A very important fellow named Aron U. Raskas (he must be important, as he says so himself) published an article in Ha'aretz
outlining the minimum expected by American Jews of Israelis. It seems we let down our American brethren, as not enough Israelis died in the last war. Mr Raskas paid for a big war, and he claims he didn't get what he paid for. We didn't deliver the goods. Not enough of our sons came home in boxes.
Contrary to most American Jews, who insist that Israel has to give up all the territories yesterday and act with "compassion" to the Arabs of Palestine, the Hezbollah and others, Raskas expects a more militant Israel. He also has some interesting ideas about recent history and US positions on the Middle East:
In the three most recent years of the 21st century, successive Israeli governments have catastrophically undermined two fundamental principles that Israel and her supporters worked for a better part of the 20th century to establish. First, Israel's historic claim to the territories of Judea and Samaria, and the notion that these territories are, at most, "disputed." Second, Israel's irreplaceable value as a strategic asset and reliable ally of the United States.
The government's actions have not just eviscerated these concepts. They have perplexed and disillusioned Israel's staunchest supporters in the United States - both Jew and gentile - who have worked arduously for decades to enshrine these principles in the foreign policy arena. Unless promptly remedied, Israel stands in mortal danger of losing the international support that it requires to securely exist.
Let's get real, Mr. Raskas. The United States government never sanctioned Israeli settlement beyond the Green Line. Even before 1967, since 1948, the US government has been tirelessly at work promoting various "peace" and "non-belligerence" schemes that involved giving up territory to Arab states. The Eisenhower administration promoted a scheme by which Israel, which apparently had too much territory according to them, would give up a chunk of the Negev to Egypt in return for vague promises. The same administration forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai and Gaza in 1956. In 1975, Harold Saunders enunciated his scheme whereby Israel would trade land for peace. Every administration has stated that the settlements constitute a "barrier to peace."
Mr Raskas exclaims:
American support for Israel's claim to Judea and Samaria reached its crescendo in President George Bush's April 14, 2004 letter to then prime minister Sharon, acknowledging that it would be "unrealistic to expect ... a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 ..."
That's right. That was the crescendo. A vague promise that could mean for example, that Israel will be able to claim the noman's land around Latrun. Even that is given in a noncommittal letter. Mr. Bush did not recognize any part of the West Bank in particular as rightfully belonging to Israel. And don't forget, Mr. Raskas why that letter was given. It was given only after Ariel Sharon agreed to a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and evacuation of some settlements in the West Bank. It was given as a reward and incentive for that withdrawal. That was the "crescendo" of US support, from which you built your imaginary case.
Even the relatively favorable Bush administration would not go beyond some general statement that any settlement must reflect "demographic realities" created by large settlement blocs. Worse, almost no other country would go that far. Most countries consider that the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem is illegal, as it contravenes UN resolutions that call for internationalization of Jerusalem. The International Court of Justice declared that we could not even build a fence in the West Bank. The UN condemned Israel for parading soldiers in Jerusalem. Day by day, in the last five years, we could see support for the legitimacy of Israel slipping away because governments, church organizations and labor unions condemning Israel as an apartheid state and calling for the end of the occupation. Whatever our own opinions, we have to face reality: there just isn't any support for Israeli settlement in the West Bank and Gaza in any country, and our settlements there were eroding support for Israel in a systematic and dangerous way.
What really hurts, Mr. Raskas, is the way American Jews like you let us down over Jerusalem. After 2,000 years, and with immense sacrifice of life, we liberated Jerusalem for you. You can come and live among us, and pray at the wailing wall if you like. But ungrateful American Jews didn't do anything much for Jerusalem it seems. All the support that you claim exists for Greater Israel had no political impact.
The US government doesn't recognize that Jerusalem is a part of Israel. The US embassy is in Tel Aviv. US citizens born in Jerusalem can't even get their place of birth registered as Israel! Did you, Mr. Raskas, try to sue the US government to force them to implement the numerous congressional resolutions passed with so much fanfare? Did the vast hordes of supporters of Greater Israel in the US write to the President and the State Department? Did you stage a mass march on Washington? If we can lay down our lives for Jerusalem, surely you can organize a sit down strike of a million people in Washington for Jerusalem? No? Why not?
Mr Raskas continues:
Since June 1967, there has been rigorous debate about the wisdom of retaining the territories that came into Israel's hands in the Six-Day War. Yet, almost no individual with a whit of appreciation for Jewish history would deny the essential right of the Jewish people to return and repopulate these territories that already millennia ago served as the cradle of the Jewish people.
