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October 29, 2009: The Temple

December 24, 2009

“The Temple”

Michael Freund says it so well that I have chosen to begin today with his column in the Post :

“Something astonishing, even alarming, is taking place in the battle over the future of Jerusalem. Even as Palestinian rioters run amok on the Temple Mount, egged on by the radicals of the Islamic Movement, much of the anger and dismay in the Israeli and international press is being directed, ironically enough, at Jews who merely wish to visit the site.

“Mustering all the righteous indignation at their disposal, the media have been filled in recent days with all kinds of pejoratives to describe them, ranging from ‘extremist’ to ‘fringe’ to ‘ultra-right-wing,’ as though a Jew’s desire to exercise his basic, fundamental rights somehow constitutes an act of provocation.

“Local pundits and commentators alike have also joined the fray, going to great lengths to justify the restrictions imposed by the police on Jews wishing to visit the Mount, even accusing the would-be pilgrims of seeking to trigger a firestorm of Islamic fury. It does not seem to bother them one whit that the policy in place today is entirely discriminatory in nature, as the followers of Muhammad are allowed to visit and pray where Solomon’s Temple once stood, but not the followers of Moses.

“Indeed, all the enlightened defenders of civil rights, and the champions of equality before the law suddenly fall silent when capitulation to Muslim threats is given preference over respecting vital Jewish rights.

“And why not, you might be asking. After all, if it is just a bunch of kooks who want to ascend the Mount, why go to all this trouble on their behalf? Needless to say, this approach plays straight into the hands of our foes, whose ultimate goal is to wrestle the holy site away from us by denying its historical and spiritual connection with the Jewish people.

And what a sad and pitiful sight this is to behold. Before our very eyes, we are witnessing a concerted effort to delegitimize and even demonize our people’s most cherished dream: the longing for the Temple.


“The very aspiration that was born in the moments when Roman flames engulfed the Second Temple more than 1,900 years ago, and which was carried in Jewish hearts throughout centuries of exile, has now become an object of scorn, mockery and ridicule.


“Make no mistake: This is nothing less than an unbridled assault on Judaism itself, and it is time for the derision and name-calling to stop.”



You don’t have to personally long for the Temple-rebuilt to understand the outrage.  What you do need to understand is that Jews are forbidden to pray (you read this correctly) at the site that is the most sanctified in Jewish history.

You need to understand that this site stands at the core of our heritage and thus our claim to this land.  When the Muslims make it “theirs” they are challenging us in the most fundamental way possible.


Two Jews who were on their way to services this morning at the Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox Synagogue in North Hollywood CA were shot in the legs today by a young gunman; they are both in the hospital in good condition.  The gunman — who has not been identified as I write — has been taken into custody, and the attack is being called a hate crime.


Are we surprised?

Iran has given what it is referring to as “an initial response” to the proposal for 70% of its uranium to be shipped to Russia for enrichment; further “negotiations” — aka known as stalling tactics — are being sought by Iranian leaders.  What is clear is that demands being made do not comport well with Western intentions to slow down, if not actually stop, Iranian nuclear development.

In a speech today, Ahmadinejad indicated that Iran “will not retreat even an iota” on its nuclear rights. He expressed satisfaction that the West has moved “from confrontation to interaction” on the issue. But so what.


The one who will actually be tested now is not Ahmadinejad, though: it is Obama.

The president had vigorously advanced a policy of engagement with Iran.  The question now is how he responds to the failure of this policy.  It’s difficult to over-emphasize the importance of that response.

As Robert Kagen wrote in the Washington Post today:

“Tehran is obviously probing to see whether President Obama can play hardball or whether he can be played.  If Obama has any hope of getting anywhere with the mullahs, he needs to show them he means business, now, and immediately begin imposing new sanctions.”


And, points out Kagen, there’s another aspect to this situation:  Russia.

“Russia joined France, the United States and ElBaradei in agreeing to the proposal…Iran is now rejecting that proposal. If the administration’s engagement strategy is working, then Moscow should come through by joining in sanctions. If, on the other hand, Moscow declares that Iran’s counterproposal is satisfactory, or calls for further weeks or months of negotiations, then we will know that Russia, too, is playing Obama. Here again, Obama will have to show whether he is someone whom other powers have to take seriously, or if he is an easy mark in a geopolitical con game. If Moscow continues to act as Iran’s facilitator, then doesn’t Obama need to make clear that, just as cooperation brings rewards, noncooperation will have consequences?

“Many of us worry that, for Obama, engagement is an end in itself, not a means to an end.”


(Thanks Nan A)


The way I’m reading it, Obama’s moment of accountability has arrived.  According to Reuters yesterday, Russia is saying sanctions against Iran were unlikely in the near future.

“Russia’s ties with Iran — which include oil, nuclear and arms deals — give it rare influence with the Islamic Republic’s rulers…

“But Russia, a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has always urged restraint and only supported previous sanctions against Iran after insisting on amendments softening the measures.”


The US House Foreign Affairs Committee is certainly doing what it can to make it possible for Obama to get tough.  By a considerable majority, the Committee, chaired by Howard Berman (D-CA), has approved a bill that would permit tougher sanctions against Iran. It still must pass a vote in the House and the Senate.

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is co-sponsored by almost three-quarters of the House membership; it would give the administration power to apply sanctions against those companies that provide Iran with gasoline, diesel and other refined petroleum fuels.  Iran exports crude oil but lacks sufficient refining equipment to provide for its own needs. This is the most effective way to bring Iran to its knees without military action.  But the world, for a host of reasons, has not taken this route seriously.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the department prefers a multilateral approach: “Right now, I think most of our energies are focused on the engagement side.” 



It is now fourteen years since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and I’m not sure that national wound has ever  healed.  Across the country several memorials were held, including the official one at the president’s residence. 


Unfortunately, often the left uses the memory of the assassination politically — to chastise the right and to represent its vision of peace (return to pre-67 lines, dismantlement of settlements, etc.) as the one that Rabin had advanced.  But this, in fact, distorts Rabin’s position.  Every year I find myself needing to remind people of what the Rabin vision actually was.


I thank Eli Hertz of Myths and Facts for putting out excerpts from Rabin’s last speech, given to the Knesset days before he was murdered:

“Here, in the land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the land of Israel, we established a state. The land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was, after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owners – the members of the Jewish people. On its land, we have built an exceptional national home and state.

“We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity [Note from AK: he did NOT refer to a state] which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

“First and foremost, united Jerusalem … as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty.

“The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley … The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

“We had to choose between the whole of the land of Israel … and a state with less territory, but which would be a Jewish state. We chose to be a Jewish state.

“We … committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.

“We are aware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not – up until now – [Note from EH: and never thereafter] honored its commitment to change the Palestinian Covenant, and that all of the promises on this matter have not been kept. I would like to bring it to the attention of the members of the house that I view these changes as a supreme test of the Palestinian Authority’s willingness and ability, and the changes required will be an important and serious touchstone vis-a-vis the continued implementation of the agreement as a whole.”




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