No one to talk to?

Moses was ready to make overtures even when prospects of peace seemed hopeless.

Palestinians angry 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
Palestinians angry 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
Every day on the radio I hear someone say, "There is no partner" or "There is no one to talk to" - it's become part of Israeli political culture. My own view is that irrelevant to what political position one takes, whether there is a partner or not, not to talk to the other is a very dubious position. It is dubious because, from a psychological point of view, it implies that there is no obligation on you. No one to talk to means that you are not to blame for anything that has gone wrong; it means that you have a license to do whatever, because they wouldn't talk. How convenient! This attitude easily slips into a victim mentality. I am not to blame; I tried; look what they did to me. How curious that 58 years after independence this galut victim mentality is so prevalent in Israel - the Jew as the victim, as the nebech. This victim mentality, this view that I'm blameless, sits easily with the attitude that the world is against us; that the goyim hate us. Now let us assume that this is indeed true. There is no partner in the Middle East, and the goyim do hate us. So what is the next step? Well the next step is that since the world hates us, we can rely only on our own strength. We have to be strong and that means to sear our existence into others' consciousness, to smash them to smithereens. We can't expect help from anyone. FOR THE past 40 years or so, Israel's foreign policy has been motivated by crass realpolitik. Zionism has meant supporting anything or anyone who is seen as good for the Jews. How often one heard that ethics and morality were fine for Europe and Scandinavia, but not for the Middle East. So Israel supplied weapons to every fascist dictator in South America (no rabbi ever said a word that this was against Halacha). Israel even began to help the racist apartheid regime in South Africa obtain nuclear weapons. How ironic that we now have to turn to the goyim - in this case the Europeans (who of course haven't learned anything from history), and to Russia and China, to help us deal with a very real threat from Iran. But if our foreign policy was motivated by self-interest, why should Russia and China behave any differently from us? If you want the Quartet to take their noses out of the Middle East, if you haven't invested with the Europeans, then why on earth should they help us, unless it is in their self-interest to do so? NO COUNTRY can go it alone any longer. There is no successful war against terror unless there is international cooperation. And, lo and behold, Israel has now had to turn to the accursed United Nations to help it do what it couldn't do in its own backyard, namely, to patrol southern Lebanon. Our amoral government couldn't see the irony when it suggested that German soldiers should also be part of the force protecting the Jewish state. But the Germans, thank God, could see the irony, and refused. Some readers will conclude that this writer is some rootless cosmopolitan with no Jewish background suffering from an acute case of Copenhagen Syndrome, etc, etc. So let me conclude with a dvar Torah in the name of R. Simha Bunim of Przysucha. R. Bunim was the dominant hasidic personality in Poland in the first half of the 19th century, when Poland was the center of Hasidism. In Kol Simcha (p. 95), he asks, how could Moses have made a peace overture to Sihon, the Amorite King, when God expressly told Moses to make war against him? R. Bunim answers that the pursuit of peace is so important even though you know the other side will not respond, nevertheless, seeking peace is the dynamic to be in and it will bring its own reward. No knee-jerking negative response here. On the contrary, someone who has a degree of self-confidence, an inner-strength of identity, can engage the other. What a contrast to the Shamir government of the 1980s, which made it a crime for an Israeli even to talk the PLO. To talk, even to understand, does not mean to agree with. But at least you begin to see how the other sees the world. And if he rejects your overture, what have you lost? Let the responsibility be seen as his. The writer is rabbi of Yakar in Jerusalem.