Having a right, and exercising it are two different things. You have the right to settle in Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem, or Hebron or in the middle of Nablus if that is your desire. And yet, Mr. Raskas, you find it prudent not to exercise it, but rather to settle in Maryland. That is your privilege. It is also our privilege, as Israelis to exercise our "rights" insofar as they may be recognized by others, and to implement what is practical and possible.
Mr Raskas complains:
Short of erecting a billboard on Rehov Kaplan, it would have been difficult for the Bush administration to have more strongly communicated to the Israeli government its desire for the Israel Defense Forces to crush - forcefully, vigorously and without inhibition - Hezbollah's forces. It was painful to watch the Israeli government start, hesitate, stop, falter and stop again as the American administration increasingly signaled its desire for Israel to complete the task. The administration's disappointment was palpable, even if it remained politely inaudible.
Gee Whizz Mr. Raskas. Short of erecting a billboard on Pennsylvania Avenue, it would be difficult for the Israeli administration to have more strongly communicated to the American government its desire for the US Army to crush - forcefully, vigorously and without inhibition - the Iraqi terrorists. It is painful to watch the US government start, hesitate, stop, falter and stop again as the Israeli administration increasingly signaled its desire for the US to complete the task. So how come it isn't done yet, Mr. Raskas, huh? huh? noo??
Now that's a fact, whereas what you wrote, Mr Raskas, is not quite true. Certainly the Israeli government disappointed us all, but they were not the only disappointment. Secretary Rice made it absolutely clear that Israel could not in any way endanger the "fragile democracy" in Lebanon headed by Mr. Seniora. That statement is on the record, Mr. Raskas. The Hezbollah hid behind Lebanese citizens and behind Mr. Seniora's government, which gave them unlimited support as Lebanese "resistance." Seniora hid behind Condoleezza's skirt. That is also on record. IDF was given an impossible task - to pick out Hezbollah from among Lebanese civilians. The US is in fact now investigating whether or not Israel used cluster bombs improperly in civilian areas. Of course Israel used cluster bombs in civilian areas, because that's where the Hezbollah had their bunkers. Where is American Jewry? Whining that the IDF didn't give them their money's worth. Not enough of our sons died for Mr. Raskas's territorial obsessions.
Mr Raskas exhorts us:
The Israeli people must establish leadership with the fortitude and will to stand up for their principles and to lead those who look to them for guidance.
If you were here, I have no doubt we would vote for you, Mr. Raskas. As you are so convincing when you are inventing reality, you must be absolutely invincible when you stick to the truth. Meanwhile however, we must stand up to our principles, not yours.
Mr. Raskas, we stand ready and willing to implement your principles. Your wish is our command. There are a few small prerequisites. First, as you claim to represent American Jews, and you claim that these are views of American Jews, you should have no problem supplying us with proof that leading American Jews support the right of Israel to settle in the West Bank and Gaza. So please, bring us a notarized affidavit to that effect, with the following signatures on it at least, representing a sizable portion of US Jewry:
Professor Noam Chomsky
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Since as you say, all United States Jews support your views, that should be no problem. This is a very important point. These people represent a broad spectrum of Jewish opinion in the USA: policy makers, rabbis, publishers and pundits. We would not want to anger any of them, as much as we want to satisfy you. It didn't seem to me that Rabbis Waskow and Lerner were too keen on the settlement project, nor were any of those others. But what do I know? After all, I live here in Israel. You are an American, representing American Jews, and you say that is what American Jews expect, so it must be true, right?
Next, as the US administration is so committed to the rights of the Jews in the Holy Land, as you point out, it should be no problem for you to get the Bush administration to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. What is the problem? Bring out the millions for a march on Washington and its a done deal, right?
Now, we note with dismay that there are only five million Jews in the US Mr. Raskas. This is roughly the same number as there were 50 years ago, and today's count includes a significant number of Soviet immigrants and Israelis. We were counting on American Jews to be fruitful and multiply, so you had better get busy. We need 15 million Jews in the United states by 2040. Of those, we expect that at least 20 percent, 3 million, will come on aliya (there's the "A" word that polite Israelis know they had better not mention around American Jews) to exercise the indubitable rights of which you speak and settle somewhere in Israel.
Given your great commitment to the cause, and willingness to sacrifice Israeli lives to satisfy your principles, and give the wide support for Greater Israel in the USA which you expounded, we are sure that none of the above should be a problem for you. Mind you, we are not even asking you to come here to defend the territories in person. Send us your grandchildren and we'll be satisfied with that.
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