Monday, January 5, 2009

Pontificating on Gaza, Michael Lerner still married to Oslo

[Jack's Update #9 is here.]

As the war in Gaza continues, England's TimesOnline has a column here by Rabbi Michael Lerner, insisting on the Lerner peace plan - everyone recognize everyone else, open all borders, release all terrorists, and promise not to shoot at each other. The UN will monitor the deal. Then everyone will be fine.

This is sheer foolishness, of course; Hamas didn't start this in order to permit Israel to live in peace. They have already established that they will attack every time they get the chance, with or without pretext. The prisoners are not in jail for jaywalking, folks. And the UN is not an honest broker.

But this is old news. Like the entire Peace Now movement, Michael Lerner is too committed to Oslo - his major lifetime achievement - to move on. Here is relevant material from a column I ran in the Allentown Morning Call on another occasion when Lerner made his peace proposal, back in 2002:

Rabbi Michael Lerner finds himself in an awkward position. Once a feted advisor to Hillary Clinton, who paid tribute to his “Politics of Meaning” movement in a 1993 speech on healthcare, he now finds himself a man without a movement. The result is a man who embraces Oslo instead of turning toward the future.

A staunch proponent of the 1993 Oslo Accords – indeed, an honored attendee of the White House signing – he is now alone in embracing those poisonous documents. The Palestinians rejected the Oslo Accords just days later, when Chairman Arafat entered Rafah Terminal in Gaza smuggling in Mamduh Nofal, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Kalashnikov rifles. The Israelis took eight years to reject the Accords, re-entering the territories in response to months of terrorism. The Americans left the table in June of 2002, when President Bush denounced Chairman Arafat before the world. That leaves a lonely Michael Lerner holding the Oslo pen.

Lerner was also a key advisor to President Clinton, whose team offered Chairman Arafat the world in 2000, only to be rebuffed. When Clinton offered 97% of the land, the Palestinians protested that there was no attached map to guarantee contiguousness, even as they demanded an East-West corridor which would split Israel in half to connect Gaza and the West Bank. Chairman Arafat walked away, President Clinton walked away, negotiator Dennis Ross walked away – and, again, Michael Lerner was left holding the pen. Michael Lerner refuses to admit the errors of Oslo; instead, he is using that pen to resuscitate Oslo.

On July 11, 2002, The Allentown Morning Call published Rabbi Lerner’s naive prescription of “Tough Love” for the Israelis. He excoriated the Israelis for defending themselves against terrorism, and he recommended three Oslo-like steps toward peace:
(1) A United Nations force to protect the Israelis and Palestinians from each other,
(2) A pact of mutual defense to guarantee US defense of Israelis and Palestinians, and
(3) An international conference to impose a solution.
Like the Oslo Accords, which collapsed due to lack of trust and irresponsible international support for the Palestinian Authority, so Rabbi Lerner’s approach will fail. Let’s look at each element of his plan:

1) Establishment of a UN force – This could never be tolerated by any Israeli government. How could they forget that Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser evicted the “protective” UN troops in 1967, as a preface to his closing of the Straits of Tiran and, ultimately, the 1967 war?
In 2000, UN “peacekeepers” along the Lebanon border videotaped Hezbollah terrorists as they kidnapped Israelis and made their getaway; the UN even refused to turn over the videotape to the Israeli government. The UN cannot be trusted to protect Israel’s interests.

2) A mutual defense pact with the US – A lack of trust undermines this. Palestinians regularly use mortars to attack Israeli cities and farms, Hizbollah fires Katyusha rockets from Lebanon, and the Syrians and Iraqis arm missiles with chemical warheads. What will a mutual defense pact accomplish once Israel has been decimated in an initial assault from all sides? Further, will the United States send warplanes halfway around the world every time a terrorist shoots into a school, blows up a bus, or performs one of the innumerable other acts which have now become commonplace?

3) International conference – Michael Lerner’s approach smacks of racist Rudyard Kipling paternalism. Does he think the Palestinians and Israelis are desert children, ignorant natives who need to be led by his esteemed leadership? There are real issues involved between the parties, real grievances and real claims, and the suggestion that everyone simply follow an imposed view is arrogant beyond belief.

There is an ancient Talmudic adage: “Do not bow to your own words.” Rabbi Lerner should finally understand that it is all right for him to let go of the Oslo pen. The history of the past fifteen years has shown that those agreements were misguided. Israel ended its presence in the West Bank and Gaza years ago, came back in order to defend themselves, and then expressed a sincere desire to work with Palestinian leadership; let the violence end, and then let diplomacy begin anew.

Here are some relevant links:
Michael Lerner and Hillary Clinton in 1993

Michael Lerner at Oslo

Yasser Arafat smuggling in a terrorist and weapons after Oslo

The Palestinian charge of contiguity at Camp David

UN peacekeepers' withdrawal from the Sinai in 1967

United Nations peacekeepers videotape kidnapping of Israeli soldiers


  1. the un doesnt even want to be a "peacekeeping" force, just an "observer" force, with NO duty to report on its "monitoring" (and r & r in israel, young women in lebanon, etc).

    ditto the europeans (with the exception of the second half of the paren's), the fiji islanders, etc

  2. A number of years ago The Morning Call used a Michael Lerner article for Yom Kuppor, he actually suggested that the Jews should atone for the treatment that the Palestinians receive from Israel. I suppose because he's a rabbi, and the Jews pride themselves upon liberalism and advanced degrees, the stage is set for such self infliction. Several posts ago, in regard to Bernard Madoff, you wrote, ."You can't say, They should have known it was too good to be true..." I would think positive returns in a negative market should have been a red flag, but once again, we were victimized by our almost blind worship of "expertise." This past november Jews were once again enchanted, this time by the eloquence of the spoken word, ignoring a red flag record of dubious associations. Let us hope Michael Lerner does not become the new administration's rabbi.