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'Why isn't Israel willing to take risks?" This question was repeated in numerous variations at a meeting with the ambassadors of the European Union held recently in Tel Aviv.
After all, they argue, Israel is so strong. And the Palestinians are so weak. And the threats voiced by Arab leaders are for internal consumption only.
Many countries take risks in order to settle disputes - why does Israel refuse to be satisfied with the guarantees supplied by the superpowers? Don't you know that if Israel does not agree to compromise there will never be peace in this part of the world?
WHEN RELATING to Israel's actions or failure to act, you should factor in the same considerations you would be weighing were you in our place, I answered the ambassadors. That way you will understand how it is possible for a democratic, liberal and enlightened country like Israel to turn down offers of compromise from the United Nations, the Quartet and the European Union.
Quite rightly, you say that if you had received similar offers, under similar circumstances, you would have accepted them wholeheartedly.
We too would express confidence in them - were we in your place.
But there is one difference between us, and it is a difference that opens up an abyss. It does not permit us to rely on anyone other than ourselves, and it is the reason why we will not and cannot take chances.
That element is the Holocaust.
When you write reports to your foreign ministries, making an effort to explain Israel's position, when you seek to explain the difference between international logic and the behavior of Israel's government, when you try to understand the motives behind Jerusalem's insistence and suspicions, there is only one answer: the Holocaust.
If a new Holocaust were to occur here, you would surely protest and express regret and, in order to soothe your consciences, you would even establish an orphanage or two to take in the poor Israeli children that survive.
You might even set up a fund to commemorate the victims of the second Holocaust. You would shake your heads and cluck your tongues at the fate of the "poor Jews."
And, in your minds, you would be wondering why it's always the Jews that invite such catastrophes.
And after these sad thoughts about the Jewish fate, you would check your newspapers for the stock reports, have a last sip of coffee, drive off to work and forget all about the matter.
BUT WE can't forget. We lost Six Million of our people in the Holocaust.
Israel currently has six million Jews living in it. We will not be deterred by the threats of our enemies; nor will we listen to the advice of our friends. We will not rely on anyone else.
For us, that is the most important lesson of the Holocaust.
So when you have difficulty understanding us, think about the Holocaust. When you find yourselves searching for our motives, remember the Holocaust. When you try to understand the steps we take, consider the Holocaust.
The collective memory of the Jewish people is rich in traumatic events, from the destruction of the Temple through the Spanish Inquisition to the pogroms in Eastern Europe; but no historic memory can compare to the Holocaust.
No tragedy has left such a mark on our consciousness. There is no motivation for our actions behind which you will not find the Holocaust.
Therefore, distinguished Excellencies, if you want to understand Israel, forget, just for a moment, everything you know about diplomacy and the Middle East, about the Palestinians, the Security Council, international relations and the White House.
Grasp, finally, the key word to understanding the Jewish people, and Israelis specifically. It's the Holocaust.
The writer, a former MK, is a Holocaust survivor.
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