By Larry Gordon
What is it that has everyone petrified by the Palestinian Authority’s threat to take its case to the United Nations if Israel does not release the latest group of murderers being held in Israel’s jails? It looks like we may find out fairly soon.
The Arab hope is to damage Israel’s international stature by aggressively introducing resolutions condemning the Jewish state—resolutions that will consistently be passed into rather weak international law that will be little more than an annoyance for Israel. The true objective is to draw Israel into the International Criminal Court and accuse it of usurping or at least illegally occupying what the Arabs feel is their land in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.
Even if Israel follows through on releasing the final batch of killers planned to be set free as part of the current talks, it is only a short-term patch, and the wound will rupture once again with the Arabs threatening to do the same thing again. Unfortunately, the only way this current situation is going to be resolved is either by Israel succumbing to all of the intractable Palestinian demands or going back to the pre-Oslo Accord years and have Israel militarily take over all of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as well. If the Arabs want to scream, yell, and protest about being occupied, Israel might as well at least have a true presence in all the entire territory.
There are two things going on here. One is that those on the Arab side have an unmitigated disdain for anything Jewish. Second, even perhaps more interesting is the fact that no one—including the Palestinian leadership—really wants a Palestinian state or a so-called two-state solution. Under the status quo, they take in billions of dollars with little responsibility and almost no accountability on how the money is used.
Additionally, though they talk a big game, those on the Arab side do not want to pursue sanctions against Israel—though they say they do—because those moves will be reciprocated accordingly in rather painful economic ways from a variety of directions. The short-term goal here this week was to kick the can down the road and to get these processes out of the way of Barack Obama and John Kerry. That may or may not be happening, as the situation seems to change every few hours.
I asked Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, who formerly served Israel as Minister for Congressional Affairs in Washington, for an analysis of the PA’s threat to go to the UN. He replied that a responsible government would be preoccupied with engaging members of Congress—which controls the power of the purse— in planning a series of legislative steps “to punish the PA for its hate education, systematic violation of the Oslo Accords, and its potential dealings with the UN and other international organizations (which further violate the Oslo Accord).” For example, financial assistance to the PA could be suspended. “Additional legislation should be in the pipeline concerning the denial of U.S. funding from any international agency which would collaborate with the PA in the violation of the Oslo Accord,” says Ettinger. “A responsible Israeli government would have a series of long overdue steps initiated with regards to PA violation of Oslo, as well as the PA failure to pay for services received from Israel (e.g., electricity, telephone, water, etc.). Such steps should change the status quo in areas C and B and possibly A, certainly in Jerusalem and overall construction in these areas.”
There will indeed be trying times ahead that will mandate that Israeli leadership summon up some courage and make the bold moves that will be necessary to deal with a corrupt and devious opponent. It is simple to go so far and say that the Arab side knows that it is hypocritical and corrupt, but that is the nature of their business and who they essentially are and they are comfortable in that role.
Most importantly, and if nothing changes in the interim, the new deal includes the on-again, off-again release of Jonathon Pollard from his American prison cell just in time for Pesach. While it is indeed a personal relief for Pollard and his family, the move represents so much more for the overall American Jewish community. Pollard has been kept in prison for 30 years not because of what he did, but rather because of what we do every day. And that is the pressure we as a community bring to bear on the administration that would simply prefer to have its way and steamroll over Israel.
Let me add that I attended the three-day AIPAC Policy Conference a few weeks ago in Washington DC, and though great support for Israel was oratorically demonstrated by many, the name Pollard was not mentioned once. Granted that he was a spy. But no other spy—even those convicted of spying for China or the old Soviet Union—has ever served more than 10 years in jail. Pollard has been locked up for almost 30 years. Equating the release of Pollard with that of murderers held in Israel’s prisons is an additional poke by the Obama administration at American supporters of Israel. On Tuesday, Senator John McCain said that the use of Pollard in this fashion by the Obama administration is a disgrace.
