Pontificating at the security wall in Bet Lechem
Pontificating at the security wall in Bet Lechem
Pontificating at the security wall in Bet Lechem

By Larry Gordon

The good news is that President Obama delivered a foreign-policy speech last week at the West Point Military Academy graduation and made only a passing allusion to the Middle East. It is questionable who wore the president down first–the deceptive Palestinian negotiators indulging in their special brand of doublespeak or the Israeli negotiators doing their utmost by staying true to the literal aspects of the parameters and basis of the talks.

That is, the agreed-upon plan that Israel would reluctantly release 104 terrorist murderers as opposed to enacting a freeze on settlement community construction. When it was made clear that the Palestinians were simply going through the negotiation motions in order to exact the release of the killers, at that point Israel put a stop to the releases and the Palestinians made some unilateral moves that in effect scuttled the talks.

Apparently it was both the lies and the truth that proved too much for Secretary of State John Kerry and his entourage. And it is becoming clear that dishonesty on all levels is rapidly becoming the hallmark of the Obama administration, in particular when it comes to Israel.

The first major deception that the world seems somewhat comfortable with is that the Jews have no connection or relationship with Jerusalem. And a lot of the responsibility for that can be cast in the direction of Israel. Their being wishy-washy and taking uncertain positions over the years as a tactic to facilitate negotiations has obviously been a failure. To that end, they have led the world, composed primarily of Israel’s critics, to believe that Israel would at least consider the possibility, as a matter of compromise, of turning Jerusalem into an international city, one over which there are multiple authorities–Arabs, Jews, the Vatican, the UN–that manage it.

It does not seem that any leader of Israel ever seriously considered relinquishing sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, but the diplomatic zigzagging by political attention-deficit pioneers like Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak was probably meant to ascertain whether there is any level at which a serious peace agreement could be concluded. Remember, they are the “painful concessions for peace” gang. It now appears that this possibility is, quite to the contrary, impossible, and we are all better off as a result.

Communism has been largely defeated, Osama bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not exactly decimated, but the world is trying. Most Arab countries have on some level come to the realization that their decades-old conflict with Israel is not going to achieve victory or anything even remotely resembling triumph, or rather elimination of Israel, through violent means.

The Egyptians, the Jordanians, and even the violence-prone Syrians–countries that border Israel–have come to some level of realization that Israel is here to stay and that they can benefit by at least off-the-record clandestine relations with her rather than constantly declaring that they are at war.

So all involved in the process have seemingly evolved somewhat; that is, except for the Palestinians and their very wealthy, loot-the-coffers leadership. Just the other day, while I was writing these thoughts down, it was reported that Israeli forces stopped an old-fashioned suicide bombing that was about to be perpetrated. The IDF patrol at the Tapuach Junction in the Shomron, not far from Ariel, apprehended a Palestinian who aroused suspicion when he was observed wearing a large, heavy overcoat on a Friday midmorning when it was over 90 degrees outside.

The man had what is commonly referred to as a suicide belt strapped around him. The idea is to saunter into a crowd and then blow himself up, with the objective of killing as many Jews as possible. Somehow the perpetrator was arrested and the bombs disarmed by sappers. According to news reports, the would-be bomber had three accomplices, people bent on blowing themselves up amongst innocents in order to–in a twisted way–protest the presence of Jews breathing and living on what the Arabs wrongly consider ancestral Palestinian land.

Which leads me to the security fence around greater Jerusalem, its success in keeping suicide bombers out, and the so-called spontaneous drama by Pope Francis as he stopped his vehicle on the way to Bethlehem and leaned his skullcap-covered head against the lifesaving wall, thereby protesting its construction and existence. I will guess that a good many people reading these words today have also traveled last week’s papal route to Bethlehem. Granted, he was not headed for the sacred burial ground of the biblical Rachel like many of us, but rather veered off to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

If there is anything to protest about this drab, gray, 30-foot-high wall, it is its ugliness and the fashion in which it unfortunately obscures a pristine biblical landscape. Other than that, its presence and existence should have been celebrated by the pope rather than protested or criticized. As you may have read in news accounts, the pope stopped at a spot that was graffiti-filled and that read, “Bethlehem is like the Warsaw Ghetto.” Most claim that the papal publicity stunt was spontaneous, but I have strong suspicions about that.

What it was, more than anything else, is insensitive and wrongheaded. It does not really need to be written here that what this wall has accomplished is somewhat remarkable. Less than a decade ago, people were blown up sipping coffee in cafés, going to school on buses, or just walking down King George Street in central Jerusalem. The security wall is cause for celebration of the triumph over an extreme and horrid evil that should have been roundly condemned. Perhaps Pope Francis should have said that he was praying for a time when a wall like this would not be necessary, when the Palestinians of Fatah and Hamas would forswear and give up on their determination to murder just for the sake of killing. But he didn’t say that.

But what the pope did do was invite Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican to join together and pray for peace. That prayer event is scheduled to take place on June 6. Is there anyone out there who believes that this is anything more than another exploit or showcase, or that praying for peace is likely to be more effective in Rome rather than in Jerusalem?

I don’t know about Mahmoud Abbas’s daily prayer schedule or whether he even has one. While President Peres may be a spiritual person who believes in the G‑d of Israel, he is not known for his disposition toward religious observance. On that count, it would seem that the pope, or whoever hatched the idea, picked the right people to participate in what will, in all likelihood, be a charade or meaningless ceremony.

A critic of Israel told the New York Times last week that in Israel the president’s position is only ceremonial and wields no real power. That just about captures the sum total of the planned Vatican get-together this Friday.

Two things are true. One is that the ceremony will accomplish very little. The other is that it is probably better than nothing. v

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at editor@5tjt.com.


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