Israel must determine what is in its own best interest - opinion

Haven’t we learned anything? Don’t we know where we live, by what rules our national games are played and how we are being tested all the time?

 MK YAIR Lapid speaks during a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party in the Knesset, last Monday. Lapid is instinctively and reflexively pandering to the Biden administration, says the writer. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
MK YAIR Lapid speaks during a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party in the Knesset, last Monday. Lapid is instinctively and reflexively pandering to the Biden administration, says the writer.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The dust has yet to settle on the hanukkiot that we have all just put away, and yet all the power and inspiration of our recent holiday seems to have vanished.

We read and learn that our Hashmonaim forebears, the Maccabees, stood up to the Greek empire in the face of overwhelming odds. They would not accept the desecration of the Temple, the evisceration of our faith and the eradication of our traditions. They resisted, they fought and miraculously, they won.

Their achievements and the dedication that underlay it all are indeed worthy of celebratory recall. Their example is both humbling and inspiring, and given the gift of the return to our land in sovereignty, should be exemplary.

And yet, less than two weeks after lighting our last candles and wicks, we got to watch as some of our so-called intrepid, fearless leaders were having their knees knocking at the prospect of a minister of the government ascending the Temple Mount.

Haven’t we learned anything? Don’t we know where we live, by what rules our national games are played and how we are being tested all the time?

 NATIONAL SECURITY Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visits the Temple Mount, on Tuesday. (credit: National Security Ministry) NATIONAL SECURITY Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visits the Temple Mount, on Tuesday. (credit: National Security Ministry)

Many years ago, a recently launched magazine called the National Lampoon published a full edition satire of the National Enquirer, the lurid magazine of strange stories and true confessions. The premise of the satire was that underlying all the fretful hoopla was absolutely nothing. Total, uninteresting banality.

So, we were treated to stories like “I drove my daughter to... school!” or “Mother lights stove: fails to explode.”

Reading the hand-wringing warnings of some of our intrepid leaders invariably reminds me of this parody. Remember the disaster that we were in for having the brazen temerity of holding a Flag Parade on Jerusalem Day?

In fact, it could have been part of the National Lampoon parody: “Thousands of Bnai Akiva kids march with flags in Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim... eat falafel afterward.”

What about tampering with the sacred doctrine of the status quo on the Temple Mount? In the last Hebrew calendar year, more than 51,000 people ascended the Mount, more than twice the number of the year before and arguably the greatest number ever to ascend after the destruction of the Second Temple.

WE’RE STILL here, aren’t we? So, it could have only been the same old, same old to have the prospect of Itamar Ben-Gvir, now a government minister, threaten the foundations of peace, democracy and civilized life as we have known it by having the temerity to ascend to the Temple Mount. Why? Who knows, but somehow it would upset people we cannot risk upsetting. Like Hamas, for example.

I am embarrassed to even write these words, knowing that there are responsible, important Israelis who actually believe them. Americans, I can understand and Europeans, I would expect, but Israelis? Who among us, especially those who would pretend to have the mantle of national leadership, could possibly believe in the healing power of appeasement? Who could possibly believe that the long-term welfare and well-being of the citizens of Israelis would be enhanced by cowering in the face of threats by anyone, especially our adversaries?

Lapid's warning

When Yair Lapid warned that blood would flow if Ben-Gvir were to go up to the Temple Mount, one almost thinks it has the ring of, God forbid, wishful thinking. Lapid is playing a dangerous double game. He is instinctively and reflexively pandering to the Biden administration, who of course would prefer Israel to pack it up in Judea and Samaria, leave the Old City and return to those good old Auschwitz borders.

But the more potent, or at least potentially potent, audience is not in Washington but in the Gaza Strip. And here, there is great awareness and an acute sensitivity to the willingness of Israel to stand strong or to stand down. Standing down, invariably described here by sober Israelis as prudent, reasonable and problem-avoiding, is invariably seen there as just plain weak. Weakness, of course, is a condition to be exploited, utilized and taken advantage of. It will beget more threats that will likely have the same response here: Why provoke? What is to be gained? We’re bigger than that.

And so it goes, until one day there is the realization that we are sitting on a tinderbox. What Ben-Gvir did was emulate what 51,000 other people, Jews and non-Jews alike, did last year. They asserted the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and their right to be part of that connection.

If that is so threatening, then we have to wonder about the sanity of any kind of status quo. And if we are cowering in the face of that simple assertion, then shame on us. There has also been tremendous hand-wringing about this new government for its purported extremism and willingness to threaten democracy in the name of religiosity and ideology. But just as Itamar Ben-Gvir was able to ascend the Temple Mount without endangering anything, so too can this new government approach the myriad of issues that need to be confronted without upsetting any democratic, civilizational or existential apple carts.

What’s important is to remember that this is our country and that we, and we alone, must determine what is in our own best interests. Yes, we need to be sensitive and mindful of the sensibilities of our friends but never at the cost of kneeling before our adversaries. The Maccabees wouldn’t have it any other way.

The author is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund and B’yadenu. He can be reached at [email protected]