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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Iyar 2, 5768, 5/7/2008

      With a President Like This...

      Why is the President of the State of Israel only in touch with his Jewishness as a result of external threats rather than internal conviction?
      As the titular head of state, the president of Israel is meant to embody - or at least represent - the nation and its interests.

      Sadly, as Israel turns 60, we can not claim to have such a leader in Shimon Peres.

      In a revealing interview with Ha'aretz, Peres makes two statements that leave the reader shaking his head in complete and utter disbelief.

      Speaking about the conflict with the Palestinians, Peres made the following pseudo-admission: "I believed the separation between the West Bank and Gaza would make things easier, not harder. I did not imagine that we would leave Gaza and they would fire Qassams from there; I did not imagine that Hamas would show so strongly in the elections."

      He did not imagine it! This statement is utterly astonishing, if only because prior to the Gaza retreat, this is precisely the scenario that was forecast by both the Israeli right as well as the military. Day in and day out, the alarm was sounded, warning against the inevitable disastrous consequences of a unilateral withdrawal from the region, but neither Peres nor his cohorts on the Left was willing to listen. So it is not that Peres did not "imagine" how bad things would turn out - he simply did not want to accept reality.

      And then there is this whopper, which interestingly enough, appears only in the Hebrew version of the interview and not in the English: Peres says that Hamas together with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "return me to the Jew within me".

      As nice as it is to hear that Peres may be drawing closer to his "inner Jew", the question that comes to mind is: why does it take the threat of destruction and annihilation to do this? Why is the President of the State of Israel only in touch with his Jewishness as a result of external threats rather than internal conviction?

      And there, my friends, is the true root of Israel's current problems - a leadership that has grown so detached from its heritage that it takes the threat of Qassam rockets and possible nuclear annihilation to remind them of who they are.

      As Israel enters its 61st year, let's hope and pray that we will soon be blessed with true Jewish leaders - men who are anchored in faith and confident in the justness of our cause.