March 27, 2010
Avi Ifergan, Rehovot, Israel
Dear Mr. President,
Earlier this month, your Secretary of State told a forum of Jewish leaders that ‘sometimes friends need to tell each other the hard truth’. Well Mr. President, allow me, on behalf of my people, to return the courtesy. You have always been rhetorically supportive of Israel, but the incongruence of your actions in the first year of your presidency have left us Israelis, and Jews worldwide, scratching their heads in bewilderment. Mr. President, here’s the hard truth from an Israeli father of 3 daughters, under the age of 6.
No we can’t take any chances when it comes to the physical security of our land, our people or my girls. There exists no room for error. Security is the primary priority.
You see, we learn from our history, and it teaches us a simple truth: No we can’t count on the promises or protection of other nations when our people face an existential threat. The world watched, immovable, as we were slaughtered by the Nazis; In every decade of Israel ’s existence, its neighbors, or the Palestinians waged war on us, and the world watched in relative silence. In the years after the so-called Oslo Peace Treaty, the world remained silent as Israelis faced hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombings, stabbings, drive-by shootings, and kidnappings. The world did however feel free to openly criticize us when we set up check posts and built a security fence to protect ourselves.
No we can’t understand how, in 2006, when over 4,000 Hezbollah missiles rained down on a third of the Israeli population, the leaders of the world found it important to criticize Israel’s military reaction. Similarly we read their criticisms that were splashed across the headlines of the global media during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008. They remained silent during the preceding 6 years that the Kassam rockets from Gaza forced Israel ’s Southern population to sleep in bomb shelters, and did not commend Israel ’s military restraint. Of course, that changed as the Israeli military went into Gaza to locate and destroy the Hamas rocket launchers.
No we can’t believe that you would expect your governments to react any differently, if you and your children were faced with the similar threats.
No we can’t stomach the thought of a holocaust-denying, Hezbollah- and Hamas-funding Iranian President, who in the same breath openly states that his intentions are for Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities, and for the destruction of the ‘Zionist entity’.
No we can’t imagine you doing anything more than proposing more painful sanctions on Iran – and what do you call it – ‘containment’? This is where he ends up getting the nuclear weapons he seeks, right?
No we can’t accept a divided Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel , and of the Jewish people. It is not ‘the third holiest city’, as it is for the Moslems. It is the only holy city of the Jewish people. It has been so for over 2,000 years. Since coming under Israeli sovereignty all religions have been able to visit and practice openly and freely. Oh – and you should know that the ‘Waqf’, those Palestinians who control the Temple Mount in Jerusalem , do not allow any other religions, Jew or Christian, to pray there. I even hear that swaying or the silent moving of the lips is forbidden.
So, no we can’t have friends dictating to us where in Jerusalem we can or cannot build – or feeling insulted when we do as we please in our own land.
No we can’t believe that giving the Palestinian people a land of their own is such a high priority on your foreign policy agenda. Considering their civil rights and terrorist track-record, and the growing influence of Hamas as the likely ruling party. Mr. President, did you know that when the Palestinian Authority came to power in 1994, the first piece of legislation that it passed was the death penalty for any Palestinian who sells land to Jews. Over 100 Palestinians have died, under sentence or extra-judicially, for such sales in the last 15 years. Is this the ‘two-state solution’ that you imagine?
No we can’t comprehend why you would spend the first year of your presidency hugging, bowing and warming to those shining leaders of freedom and democracy Venezuela’s Chavez, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, or Mubarak of Egypt. I know you’re aware of the brutality and lack of freedoms in such non-democracies – the beheadings, the inability of a woman to bear witness in court, or to simply drive, the lack of tolerance when it comes to people who are different – be it culture, religion, or sexual orientation.
And No we can’t understand why, in Israel, where the opposite is true, where Arabs enjoy more freedoms than in any Arab country in the world – freedoms of speech and expression, the press, religion, tolerance to the gay and lesbian community, gender equality, you choose to make a big deal about Jews building in their holiest city - Jerusalem ? We’re an easy target, we know, but please, how about finding something more substantial to make an issue of – and about a non-democracy.
No we can’t fathom why on earth you don’t get us Israelis yet. We Israelis and our governments have repeatedly demonstrated an unwavering commitment to peace, and a willingness to pay a high price for it. In 1947, we accepted the UN’s ‘two-state’ resolution on the partition of Palestine, despite the fact that we would not have had any control of Jerusalem or the surrounding neighborhoods; The Arabs rejected it, and instead 6 Arab nations declared war on our fledgling state. In 1979 we gave up a piece of land greater than the size of the state of Israel , the Sinai, for peace with Egyptians. In 1999, we unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon , allowing Hezbollah to set up its bases in our stead. A year later, Israeli PM Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians ‘the deal of the century’ – 97% of the West Bank, 100% of the Gaza strip, the dismantling of 63 settlements and agreeing that the East Jerusalem neighborhoods would become the capital of their new state. This too, was rejected by the Palestinians. In 2005, Israeli PM Sharon, without negotiations or demanding of concessions, unilaterally pushed through his disengagement plan that led to the dismantling of 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and 4 in the West Bank .
No we can’t trust you….yet. Trust is earned. You see, Mr. President, I teach my girls to pay little attention to words and close attention to deeds. My people have demonstrated by deed that we are willing to pay a high price for peace and security. On more than one occasion you have said that you are committed to the Israel ’s security and will not tolerate a nuclear-capable Iran . Now it’s your turn to match your words with deeds. A two-state solution with the Palestinian people is of little relevance if Iran achieves its nuclear goals.