimension. This is the deep reason for today's ultra-Orthodox opposition to the return of Jews to the Temple Mount. There is nothing more anti-"religious" and anti-exile than the Temple and the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem is a reflection of the identity conflict raging within Israeli society. It is the conflict between Israeli identity and Jewish identity. The Mount was abandoned by Israel and Jerusalem is being divided because the Israeli/Religious identity is fleeing the return to the Jewish/cultural identities. The return to the Mount is the connection between those cultures.

The Arabs are not the reason; they are simply the means in this internal conflict. Jerusalem does not appear even once in the Koran. When the Moslems are on the Mount, they bow southward to Mecca and turn their backsides to the Dome of the Rock and the site of the Holy of Holies.

Israel sanctifies the Mount to the Moslems so that it can run away from itself. The result is the loss of the bedrock foundation for the justification of our existence in the entire Land of Israel – and the turning of humanity against us. By sanctifying the Mount for the Moslems, Israel brings war upon itself.