I am referring to the words of Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni.
Today was the first day of the Jerusalem Conference — an all-day affair with many speakers examining issues such as retaining a united Jerusalem and ensuring Israeli security. I’ll share here what several people said, starting with Livni.
Livni was attempting to explain why the government was negotiating now. If I had read her words somewhere, I might have been uneasy about repeating them, suspecting that she had been misquoted. But I heard her with my own ears.
"We have to write down the principle of two states," she told us. Israel as a homeland for Jews, and Palestine as a homeland for Palestinians. If we don’t write this now and establish the principle, we might not have another chance. For we are facing people who want us gone.
Got it? She is so afraid of forces that would destroy us, that she’s willing to accept what may be less than we are entitled to, just for the opportunity to get it in writing that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. And she believes that if we are to do it, it must be "today," because another chance might not come.
There are so many things wrong with this approach it’s difficult to know where to start. It is, first of all, appeasement, which never works: giving to the Palestinians so we won’t be destroyed. Second it conveys a message of incredible weakness, and this is absolutely the last way who should go into negotiations. Why should the Palestinians even think of conceding anything when she makes it clear how hungry she is just for that piece of paper? "Write it down."
But worst of all is her shameful lack of Israeli pride and sense of entitlement. Why should our right to exist depend on a piece of paper arranged with the Palestinians? We are a sovereign state, with an ancient tradition on the land and a host of international legal precedents behind us. We are also a powerful nation, fully capable of defending ourselves. We have diplomatic and commercial relationships with a growing number of nations, and we make huge contributions to the world via our hi-tech development and medical science.
And there’s still more, as a later speaker , Dore Gold, now head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out. First, there is the fact that the negotiation plan calls for setting the parameters for the agreement now but not enacting them until certain stipulations on the other side have been met.
Warns Dr. Gold, just as I have warned here many times, once that paper is signed there may well be pressure from the international community to "take it off the shelf" before those stipulations have been met. You don’t sign a piece of paper giving certain things away until the conditions are right. We have in this regard the precedent of the Road Map, which called for dismantling of terrorism by the PA before we moved to discussing a state. But this has been shoved aside as too cumbersome and now we’re talking about a state even though stage one was not realized.
Dr. Gold further points out that "You have to assume that the other side will violate the agreement." We have the precedent of years of Palestinian violations.
I would add to this the fact that insisting that we won’t have another chance puts unreasonable and undue pressure on us to negotiate. It’s an act of desperation.
Moving past what Livni said, I want to turn to discussion by a panel on the subject of "Regional and Global Strategic Threats to Israel." Distinguished participants touched upon issues that are exceedingly somber, providing perspectives that are important.
Dr. Rafi Yisraeli, Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, reminded us of what an error it is to speak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is, rather, the Israeli-Arab conflict, or, perhaps more accurately the Jewish-Islamic conflict as non-Arab Muslim states such as Iran and Pakistan are involved.
The conflict, says Dr. Yisraeli, is not a quantitative one, involving interests or assets, which allows for give and take until a resolution is reached. It is a qualitative conflict, which is about religion and values and is not amenable to compromise. It’s take it or leave it.
There was a time when there was a Christian geographic continuity in eastern Europe. But the Iranians have been involved in conflicts in Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, so that this is no longer the case. And here, since Oslo, we have been in a process of retreat.
Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror concurred , pointing out that you cannot deal with a values conflict the way an interest conflict is responded to. Such a conflict is resolved historically over a long haul and we had best be prepared for this.
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) , former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reminded us that the so-called "moderate" Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have not encouraged the Palestinians to settle the conflict with us. For we represent western values that are challenged by Islamic values. Egypt, for example, discouraged Arafat from accepting Barak’s offer in 2000.
While Israel has enormous strengths and has achieved a great many things in the last 30 years, we are facing grave threats in the next two or three years and are not currently doing enough to meet them.
MK Steinitz sees four developments with regard to Israeli defense and security:
1) Unquestionably, the specter of Iran developing nuclear capability is paramount, with the possibility of this, indeed, leading to WWIII. The NIE assessment is behind us now and there is solid communication between the Knesset and Congress, which is clear on the threat.
2) There has been very rapid development of new advanced weapons systems in the area — in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.
3) If the US withdraws from Iraq before too long, it may be possible for Iran to enter into Iraq. In this case, we might see Iranian troops moving into Syria and might be confronting them one day on the Golan.
4) The Arabs are using missiles and rockets as a means of attacking us indirectly, without full scale ground war. The concern is that their range and their accuracy are increasing. Thus missiles may become a threat to our military headquarters.
There are ways to counter this via the development of missile defense systems and interception systems for medium and short range rockets. Additionally we must develop massive fire power with regard to our own missile capacity.
We must do everything we possibly can.
Dr. Meyrav Wurmser, Director, Center for Middle East Policy, Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, provided a significant understanding of the way in which the Iranian threat to us has changed via its involvement with Hamas, which has developed in stages over some 20 years. Iran, which provides money, weapons and training to Hamas, may even have masterminded the Hamas coup in Gaza.
It is a mistake to think of the conflict with Hezbollah and that with Hamas as separate — they are all part of the same war with Iran.
The accepted wisdom on the nature of the Islamic world — as divided into Shiite and Sunni camps violently at odds with each other — no longer applies. We see Haniyeh of Hamas, which is Sunni, speaking of Iran as the defender of the faith.
What Iran now has is a Levant strategy for an Islamic Caliphate. To that end Iran is actually seeking Sunni clients to help in the fight against the West. Hamas, which has global aspirations, fits well into Iran’s scheme. So much is this the case, that Iran even allow Hamas to invite Sunni Al Qaeda into Gaza.
The implications are vast. Terrorist organizations are cooperating. Iran is most interested in importing radical Islam (of either kind) in order to further the Islamic Revolution.
On a more positive note, several speakers addressed the absolute necessity of keeping Jerusalem united eternally as Israel’s capital. It is broadly understood that Jerusalem possess a special sanctity for the Jewish people and is at the heart of what we are all about.
Nir Barkat, a member of the City Council of Jerusalem, is seeking documentation of the fact that Haim Ramon is negotiating a secret third track on Jerusalem, so that action can be taken.
MK Gidon Saar (Likud) spoke about the bill , which has passed its first reading, that will revise Jerusalem Law so that a majority of the Knesset would be required for any concessions on Jerusalem.
He is deeply concerned about the renewal of activity at Orient House (about which I hope I will write more in coming days) and the freezing of construction.
He points out that the argument for division of the city along demographic lines is deceivingly dangerous. The case is made by persons such as Haim Ramon for giving the PA areas that are primarily Arab. This is generally represented as referring to outlying neighborhoods. However, from the time of the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, when the city was made Judenrein, there are important areas such as Ir David (The City of David, the ancient area that was the original Jerusalem and lies just outside of the Old City) that also have heavily Arab population.
I anticipate sharing more tomorrow. Other news will have to wait.