Some of my readers are undoubtedly familiar with the following story of Menachem Begin, z”l.
When a young senator from Delaware, slamming forcefully on the table in the course of a 1982 Senate hearing, told him that aid to Israel would be cut if Israel persisted in building in Judaea & Samaria, he responded (emphasis added):
“Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
This response by Begin is one of a multitude of reasons why I so respected him, and so miss him.
The story is instructive because of what Begin modelled for Jews today. But there is yet another aspect not to be overlooked: The young senator from Delaware was Joe Biden, currently touted as a great friend of Israel.
Then there is a famous quote from David Ben-Gurion, z”l, founding father of Israel.
“It does not matter what the goyim [literally, the nations] say, it only matters what the Jews do.”
Ben Gurion had the astounding courage to go ahead and announce Israel’s founding when much of the world was opposed.
In recent years, when I have despaired at the reluctance of Israeli leaders to stand up for what is good for our nation, I have called it galut [diaspora] mentality: a carry-over from the 2,000 years that we Jews endured in other lands without sovereignty. Our powerless required us to forever demonstrate a desire to please in order to survive.
What we see now indeed mimics galut mentality, but I realize, as I reflect upon the matter, that it is not. For, as I have just demonstrated, we had earlier leaders – and I count Yitzhak Shamir, z”l, very much among them – who had the necessary courage to act on Israel’s behalf and knew when to say no.
All of them were from environments that were challenging for Jews, in Poland and Belarus. And perhaps their courage was burnished in the fire of the places they came from; they certainly weren’t beaten into attitudes of submission by their early experiences.
But whatever we call it, this behavior still emerges all too frequently today: That fawning, that eagerness to please. And it was on full and shameful display in the last couple of days. There are those who are nationalists, most concerned with keeping Israel strong, and those who are universalists, most eager to be part of/OK with the larger world. And make no mistake about it: the world embraces the universalists. It takes considerably more courage to stand strong for the nation.
So Joe Biden came to call. To receive him with due courtesy was appropriate. But why the gushing? The fawning? Why allude to him as a tremendous supporter of Israel? Why distort facts and history?
The story about how he spoke to Begin is not the only instance of a troublesome stance towards Israel he has exhibited. Netanyahu has his own story, from 2010, when he was prime minister and Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, was visiting. Information leaked – courtesy of Peace Now, which was eager to stir matters up – that plans for building a new Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem were scheduled to come before a local committee for review. This was at a time when Netanyahu had committed to a 10 month freeze in building in Judea & Samaria (itself regrettable), which was then coming to an end. Biden went ballistic and “condemned” the plans, which were absolutely legitimate even within the parameters of the freeze: Ramat Shlomo is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Normally the term condemn is used with reference to terrorism. Biden, choosing to make an ugly scene, accused Netanyahu of deliberately seeking to embarrass him, which was not the case. The planning was so routine that Netanyahu did not even know about the scheduling.
To clinch our understanding of Biden’s true intentions toward Israel, it is only necessary to take a look at his appointees. There is Hady Amr, Deputy Assistance Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. In 2002, when Sheikh Salah Shahada, the head of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was taken out by an Israeli airstrike, Amr wrote:
Arabs “now have televisions, and they will never, never forget what the Israeli people, the Israeli military and Israeli democracy have done to Palestinian children. And there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents.”
And Maher Bitar, whom Biden has appointed as a senior director of Intelligence in the National Security Council. Bitar has strong ties to the Palestine Solidarity Movement, a BDS- supporting, anti-Israel hate group.
Biden is no friend. Yet ten days before he arrived, Israel was already planning “gestures” to the Palestinian Authority, at the request (read demand) of the US administration. Some of these “gestures” – such as permitting legalization of large numbers of Arab buildings in Gush Etzion of Area C – are severely detrimental to Israel, as they would choke off the expansion of Jewish communities. Long awaited planning regarding important building in E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, was taken off the table.
I want to stop here and make one exceedingly important point: Do not think that Israeli officials feel compelled to go out their way to be accommodating to Biden because we need US financial assistance. This is the simply not the case! The US benefits enormously from money provided to Israel:
Yoram Ettinger, who speaks often to this issue, says the US is not providing Israel with “foreign aid,” but is rather making an investment which yields an annual return-on-investment of several hundred percent.
Most people do not realize that the major part of money provided by the US must be turned around and utilized for purchasing US military equipment, thus stimulating the US economy.
Ettinger lists the following benefits to the US as well:
* Israel serves as the battle-tested, cost-effective laboratory of the US defense and aerospace industries and the US armed forces. Israeli know-how has improved upon US military equipment. This has been demonstrated by improvements made to the F-35, F-16 and F-15 fighter jets—as well as by hundreds of additional U.S. military systems employed by Israel.
