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The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
James Baker is back in the headlines. No surprise that he wants Israel to withdraw from the Golan in order to ease America's problems in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter has published a book that he calls Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Robert Gates, in his hearings about his nomination to be Secretary of Defense, said that Israel had nuclear weapons, and they are one of the reasons for Iran's nuclear program.
The nerves of Israelis and other Jews are heating at about 99.5 and climbing on a scale of 100. How hard will Baker push? Will Bush II respond? Will Carter impact? Does Gates' comment suggest that American policy is not only to understand Iranian motives, but to accept them? Or perhaps force Israel to destroy its nuclear arsenal in order to allow peace in the Middle East?
Reviews of Carter's book say that he concludes that Israel is not an apartheid state, but most will not get beyond the title. Carter and those who take him seriously should accompany us on our evening walk. They will pass several neighbors chatting in Arabic, and most likely see a group of young men sharing a water pipe while sitting on a park bench.
Gates' revelation comes 20 years after the London Sunday Times published Mordecai Vanunu's pictures of Israel's nuclear weapons factory at work.
This is Baker's second major effort to solve the problems of the Middle East. The first had something to do with a conference in Madrid that led in stages to an agreement hammered out in Oslo, that contributed to the intifada begun in 2000 and still sputtering after more than 1,000 Israeli deaths and perhaps 4,000 Palestinian.
Sane Israelis can hope that the people in charge of maintaining and guarding the nuclear weapons are brighter and more alert than those who let Benny Sela slip through their fingers. That is assuming we have nuclear weapons. Officials are still withholding confirmation.
Next week is Hanukah. After lighting the candles and before stuffing ourselves with goodies, we will sing "Maoz Tzur," a praise to the Rock of Ages (God) for dealing with a list of those who have sought to destroy us: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Antiochus, and maybe Frederick I of Germany. The Germans among us argue as to whether the "red one" in one of the later stanzas refers to him-- Barbarossa-- or whether we should sing that far.
We are still waiting for someone to compose stanzas commemorating the efforts of the Czar to deal with his Jewish problem by assuring that one-third of them would starve, one-third emigrate, and one-third convert. (Grandpa was part of the middle third.) Perhaps Hitler is too recent and too evil to make it into Hanukah music, and James Baker and Jimmy Carter are not in that league. They, too, we will survive.
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