The 9th of Av.
Today is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. A day of mourning and fasting. It is the day on which the Temples were destroyed, and, traditionally, is seen as the time at which a number of other calamities have fallen the Jewish people.
We are taught that the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE because of sinat hinam — causeless hatred between Jews.
And it is this that I want to address here before going on to other matters.
It is difficult for me to write this, but I must. For healing cannot proceed without acknowledgement of what is happening.
And what is happening here in Israel is sinat hinam.
The worst, the most shameful perhaps, is the physical attack on hareidi (ultra-Orthodox) soldiers by other hareidi men. It has happened three times now.
There is a battle going on now in terms of conscription of hareidi young men, who have until now been exempt from military service if they were studying full time in yeshiva. I happen to think that those in charge of structuring changes in the law on hareidi conscription handled the matter insensitively — and, in fact, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says he may not proceed with the full conscription that will be permitted by the law.
I am aware, as well, of the sense within the hareidi community that the conscription threatens their insular way of life, that it will cause some of their young men to “go off the path,” and that it takes away from the supreme value of Torah study.
But there is another side to this that has to do with the hareidi young men being involved in the fabric of Israeli life and carrying their weight. What is more, not every young man born into the hareidi community is temperamentally or intellectually fit for full time Torah study. Their place is elsewhere within the larger community — within the IDF and the workplace.
The new law does allow for exemptions for the best of the Torah scholars, not everyone is to be drafted.
And there are units within the IDF specifically for hareidi soldiers — providing them with proper levels of kashrut, and time for their prayers.
What has happened is that some members of the hareidi community — and the point must be made that it’s a small number of that community! — see those hareidi young men who have volunteered to serve as traitors. And are so enraged with them that they have physically attacked.
It is vile and inexcusable in all terms. People cannot claim to stand for study of Torah and behave thus at the same time. It does not compute and for me invalidates their claims.
Their behavior is also hillul Hashem — it brings disgrace to the name of the Almighty.
I’m seeing other instances of sinat hinam that constitute hillul Hashem as well, in particular with regard to some severe tensions over the selection of new chief rabbis. There are derisive comments incoming from certain quarters that are totally unacceptable.
For all of this, I am ashamed and grieve.
As a rabbi whose shiur (lesson) I attended today said, we must recognize that the way we are behaving is crazy, and stand up and heal ourselves.
There is so very much in this country that is good — so much lovingkindness and blessing. But it has to be better still.
Never in the years that I have doing these postings have I received as many messages as I do now from my readers about ostensible happenings that are, in fact, inaccurate or simply not true. There is so much out there that is undocumented and (I would venture to say) in some cases simply made up. These things are shared by e-mail or put up on websites. I do not want to address particulars here, but would like to caution that care be taken before alarmist stories (for that’s the crux of it — these are alarmist stories ) are accepted as true.
This doesn’t mean some very alarmist things are not really happening. They are. But checking facts is advised.
For some time now there has been a serious disagreement between our government and the US government with regard to how close to constructing a nuclear bomb it’s possible to allow Iran to get before it’s necessary to intervene.
“We’re watching, we’ll know before it’s done,” the US officials have insisted, saying there was still time. While Netanyahu has told them they’re wrong — the Iranians must be stopped at an earlier stage than what the Americans have been saying, because it won’t be possible to tell at the very end. Suddenly, unexpectedly it will be too late.
And guess what? Netanyahu is correct. Are we surprised?
According to Israel Hayom yesterday:
“The United States is concerned that Iran would somehow be able to deceive the West and develop a nuclear weapon ‘under the radar,’ and it is no longer certain that it would be able to learn of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s intentions to that effect ahead of time, Israel Hayom learned Sunday.
“Despite the West’s attempts to carefully monitor Iran’s nuclear progress, a senior Western source told Israel Hayom that Tehran’s accelerated uranium enrichment efforts and the fact that it has multiple secret enrichment sites were cause for concern.”
In fact, according to Israel Hayom’s source (emphasis added):
The US “is very concerned for Israel and its other allies in the Middle East.”
“Very concerned”? This enrages me. And I hope it enrages you, as well. Obama could stop “being concerned” for Israel and others if he used the power that ONLY the US has, and took out Iran’s enrichment sites. Or if he even agreed to put a “credible military option” on the table, as Netanyahu has so urgently requested.
But, as I’ve just written, Obama is demonstrating a distinct disinclination to use that military option. He’d rather send people to sit over coffee with the new Iranian president-elect.
So expressed “concern” strikes me as rather hypocritical.
Then, once again, to the question of what Netanyahu is going to do about Iran in the end.
First, see this video of a CBS Face the Nation interview with the prime minister. He appears decidedly resolute when he declares that he “won’t wait too long”:
Then we have the statement, originally from Maariv, by a “senior diplomatic source,” that Israel will not hit Iran in the end.
It would help if we knew the political orientation of this “source.” My inclination at this point is still to take Netanyahu at his word on this.
And intelligence consultant Daniel Nisman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, agrees, saying that, “Israel has launched long-shot attacks before” (emphasis added):
“Last week, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, sought to settle a long-running debate regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s willingness to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“‘Certainly,’ Mr. Oren told daily newspaper Haaretz, ‘[Mr. Netanyahu] was the one who succeeded in drawing the world’s attention to the threat. . . . But this success is not enough. The question he faces is similar to the question that [former Prime Minister Levi] Eshkol faced in May 1967.’
