The Revising of History

Yisrael Medad,

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צילום: ערוץ 7
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a revenant resident of Shiloh, in the Hills of Efrayim north of Jerusalem. He arrived in Israel with his wife, Batya, in 1970 and lived in the renewing Jewish Quarter, eventually moving to Shiloh in 1981. Currently the Menachem Begin Center's Information Resource Director, he has previously been director of Israel's Media Watch, a Knesset aide to three Members of Knesset and a lecturer in Zionist History. He assists the Yesha Council in it's contacts with the Foreign Media in a volunteer capacity, is active on behalf of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and is involved in various Jewish and Zionist activist causes. He contributes a Hebrew-language media column to Besheva and publishes op-eds in the Jerusalem Post and other periodicals. He also blogs at MyRightWord in English and, in Hebrew, at The Right Word....

First of all, I apologize to my readers.  I have had technical problems with my blog - all my own fault, I hope.

And now, on to my subject.

Camp David 1978 is back in the news.  With a new administration, everyone and his mother's uncle are advising President B. H. Obama what to do regarding Israel and especially, those "obstacles to peace", the Jewish communities located in areas of the Jewish national home that was to be reconstituted by international law and where revenant Jews reside legally.

One historian, Arthur Herman, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the subject of Camp David and attacks Jimmy Carter.  Here's a portion of what he wrote:

Yet for all their bluster and intransigence in public, Begin and Sadat were more than ready for a deal once they understood that the U.S. would do whatever was necessary to stop the Soviet Union and its Arab allies, such as the PLO, from derailing a peace. An agreement was hammered out for an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, coupled with vague language about Palestinian "autonomy." The item Mr. Carter had really wanted on the agenda -- a Palestinian state -- was kept at arm's length.

Camp David worked because it avoided all of Mr. Carter's usual foreign policy mistakes, particularly his insistence on a comprehensive solution. Instead, Sadat and Begin pursued limited goals...

Above all and most significantly, Camp David sought peace instead of "justice." Liberals say there can be no peace without justice. But to many justice means the end of Israel or the creation of a separate Palestinian state. Sadat and Begin, in the teeth of Mr.Carter's own instincts both then and now, established at Camp David a sounder principle for negotiating peace. The chaos and violence in today's Gaza proves just how fatal trying to advance other formulations can be.

This is fine reading of what happened.  But then he goes a bit further than the facts would support:

The true story of Camp David is one of two ironies...The second irony is that if any one man deserves credit for Camp David, it is not Jimmy Carter but Anwar Sadat. It was Sadat who managed to save Mr. Carter from himself and revealed the true secret about forging peace in the Middle East: The Palestinian issue is the doom, not the starting point, for lasting stability in the region.

And earlier in the article, Herman implies that Sadat, seeking peace, supposedly, after 1973, sought allies with Nixon and Kissinger. That, I would suggest is revisionism.  Sadat?  All by himself? 

Should we not be asking what happened between 1973 and 1977?  Why was there not peace?  Could it have been that it was only with Menachem Begin coming upon the scene as Israel's Prime Minister in 1977, that the peace agreement became a possibility?  Perhaps it was Sadat's fault there was no peace? Or, could it be that it was really Menachem Begin that deserves the major credit for the success of Camp David, to the extent it was a success?

That peace agreement was achieved by Israel surrendering physical things and Egypt awarding intangibles, easily withdrawn.  Who gave up the Sinai despite the 1967 Egyptian aggression? Who gave up the oil fields developed by Israel?  What did Sadat yield? Who agreed to an autonomy plan for the Arabs of the Land of Israel? Who only permitted a cold peace to develop?

Whether one agreed with that peace agreement, and I didn't, or not, history should not be permitted to be toyed with and rewritten.

To his credit, Begin managed to keep the Jerusalem issue out of the main body of the agreement, relegating it to an "exchange of letters" on "positions".  Sadat, unlike what Herman writes, at least on this issue actually did pursue a "justice" path and, in doing so, almost sabotaged Camp David.  Sadat sought to pursue an "Islamic comprehensive peace" but, it seems, Herman doesn't know his own material.

Another item on this subject is provided to us by Gershom Gorenberg, an almost rabid opponent of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.  He has reviewed, naturally for the New York Times, Jimmy Carter's newly published book, We Can Have Peace In The Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work.

Here's my comment on what he wrote:

A beginning student of the Middle East should not learn diplomatic history from this text. In Carter’s telling, the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem at his prodding. More objective accounts portray Sadat as making an end run around Carter’s stubborn intent to reconvene the Geneva peace conference.

...The agreement with Egypt arguably improved Israel’s security as much as any other single event in its history. Yet a portion of American Jewry has never forgiven Carter for his success. This hints at a key lacuna in Carter’s agenda: though he got into the peacemaking business as a politician, he gives too little attention to the need for building political support for a diplomatic initiative — among voters at home as much as among Israelis and ­Palestinians.

Indirectly, Carter’s title also hints at a second lacuna. Looking for a neutral name for the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, he chooses “Holy Land,” a phrase from Christian tradition. Carter’s perspective is explicitly religious. Though that can irritate secular observers, it has served him well. His faith helped him build personal connections both to Sadat and to the Israeli ­leader Menachem Begin, despite Begin’s intransigence. Yet when he finally presents his outline of a peace agreement here, he makes no new, creative proposal for the future of the holy place claimed by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Given Carter’s sensitivity to religious issues, this is surprising and disappointing.

My comments:

a) "arguably". That's an understatement. True, no war has broken out but there have been terror attacks and most of the Hamas arms are coming in through Egypt, stored there in Sinai and transported to Rafah.  Terror agents and their Beduin supporters are quite active.

b) "a portion of American Jewry". That's a snide swipe at Jews who support the legitimate right of Jews to live in their homeland, who care for Israel's security and who campaign for US support for those policies as America, unlike Gorenberg it might seem, is democratic. The old "ost-juden"* complaint: it's them you should be angry at, implicate Gorenberg, not me who is grovelling to be accepted by liberal and progressive forces.

c) "'Holy Land', a phrase from Christian tradition". Of course, the Land of Israel is refered to in Jewish tradition as אדמת הקודש - the Holy Land.  Since the Land of Israel is where the Divine Presence is, which must be treated with several unique mitzvot (מצוות התלויות בארץ), then Eretz-Yisrael became the Holy Land. As the Prophet Zechariah 2:16 wrote ונחל יה-ה את-יהודה חלקו, על אדמת הקודש; ובחר עוד, בירושלים (in English: And the LORD shall inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again) and this verse in Isaiah 14:2, וְהִתְנַחֲלוּם בֵּית-יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל אַדְמַת יְה-ה (and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD). The exact term Eretz-Yisrael is in I Samuel 13:19.

Yes, there is an element of religion in the term but it is Jewish primarily.

Of course, if Carter had used "Judea and Samaria" (it does appear in Acts 8:1), Gorenberg would have gone ballistic.

d) "the Temple Mount".  Gershom, leave the Temple Mount to us.  We know what to do.

And so, if Obama and Hillary and Mitchell take these two men's advice and opinion into consideration, they will fail.

But, will they?

* a derogatory term of German Jews for their brethren from Poland and the East who were considered by them to be uncultured for acceptance into modern society and that they cast shame on these German Jews.