An open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Bibi, times remain challenging. As an ardent supporter of Israel, let me respectfully offer a few comments. Because while you’re correct that a significant segment of Palestinians promotes the destruction of Israel, the best strategy Israel can adopt is that of a peace seeker. Before you throw your hands in the air, note that I didn’t say victim.
Let’s start with the recent murders at Jerusalem’s Har Nof synagogue. Five Israelis—four Jews and one Druze—were killed. It was heinous. Hamas’ supportive comments and Palestinian distribution of candies to celebrate reflect grave moral impoverishment. But destroy the homes of the murderers? Bar Israeli-Arab citizens from their construction jobs as the mayor of Ashkelon did yesterday? And build new settlements while we’re at it? That won’t stir the cauldron and bring more violence? Israel won’t look as mindless as many Palestinians do on a daily basis?
Yes, you want to show leadership. But when you embrace the right, you don’t lead. You follow. You say you support a two-state solution, as do I. Why not speak out when Economy Minister Naftali Bennett promulgates his plan to offer Palestinians limited autonomy, not a state—and only in part of the West Bank?
It hurts me to disagree with Naftali. He’s my cousin Maxine’s nephew. I certainly understand Naftali’s concerns. But his plan sounds reasonable only if you’re an Israeli. A one-state strategy will only provoke continuation—and escalation—of the conflict. Not that I believe that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is an effective peace partner. He doesn’t have the beitzim—or as they say in Spanish, cojones.
And you? You’ve said Israel is willing to make major concessions for peace? What concessions? Why not announce them and let Abbas struggle to respond? Why not show the world, including many of Israel’s friends expressing doubts, that Israel is willing to walk the bilateral walk?
Why play up to rightists like the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson? At a recent Israeli-American Council gathering, he took the position that Israel can freely ignore the rights of its Arab population in the present or an expanded state. “So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what?” Adelson said. Really?
Look, Bibi, I’m not suggesting that Israel compromise its security. Hitting back at Hamas last summer? I supported you. Preventing Jews from praying on the Temple Mount (security personnel even took a pair of candles from my wife when we went there) to keep order regardless of how one-sided the Muslim position? Prudent.
But let’s make sober choices in response to attacks rather than flailing wildly. Make clear to the world the truth it often willfully dismisses—that Israel is a boon to the global community, and that when we say we want peace, we mean it.
I’m not naïve. World opinion alone won’t safeguard Israel. But leveraging world opinion instead of circling the wagons can help. Over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” That’s wisdom worthy of the Talmud.
I’ll be taking off for Thanksgiving weekend. My next post will appear on Friday, December 5.
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