What is more, Israeli combat experience has promoted U.S. military systems throughout the world, advancing U.S. exports
* The US would have to establish five CIAs in order to procure the intelligence provided by Israel.
* Israel’s presence in a volatile Middle East spares the US the necessity of stationing US soldiers here, saving the US $15 billion annually.
Please share this broadly, as it is something people must know.
Biden came and the theater began. There were declarations of love. Biden was awarded the presidential Medal of Honor by President Herzog. And last Thursday Lapid and Biden signed a Jerusalem Declaration.
Officially a “Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration,” it is non-binding. And so keep in mind that all of the lovely words are just that: words.
But there is one issue in particular within that Declaration that I want to consider (emphasis added):
“…the United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat or combination of threats….The United States further reiterates that these commitments are bipartisan and sacrosanct…
“The United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon…”
Following the signing, the two held a press conference. You can see it in its entirety here:
Prime Minister Lapid spoke well when he said that “In order to protect freedom, sometimes force must be used…The only way to stop Iran is by putting a credible military threat on the table.”
Biden’s response, after babbling about the ironclad commitment the US has to ensuring that Israel can defend itself by itself, was that “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome [of preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons]. “
But this is the worst sort of bull hockey and I struggle to retain by professionalism as I write this. The US has been consistently sucking up to Iran, while permitting Iran to get closer to the bomb. All of Biden’s words about guarantees are worthless and I do not comprehend anyone supporting what went on during Biden’s visit.
Biden spoke about the US commitment to making sure Israel can defend itself by itself. And let it be clearly understood: that is all Israel wants, to be able to most effectively defend herself.
But there’s a catch here. The US possesses the bunker busters that would allow Israel to take out Iran’s underground nuclear facilities but will not share them, or the planes to carry them, with Israel. You know why? Because we might actually use them. And certainly the threat that we might would be very real.
So Biden spoke about the Iron Dome and other military equipment, but did not address the issue of Israel’s need for the bunker busters. Supporters of Israel in the US might want to follow-through on this.
As most of you surely know, on Friday, Biden paid what was termed a “personal visit” to eastern Jerusalem, to the Augusta Victoria Hospital. In spite of an Israeli request, he refused to allow any Israelis to accompany him, even though this is routine. To be absolutely clear about this, the hospital, although it is referred to as a “Palestinian” hospital and receives patients sent by the PA, is under the auspices of the Israel HMO system! It would have been proper for someone from the Israeli Ministry of Health to accompany Biden.
But it gets worse. During the visit of the American entourage here in Jerusalem, the official armored presidential vehicle carried both US and Israeli flags. Before he went to eastern Jerusalem, however, Biden had US officials remove the Israeli flag!!
What Biden did was merely symbolic – it in no way undermines our sovereignty in our capital. But symbolic or not, it’s bad news: Obviously it was calculated to signal a weakening of Trumps recognition of all of Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital.
From the hospital visit, Biden went to visit with Mahmoud Abbas of the PA in Bethlehem. After the meeting he made a statement to the press, which included this:
“As President of the United States, my commitment to that goal of a two-state solution has not changed…two states for two people, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land, living side by side in peace and security.” (Emphasis added) It is a basic misrepresentation, a repetition of a Palestinian Arab lie, to say both people have ancient roots in this land. The question is whether Biden has swallowed this whole and believes it.
“Every person has a right to be treated with dignity…The Palestinian people are hurting now, you can just feel it, your grief and frustration. in the United States we can feel it…
“Jerusalem is central to the national visions of both Palestinians and Israelis, to your histories to your faiths to your futures. Jerusalem must be a city for all its people.”
So there you have it: he supports dividing Jerusalem between two states. More lies drawn from the Palestinian Arab narrative. Mecca is what’s central to Muslim faith, Jerusalem has a history as a Jewish city that goes back millennia. Muslims laid claim to it to undermine Israel.
Is Lapid content with his lovefest with Biden and does he accept the way that Biden subsequently behaved? Undoubtedly he hoped that being close to the US president (those picture ops!) would bring him support in the coming election. But I truly doubt that this will be the case. The Israeli electorate is in another frame of mind altogether, and I hope and trust that Netanyahu will run very serious rings around him!!
I close with a report that the Nachala Movement I wrote about last week has raised over 5 million NIS, which gives it solid footing for the first stage of their campaign. To all those who contributed, I express great thanks.
Daniella Weiss and other leaders are reporting that they have never seen such an outpouring of people ready to act to change the situation. Very tough times ahead, but the promise is solid.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.