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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Serving Hashem, Mitzvot and Repentance

It Is Always Our Fault

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Part of the fallout from the ill-starred negotiations that recently ended in failure is that somehow blame for this failure cannot be laid at the door of the facilitator, the American State Department and its Secretary of State, but rather it must be assigned to the participants themselves. Originally, President Obama seemed to be even- handed in blaming both participants for the failure of this fool’s errand, but as the recent interviews with "senior" American officials have indicated, it is now clear that Israel is to be held to be at fault for the failed negotiations.

This follows the pattern of the past decades when, since Oslo and Wye, Israel has been unable to fulfill the escalating expectations and demands of the Palestinian Authority. It is easy to see why Israel was blamed for the failure of the talks. Placing the blame on the Palestinian side would have been a tacit admission that, from the onset, the talks had no chance of success – a fact that certainly would again emphasize the ineptness of American foreign policy in this past decade.

So it was the refusal of Israel to release the last batch of terrorist murderers and the announcement that it was going to continue building new housing mainly in the "occupied" Jerusalem area – Gilo, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Eshkol, Maaleh Adumin, Gush Etzion, etc. – that was the root cause of the failure of the talks. This is another one of the many fairy tales that completely becloud the truths of the Middle East in today’s wonder world.

Everyone knows what will remain Jewish property no matter if and when a "final" agreement is reached and that is where Israel is building. But someone must be blamed for the failure of the talks so it might as well be Israel.

A long time ago – forty years ago to be exact – I was the head of the OU Kashrut Division and I was flying from New York to Los Angeles on "business" matters but not in business class. Next to me – I was naturally in the middle seat – was an apparently very high-powered business woman who was working furiously on the spread sheets she laid out before her on the seat tray. This was the period of time in world affairs after the Yom Kippur War when the Arab oil boycott had greatly inconvenienced ordinary Americans and was inhibiting their ability to drive their automobiles.

After a period of time, without any further introduction or preparatory remarks, she turned to me and said curtly "You know that all of this is your fault!" I was naturally somewhat taken aback by this outburst and by the tone of voice employed by this woman, but somehow I gathered myself and I calmly responded to her: "No, madam, it may be because of me. But it is not my fault!" There is no doubt that the Lord has riled up the whole Middle East because of us. But it is not our fault. We are not to be arbitrarily blamed for the mistakes and stubbornness of others.

What the consequences of the failure of the recent talks will be is certainly not known now. The new shotgun marriage of Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has yet to pass the test of time and problems. Will the Palestinians declare a state at the UN? And if so, so what? Will there be an attempt to mount a new wave of violence against Jews living in Israel, God forbid? Will Israel continue to be labeled as an apartheid state while no Jew is allowed into Saudi Arabia or even Ramallah? Again, if so, so what?

This is the unknown future that faces us. We can only admit that the future is certainly inscrutable. But the future has always been one of mystery and unexpected events and unimaginable results. And, only the past can help us understand the present and prepare us to face the unknown future. If after a century of Arab violence against Jews in the Land of Israel we still don’t understand their intentions towards us, then we are truly dense.

What we can hope for, and in fact what we should insist upon, is a change in the mindset of our neighbors, a willingness to recognize that Israel is here to stay and will engage in legitimate negotiations that will have a chance to succeed and produce a viable settlement. That agreement will not only satisfy each side but will be one that both sides will be able to live with. Until then we can only wait and keep on building.
Rabbi Berel Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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