By Larry Gordon
You may have seen the story this week about former President Bill Clinton traveling to Israel in the next week or so in order to deliver the keynote address at Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday party. Clinton, according to reports, will be paid $500,000 by the Jewish National Fund for a 45-minute presentation at the gala on June 17.
Here’s a question that needs to be dealt with in a thoughtful and intelligent manner between now and then: Has someone at the JNF, or whoever is involved with this, flipped their lid? Did we read that right? Someone here in the U.S. Jewish organizational infrastructure is paying the former president a half million dollars to lavish the alleged peacemaker Peres with praises that will most likely reach the stratosphere? I would say that for $500,000 Clinton better have some pretty nice things to say about Mr. Peres.
Listen, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s party, especially such a wonderful milestone as a 90th birthday for a man who has tried with great diligence to do his best and bring honor and peace to the State of Israel. But what exactly is going on here? The Peres contribution of the Oslo accords of two decades ago has been one of the biggest disasters inflicted upon Israel in her 65 year history. Over 1,000 Israeli men, women, and children have been murdered in the most wanton and gruesome manner courtesy of the Peres-hatched Oslo plan.
The Oslo plan was intended to bring peace to Israel, but not through any great imaginative or creative formula that both sides could live by and live with. The pseudo-ingenious approach of Oslo was for Israel to give large tracts of real estate away on which the Arabs would create a Palestinian state in exchange for Yasser Arafat’s promise to try and curtail terrorism. Maybe Arafat tried, but it is most likely he did the opposite. The end of the story is that Israel withdrew its forces from many Arab towns around Judea and Samaria which were hotbeds of terror, and this was simply interpreted as Jewish weakness and an affirmation that Israel was on the run and it was therefore a good time to attack.
By almost all accounts of modern day historians, Oslo was something between a serious miscalculation and an abysmal failure. But that has not stopped Shimon Peres from touting the plan as the only workable solution to the current ongoing diplomatic fencing between Israelis and Palestinians. As he reaches this milestone and festively marks its arrival, he still crazily clings to his great plan that accomplished little except project an image of Israel as weak—and of course won Mr. Peres the Nobel Peace Prize along with the $1 million award attached to the trophy.
If they are paying a half million dollars for a Clinton speech at his big bash, my guess is that they are also going to have some extraordinarily good cake as well. Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
When the Iran-Iraq war broke out in about 1980 or so, I remember the rabbi in the shul I belonged to in Brooklyn during that period speaking about the war from the pulpit. He said in Yiddish, “Zey zol beydar zayn matzliach.” Translated, that means, “They should both enjoy great success.” And on that basis all we can do is sit back and admire the tenacious battles taking place today in places like Syria and on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey.
It is no coincidence that both of these war-torn locales are not exactly good friends of Israel, and if they could have their way they would obviously direct their violent angst at Israel. The prolonged Syrian civil war has been going on for a couple of years with many tens of thousands of Syrians murdered. Last week I saw a news special where the reporter said that somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 civilians have been killed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. That’s give or takes 10,000 murdered people that no one is certain about. Is that how meaningless and expendable life is for Syrians in Syria today?
That is also probably why when 42 Syrian soldiers were killed earlier this year when the Israel Air Force eliminated a missile storage facility it did not cause much of a stir. Forty-two fatalities are definitely within the margin of error of an average day in Syria under Mr. Assad’s rule.
The violence ongoing in Syria, the current brewing unrest in Turkey, and the street demonstrations now stirring in Iran are the greatest blessings for Israel. It is a gift from Above when the enemies of the Jewish people turn on themselves. It is not dissimilar to the ancient uprising in Egypt when the firstborn became aware that the final Divine plague was going to be a prehistoric drone strike that was going to cause death and destruction throughout the land. The firstborn Egyptians revolted and fought Pharaoh’s regime causing great destruction on both sides. So great was this event that it has been observed for the last several thousand years as Shabbos HaGadol. These are indeed both great and hopeful days.
Moving To Jerusalem
In 1995, the U.S. Congress passed a law that says that the United States Embassy in Israel should be relocated to the Jewish state’s capital—Jerusalem. A provision in the law gave the President of the United States the right to waive the application of the law if he deemed it necessary for national security purposes. To remain in effect, this waiver needs to be re-invoked every six months by the sitting president, and so far, without fail, for the last 18 years, every six months, compliance with the federal law has been waived.
The latest six-month period ended on June 4, and President Obama did not disappoint; he invoked the waiver right on schedule just as all the other presidents did before him. Actually, he did disappoint many, including this writer, by not having the courage for a president so determined to do the right thing, and actually, for a change, do the right thing and finally move the embassy to Jerusalem.
Of course that would cause a great furor and probably lead to all kinds of rioting, murders, vandalism, and terrorism throughout the Arab world. U.S. embassies and consulates would come under attack in probably every Arab country except Libya—where it was already attacked and destroyed last year.
But can we really fault Barack Obama for not doing the right thing considering that Israel’s best friend ever in the White House—George W. Bush—refused the move, as did Bill Clinton before him? Have you ever wondered why Congress creates laws with a provision that says that we do not have to invoke or adhere to the law?
The letter from the White House Press Secretary’s office that is printed here with this article says that the President has “determined that it is necessary in order to protect the national security interests of the United States to suspend for a period of six months the limitations set forth,” by the law.
There is probably no greater potentially volatile issue today than the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. If any U.S. president had the courage to make the move, it would be both an indulgence in honest diplomatic maneuvering and could potentially set the area on a course toward real peace.
The U.S., however, functions today as if a Palestinian state has already been established and that Jerusalem is its capital. This is clearly evidenced at the U.S. Consulate building, located on Agron Street just down that very congested and steep hilly roadway leading down from King George Street to the Old City. Those who reside or stay in Rechavya when in Israel know it well. It’s the heavily guarded building with a constant plethora of official SUV’s parked outside. If you are an American Jew living or visiting Israel and need to deal with a governmental or diplomatic matter, you must travel to the embassy in Tel Aviv to deal with it. The consulate on Agron is for the almost exclusive use of the Arab population in Jerusalem.
So you might be wondering, if this edifice and its staff is there to serve the Arab population, then why isn’t it located in an Arab sector of the city or perhaps even in Eastern Jerusalem. The answer is that the U.S. considers those heavily Arab-populated areas too dangerous for their staffs to work in. Be mindful of the fact that it is not too dangerous for Israel to cede an entire half of the city to the same people. It’s just too dangerous for U.S. personnel to go to work there even though it is guarded by a heavily armed security detail.
This is no way to get things done. Without honesty and integrity how does anyone in this process expect to achieve peace? v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.