I attended the AIPAC breakfast event yesterday morning at the Biltmore. About 1, 400 people were there in a typical AIPAC-style program, very well done with excellent speakers and a clear message – it’s time to step up to support Israel. How? By being in touch with our political leaders and making our voices heard (it matters), decrying efforts to delegitimize Israel and by offering support by visiting. What should we be writing our legislators about? Right now, time to stop Iran’s power spread and rush to acquire nuclear capability by applying economic sanctions. An economic attack is preferable to a military one!

One of my concerns is with what’s happening inside Israel. I am not at all dismissive of these significant concerns (a topic for future blogging), but here a few salient points regarding Israel and her security in an increasingly volatile Middle East. I was reminded of these from AIPAC and from my own reading and experience, and am sharing it with you, to put it all in perspective. Israel is not very good at explaining her position to the world (PR budget note to the Israeli government). Have we forgotten, or perhaps did we never realize that:

  1. As David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, noted, Israel makes a lot of news, but Israel (and the Jewish people) are small…about 1/800th of the population of the Middle East, nine miles wide = a 15 minute drive from Tulkarem (in the heart of the West Bank) to Netanya.
  2. To those who say that the obstacle to peace is the existence of Israel’s settlements, note that for a period of ten months under Netanyahu’s administration, construction in settlements was halted (much to the anger of many Israelis). No peace initiatives were pursued by the PA in exchange. ALL Israeli settlements in Gaza were disbanded a few years ago, and to our knowledge, the only Israeli ‘living’ in Gaza is the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
  3. The reproduction rate in the West Bank is slowing somewhat and economics there have improved by 10% under the current Israeli government (a clear connection, in my mind).
  4. Israel has rushed to embrace anyone who wanted to make peace. It only took 100 days to negotiate and implement a comprehensive, complicated peace treaty with Jordan (that included issues such as water rights); when Sadat came to Jerusalem, Israel responded by giving up the Sinai, land captured in the 1956 War with Egypt. What happened at Oslo? Arafat destroyed the peace process. Was Abbas any better? He rejected Olmert’s offer of significant concessions. Why? See #5.
  5. Less than 25% of Palestinians polled think that Israel has a right to exist at all. Hamas, Hezbollah and the PA pledge to eradicate Israel (still part of the Palestinian National Charter) The historical claim of the Jewish people to Israel is ignored in their media and classrooms. Israel is intentionally misrepresented (btw, we were Palestinians, too,before the 1948 War) and, as David Horowitz characterized the situation, there is an ongoing focused effort to separate us from our history.
  6. Strategies of attacking Israel have occurred in three stages: wars, intifada (intimidation and terrorism) and ‘asymmetrical missile warfare’ in which attacks against Israel are launched from places such as schools and mosques, putting civilians, particularly women and children in harm’s way. When Israel retaliates, it makes it seem that Israel has no regard for human life. BTW, before Israel has launched counter attacks, she has been known to drop leaflets and warn people. Contrast this with years of shelling and katyusha rockets firing into civilian centers in northern and southern Israel.
  7. Israel is a real ‘problem’ for fundamentalist regimes; she is a strong democracy with free flow of ideas and learning;

I learned that there has been 20% turnover this year in the US Congress, and notable changes in the leadership of key committees such as the Armed Forces and Appropriations Committees, both of extreme importance to Israel’s well being.

In the past, support for Israel was a ‘given’ in the Jewish community, but know that this is no longer the case. How wonderful to have seen high school and college students there, learning and absorbing. We need to do more to get the message out.

A long standing concern of mine has been with our comfort levels here in the US and the blessed life we lead here thanks to the liberties ensured under our Constitution, a marked departure from how any other group of Jews has historically ever lived, other than while under our own sovereignty in the Land of Israel. I am old enough to remember how different life became for American Jews after the 1967 War…and know that our well being here is intertwined with the well being of the State of Israel. But I’m afraid that many have forgotten, and many more never realized or appreciated this.

We can argue all we want about whether or not we agree with Israel’s internal politics and policies, but if Israel’s physical existence is in jeopardy, what difference does the rest make? And if the State should, one day, be secure in its boundaries, is that all that we expect of the promise of the Jewish State? And what does it mean to have a Jewish State without Jewish core values being lived there, including how we deal with all those who live within her borders? Seems that we must do both – help to secure Israel externally and internally.

Senator Kyl gave an update on the situation in Egypt. I found it frightening for Israel and for the US. The US interest in promoting democracy is clear, but what happens in the Middle East is that language seems to get translated according to a different lexicon. My heart cries for people everywhere who live under oppression and seek a better life for themselves and their children. When Mubarak steps down, will a true democracy emerge and become ingrained in Egyptian politics and in the minds and hearts of the people? Will that society see an end to repression and coercion replaced by enhanced educational and economic opportunities with free flow of information and speech? Probably not. Will events unfold much like the transition in Iran thirty years ago when the Shah was forced to flee the country? In the leadership vacuum that followed, a fundamentalist regime, quiet until that moment, burst onto the stage and took over the country, changing the balance of power in the region. With chaos ensuing in Egypt, will this pattern repeat? How about Tunisia? Attempts were made in Turkey, but that country was, perhaps a little more prepared. Lebanon is already an Iranian satellite. Is Jordan next? The Moslem Brotherhood has been relatively quiet…perhaps they have been preparing while biding their time. Their ascendancy would most certainly not serve the interests of democracy, and would likely become even more repressive than the current regime. It wouldn’t surprise me, and I hope that I’m wrong.

So, where does this leave us?