It is easy to conclude that after all this time, Pollard should be allowed to leave for Israel regardless of the circumstances. But Pollard himself in word and deed on Tuesday waived a parole hearing that could expedite the release process. By not attending the hearing, Mr. Pollard was clearly saying that he refuses to be exchanged for terrorist murderers or to be used as pressure to divide Jerusalem in some way.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the deal hammered together by Kerry and his aides calls for the last 26 of the infamous 104 murderers to be released and for Israel to commit to releasing 400 additional convicted terrorists, including murderers like Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for orchestrating the killings of scores of Jews. He is the only leader that the Palestinians envision as a successor to the 79-year-old Mahmoud Abbas. The sad thing is that the cold-blooded murders notwithstanding, the Obama administration concurs that Barghouti is the only formidable future leader of the Palestinians, an indication of a very sad state of affairs.
As of press time, Mr. Abbas has thrown a wrench into the process by abrogating the current agreement and signing on and joining 15 UN agencies in direct contradiction to the ongoing deal that is a premise for the current talks.
So what is going on here? Will the talks continue? Will Pollard be released before Pesach as was reported earlier this week? Will the PA rev up international pressure on Israel through the UN agencies?
Media reports seem to indicate that once the Palestinians join all 63 UN agencies, they will easily have their way with Israel. But that is hardly true. Palestinian leadership knows that in response to their unilateral action, Israel has a multiplicity of options. Though it will be pressured by the U.S. not to do so, the most obvious and important is the annexation of Judea and Samaria, as was done with Jerusalem and the Golan Heights decades ago.
In addition, along the lines of what Ambassador Ettinger suggested, Israel can refuse to transfer the tax money it collects for the Palestinian Authority as outlined by the Oslo Accords—upward of $100 million per month. Also, the Arab villages and cities like Ramallah rely on Israel for electrical power and the PA currently owes Israel over $375 million in unpaid bills. Israel can do what any electric supplier would do with customers that do not pay—turn off the lights.
Finally, it cannot be a coincidence that these events are transpiring as we enter the Hebrew month of Nissan and approach the holiday of Pesach, when the ancient Israelites were miraculously rescued from servitude by the Almighty G‑d. In those times, at the apex of the events surrounding the Exodus, Hashem commanded Moshe to tell the Egyptian leader to allow the Jews to leave Egypt after 210 years of slavery.
Pharaoh wanted to let them leave, but G‑d told Moshe that He was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart and that the Egyptian was going to refuse. This yo-yo-like playing with the Egyptians took place for almost half a year. Rashi comments that the Divine objective here was “to play with Pharaoh.” One minute he’s letting the Jews go, then he changes his mind.
The pattern of behavior is not unlike the way Mr. Abbas, Mr. Kerry, and President Obama are conducting themselves, or shall we say being conducted. The president is the object of derision in the international community, being toyed with by President Putin in Russia, Bashar Assad in Syria, the Iranians, and now the Palestinians, who receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the U.S. each year.
And all the administration can do is try to pressure Israel into more concessions. Where else in any process in the world does releasing murderers and terrorists increase the peace? Certainly it will be fascinating to watch these events continue to unfold. The entirety of these negotiations summons up the old adage first articulated by Israel’s former UN Ambassador and Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who said of the Palestinians, way back when, “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Here we go again.
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A Great HALB Victory
Residents of the Lawrence School District overwhelmingly endorsed the sale of the Number Six School in Woodmere to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach in a districtwide referendum held this Monday.
In the past, the property, which sits in the center of the Woodmere community, was a hot topic and point of contention when the district recommended selling it to a medical center a year ago.
The HALB proposal was a complete reversal of the situation as it existed last year. The resounding victory was a communal expression of acceptance of HALB with open arms, with the votes coming in at a ratio of 4-to-1 in favor of the elementary school’s move. The property will now begin to undergo massive renovations, under Town of Hempstead approval, and will hopefully be ready in the not-too-distant future.
The yeshiva, which existed in Long Beach for more than the last half century, has been a central focus of that community, and local residents have expressed regret that it is moving on. The reality, however, is that more than 90% of HALB’s student population resides in the Five Towns, and the move is a matter of keeping up with the times.
The move is not only a good and important one for the overall Five Towns Jewish community but a fiscally prudent one for the school district as well. Considering the new reality, it is estimated that the district will save over $600,000 annually in busing and reduced special-education costs.
As you can see, the move will be a win–win for all: the yeshiva, its students, the district, and the community. We wish all involved the best of luck and mazal tov. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.