“…Throughout its short history, the state of Israel has repeatedly shocked the world with bold military operations previously considered impossible, unthinkable, or borderline suicidal. On June 5, 1967, Eshkol sent most of Israel’s air force into Egypt for a surprise preemptive attack, which left less than a dozen warplanes to defend the entire homeland. In the six days that followed, Israel defeated multiple threatening Arab armies, changing the face of the Middle East to this day.
“Since the Six Day War, successive Israeli leaders have signed off on daring operations that have entered the annals of history…
“In the face of such choices, forget the intelligence estimates and risk assessments. It ultimately takes a do-or-die, all-or-nothing mindset to make a decision which could either bring complete victory, or considerable military defeat and diplomatic isolation. In this context, Mr. Netanyahu not only views Iran as an existential threat comparable to the Nazi Holocaust—he also wishes to be remembered as the one who personally delivered its demise. On this point, sources close to the prime minister assert that he keeps in his desk drawer World War II-era letters from the U.S. War Department, which decline requests by the World Jewish Congress to bomb gas chambers at Auschwitz.
“…while Mr. Netanyahu may have faced resistance in the past to launching a preventative strike, current conditions at home and across the region may be the most optimal he has ever had. Since Jan. 2013, Israel has provoked Iran and its allies (at least) three times with airstrikes against weapons convoys destined to Hezbollah in Syria, albeit without any reaction. The incidents, which served to reduce fears of a regional conflagration, have clearly resonated with Israel’s various security chiefs, who have refrained from voicing any concerns about a strike on Iran, unlike their predecessors.
The EU is conducting itself in a manner that exceeds its routine anti-Israel inclinations and the matter is serious:
The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has published a guideline for all 28 member states. It forbids any “funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing” past the Green Line — in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
“The regulation, which goes into effect on Friday, requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement.”
A senior official, quoted by Haaretz and others, calls this new ruling an “earthquake.”
“‘This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies,’ the senior official said. ‘Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy.’
“The official noted that the significance of the regulation is both practical and political: From now on, if the Israeli government wants to sign agreements with the European Union or one of its member states, it will have to recognize in writing that the West Bank settlements [and eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights] are not part of Israel…
“‘We are not ready to sign on this clause in our agreements with the European Union. We can say this to the Europeans, but the result could be a halt to all cooperation in economics, science, culture, sports and academia. This would cause severe damage to Israel.”
EU officials have the unmitigated gall to represent this as something that benefits Israel by preventing full boycotts.
I would point out that EU political decisions are clearly influenced by the large Muslim populations within the various member states.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) charged today that with everything else, this new EU directive is “giving a tailwind to Palestinian intransigence.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (while supporting a two-state solution), emphasized that, “This decision signals to the Palestinians that there is no economic or international price to be paid for their continued refusal to resume negotiation; it leads them to believe that Israel will succumb to international and economic pressure.”
Lapid said he will “appeal to our friends in the European Union and explain to them that their decision damages the very end they are attempting to achieve, as it pushes peace farther away instead of bringing it closer.”
Eliyahu Shviro, mayor of Ariel, located in Samaria, voiced his firm objection to boycotts but then made a significant additional point: Palestinian residents of Samaria are employed in their thousands in Israeli industry. It would not occur to us to boycott them because of their religion or faith or where they live. The EU’s boycott could even undermine this achievement.”
“Likud MK Ofir Akunis called the EU decision ‘unfortunate’ and added that ‘the land is not occupied, it is the cradle of the Jewish homeland.'”
Right he is, of course. What is important is for Israelis to know this and stand firm.
MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) clearly agrees: “We have to be strong and determined. We will not operate on the basis of the caprices of Europe.”
And Gush Etzion Regional Council head David Perl, expressing real determination, called for the annexation of Area C [the area of Judea and Samaria totally under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords, and the site of all Jewish communities beyond the Green Line]:
“Now is the time for the prime minister to stand up and apply Israel law on territory that is part of our homeland, and in so doing, fix an ongoing historical distortion.”
Perhaps most importantly, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon said:
“It is not new that many countries in the world refer to Judea and Samaria as occupied territory, and according to this they act. We have our policies and will continue to abide by and according to our interests.”
There were MKs who called the EU decision racist and compared it to European policies towards Jews 70 years ago. And MKs who called for increased building in the face of this. Irritation was also expressed about the fact that this announcement was made on Tisha B’Av.
In some quarters there is the thought that this new EU directive is so pervasive that it will be unworkable and fall apart
On the left, of course, are parties, such as Meretz Party Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, who think this is peachy keen.
All the above from a variety of sources, including:
And — aren’t we lucky! — Secretary of State Kerry has now returned to the area. He is currently in Jordan where he will be meeting with Abbas and Jordanian officials. But also with members of the Arab League, to whom he will provide an “update on Middle East peace.” This last unsettles me, as the League “contribution” is greatly destructive to Israel. And if Kerry is playing to them, it’s not good.
Kerry will, of course, then come to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu. His goal is a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas; he is said to have a “plan.” There are varying reports about whether his aides, in his absence, have made any “progress.” But fairly consistently the Palestinian Arab comments have been pessimistic.
What is reassuring is this:
“Army Radio on Tuesday quoted a senior Likud minister saying Netanyahu did not plan to take far-reaching diplomatic steps in the peace process with the Palestinians. According to the Likud minister, Netanyahu’s main goal is to display a willingness to negotiate. The minister said that the government believes Abbas’ obstinacy will prevent progress toward peace. He also said that Netanyahu would not have Likud’s support to make significant concessions to the Palestinians.”