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March 26, 2010: As We Approach Seder

July 25, 2010

We Jews are commanded to consider ourselves as if we had come out from Egypt.  This year it seems particularly important that we learn the lessons of Pesach, with regard to our freedom as a people, and the purpose of that freedom.
 
At the seder, we sing “Dayenu” — it would have been sufficient for us, if only this had been given to us, and only that.  This is to demonstrate our gratitude for the enormity of all the gifts the Almighty bestowed upon us.
 
But in point of fact, within our tradition we are not actually taught “dayenu.”  The Exodus on its own would not have been sufficient.  It has meaning in the context of what followed: most notably, our acceptance of the Torah and then our coming into the Land, given to us as a people, by G-d.  It is not enough to be free, stam, just so, without purpose.
 
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But I want to take time to extend greetings now: 
 
Pesach Kasher V’Sameach to all. A kosher and joyous Pesach.  May we all be mindful of the purpose of our coming out from Egypt.
 
Over Pesach it is unlikely that I will be posting.
 
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With regard to our interaction with the US, matters continue to remain in flux, and that situation will persist for some days at least.
 
Netanyahu is convening the inner cabinet this afternoon. But in spite of Obama’s demand (demand??) that we provide answers tomorrow (on Shabbat?) on the things his administration is seeking from us — so that our responses can be brought to an Arab League meeting in Libya — it has been decided that several days of discussion will be required and no answer will be forthcoming until after Pesach.
 
What unsettles me is an implicit assumption on the part of Obama that the inner cabinet will only be rubber- stamping agreements he’s already made with Netanyahu:  Why would he want our responses to bring to an Arab League meeting if he weren’t banking on certain answers?  Does he have reason to assume this, based on what Netanyahu has already said, or is this an expression of his arrogance?
 
Key to what happens is the strength of the right-wing or nationalist members of the inner cabinet: Yaalon, Begin, Yishai and Leiberman.  If they, who constitute a majority of the seven-person committee, don’t concede what should not be conceded, and remain mindful of the fact that we are a sovereign state that must act with dignity, we will be all right.
 
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A statement by a spokesman for the prime minister, cited by JPost, sounds like official spin:  He says that Obama has accepted that we will not freeze construction in Jerusalem (really? is this so?), but that there is an expectation that other agreements made between Netanyahu and Obama would be approved by the cabinet. 
 
Yet Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon, writing in the JPost, indicate that Obama has informed the PA that there was no agreement on the issue of construction in eastern Jerusalem.
 
(According to this article, as well, Barak confessed disappointment that our freeze in Judea and Samaria was not enough to bring the PA to the table.  Welcome to the real world, Ehud.)
 
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It does seem to be the case that Netanyahu stood strong on the issue of construction in all parts of Jerusalem.  The prime minister made a statement to this effect today, and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has expressed appreciation to him publicly for protecting the city as a unified whole.
 
But Jerusalem, while perhaps the first issue, is, as we know, hardly the only US demand. 
 
I hasten to make clear that there is still nothing official regarding what is being sought of us, but press is offering some picture of what Obama wants — very little if any of it being a surprise.  It seems likely that Netanyahu and his cabinet will concede on some matters, at least.
 
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[] An extension of the 10-month freeze on construction.  Netanyahu was warned about this at the time that he took the very ill-advised step to freeze construction. It did not take a prophet to see that Obama would want more and that it’s difficult to unfreeze once the commitment to the freeze has been made.  The prime minister has repeatedly pledged that construction would begin again at the end of the 10 months in September. We’ll see.
 
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[]  Granting of greater control of areas to the Palestinian Authority. 
 
Some reports say that what is desired is a return to the pre-Intifada (2002) situation. 
 
In a nutshell:  We had pulled back from areas of major Arab population in Judea and Samaria as part of Oslo understandings.  But when violence increased — in particular, suicide bombings — in 2002, we found it necessary to move back into these areas as part of Operation Defensive Shield. Since then, the IDF has maintained the latitude to do anti-terror operations in these areas, even as some places have nominally been turned over to the control of PA security forces during the day.  Our anti-terror operations proceed nightly, with terrorists caught, and terror cells and caches of weapons and weapons factories uncovered, and these operations have done superbly in protecting us.
 
I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: The much-touted “new” PA security forces, improved, as least in theory, by US training supervised by Gen. Dayton, are not sufficient to the task and will not reliably take out terrorists, most notably but not exclusively, from Hamas.   
 
This is a subject I’ve explored before — and written about in detail — and I will return to it.  The demand being made of us impinges directly on the safety of Jewish civilians here.  (There is even an issue of possible conciliation between Hamas and Fatah, which would lead to the insane situation of Hamas commanding the troops that were trained to fight Hamas.)
 
A concession in this area would, in my opinion, represent a severe dereliction of the duty of the government to protect its citizens.
 
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Some sources have reported that the PA wants Abu Dis, an Arab village almost immediately adjacent to Jerusalem, to be turned over.  But other sources are denying this.  Abu Dis was touted at one point as being the future capital of a Palestinian state.
 
This action would represent a serious security danger, because of the proximity to Jerusalem and the fact that a weapons factory was discovered there recently. 
 
[] Release of prisoners as a gesture to Abbas.  This is hardly new.  Some sources are saying as many as 2,000 are being sought.  There is no information regarding the “caliber” of the prisoners that might be released or if the PA has specific demands in this regard.
 
[] Also not new is the demand that core issues be raised during the “proximity” talks.  I expect this will happen and I don’t think this threatens us as long as it is understood that resolution of these issues can take place only in face to face negotiations.
 
[] Then there is the re-emergence of the demand that we end the “blockade” of Gaza.
 
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What continues to de
eply disturb me
are the multiple reports on the humiliating manner in which Obama treated Netanyahu.  I know the press can spin material, but I’m reading specifics, such as Obama walking out on Netanyahu at the White House.  The fact that there were no photo ops and no press releases makes this all credible.
 
Thus, as well, I’m not pleased with the Netanyahu effort to put a good face on his relationship with Obama.  I know there are political reasons for some of this, but the tone is demeaning to us.  Netanyahu was quoted today as saying he trusted Obama.  Huh??
 
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