[(Continued from p.7)]Yisrael militates against our right to the Land, will inevitably lead to a Palestinian state, threatens the security of our civilian population, endangers the existence of the state and defeats all prospects of peace."
Yet, within a year of winning election and becoming prime minister based on this platform, Menachem Begin had himself initiated and carried out the surrender of the entire Sinai to Sadat. Worse, Begin acknowledged a "right to national determination of the Palestinian people" [sic] and thus began the process that his own platform acknowledged "will inevitably lead to a Palestinian state [that] threatens our civilian population [and] endangers the existence of [Israel] and all prospects of peace." And so while Labor had laid the groundwork for an Arab state west of the Jordan with its incessant "land for peace" proposals, it was the Likud under Begin that at Camp David established the proximate basis of the Palestinian State. Begin, whose party centered its identity on the claim to the Jewish heartland, gave it away.
These staggering conflicts between deeds and words indicate a crisis of identity that seems to suffuse Israelis in the governing oligarchy and major state institutions, as it does the major Jewish organizations that make up the Presidents' Conference in America. Certainly, Sharon's background is rich in examples. The nationalist general who created the Likud oversaw the destruction of Yamit in 1982. No one--with the possible exception of Netanyahu--wrote more eloquently (in a series of articles in the Jerusalem Post) of the disastrous consequences of Oslo in 1993 and 1994. Yet at the Clinton-called Wye Plantation talks, as newly ap-pointed Foreign Minister, Sharon is reported to have pressed Netanyahu hard to agree to more territorial concessions to Arafat. So it is perhaps not surprising that Sharon, despite an electoral repudiation of Labor unprecedented in its scope, pleaded with Barak and Peres to join and help direct his government. That Barak will not be Defense Minister is due only to his repudiation by his own party; incredibly, Shimon Peres, the unrepentant architect of the Oslo calamity, will be Foreign Minister.
The crisis of identity in the leadership reflects the crisis of identity in the broader public. Perhaps the chief lesson is that without a core religious belief in their right to the Land of Israel, without a belief in the Divine Covenant between land and people, Jews simply cannot sustain their sense of "belonging" to the Land in the face of violent challenges to their right.
(The quotations in this article from Dayan and Begin come from Rael Jean Isaac, Israel Divided, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1976, pp. 131-2, 139-40, 195 and, by the same author, Party and Politics in Israel, New York: Longman, 1981, pp. 139-40, 157.)
Eugene Narrett is author of Gathered Against Jerusalem: Essays on a False Peace (Writers Club Press, January 2001)
(Editor's note: This essay was written in response to the recent letter by 101 Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis urging Israel to surrender the Temple Mount to Yasser Arafat's control.)
The commonplace that Jerusalem is "holy to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism" is frequently invoked by those who wish to dilute or transfer Israeli sovereignty over the city, not in favor of Christians, of course, but of Muslims. But the commonplace is untrue.
Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people by divine favor and human right, by origin and destiny, tradition and significance. The city has played a central role in Jewish religious and political life since King David made it his capital over 3000 years ago, and it has been the home of Jews ever since. The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site; the Western Wall, part of the Temple complex built over 2000 years ago, has been the object of Jewish veneration and the focus of Jewish prayer. Jerusalem is invoked in the Hebrew Bible on 656 occasions. Jews pray in the direction of Jerusalem, invoke its name at the end of each meal and close the Passover seder by singing "Next year in Jerusalem."
By contrast, in the Koran, Jerusalem is never mentioned, any more than it is in the PLO's national covenant of 1964. Muslims, including those praying on the Temple Mount itself, face away from it toward Mecca. The city never became a cultural center or served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state. Muslims have taken serious religious interest in Jerusalem only at times when it has served them politically. When the Old City came under Israeli control, the PLO issued (in 1968) a new Constitution declaring it "the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization."
Of the three major monotheistic religions,
only Judaism attaches sanctity to the whole of
Jerusalem rather than to select localities linked with particular
events in a sacred history. Nor has Jerusalem been for
Jews merely a place of longing. They have continued to
settle there when they could. From the time of the first
census taken in the 1840s, Jews have been the largest
single religious community in the city. Today they vastly out-
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Outpost - 8 - March 2001