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August 16, 2013

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 16, 2013 I Abandon the Syrian civil war?Isolation is never splendid By Ben Cohen Among the handful of post-war leaders who could always be relied upon to support the United States unstintingly, the name of Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, stands out. Blair wasn't content to merely support U.S. foreign policy. He energetically advocated for American engagement and warned of the negative global consequences of an America in retreat. In April 1999, at the height of the NATO operation against the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo carried out by Serbian forces; Blair delivered an historic speech to the Chicago Council on F)reign Relations, in which he addressed precisely this theme. "We cannot turn our backs on conflicts and the violations of human rights in other coun- tries if we want to be secure," Blair declared, urging his American hosts to "never fall again for the doctrine of isolationism." By spreading "the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society," Blair insisted, we ourselves would become safer. I thought of Blair's stirring words when I Danon: Same approach to negotiations assuressame result By Danny Danon Like most Israelis, I am an eternal optimist• Living day to day in our neighborhood and faced with continued threats to our legitimacy and • even our existence, what choice do we have? That being said, I am extremely pessimistic about the latest round of peace talks that have been initiated in Washington, D.C. There is no shortage of reasons why I should be skeptical, butwhat worries me most are the personalities involved in these talks and the faulty premises they represent. Almost 20 years after the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin attempted to conjure arch- terrorist Yasser Arafat into a worthy partner for peace, it seems that we have not learned the necessary lessons from the past. As the "peace • process" continued to hit bumps along the way, Israel and ourAmericanallies attempted many different variations which all led to the same failed result. We initiated staged withdrawals and implemented unilateral disengagements. At times we included the Europeans and our Arab neighbors in the process, while at key points we negotiated secretly without any third party involvement. The European Union was used to monitor border crossings, and donor countries were asked to invest in an "eco- nomic peace." Let us be brutally frank: None of this worked in changing the dynamics of the conflict or convincing the Palestinians to completely abandon hatred and violence and recognize that the Jewish State is here to stay. Perhaps the problemwith Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations lies notwith the process, but with the people involved in representing the parties at the table. In most professions, when one fails at his job and leaves the project in question in chaos and complete disarray, he is most definitely not asked to keep working on the task at hand:Again and again and again. In fact, he is usually fired. Not so when it comes to the "peace process industry." Saeb Erekat is the main representative for the Palestinian delegation. He has held this position in one form or another since 1991. Despite the hours logged with his Israeli counterparts, and the countless interviews he has granted to western media sources where he extols peace and reconciliation, Erekat has not brought the Palestinians even one inch closer to peaceful existence with Israel. More troubling, it is clear that he never really revised his radical views about the Jewish State. Dur- ing the second intifada, Erekat appeared on live international television to accuse Israel of massacring 500 Palestinians in Jenin while completely ignoring the facts showing that one-tenth of that number had been killed and most of those were armed terrorists. Further, as recently as 2007, Erekat is belligerently on record as denying the possibility of the Pal-- estinians ever recognizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Representing the United States at the latest round of talks is former ambassador Martin Indyk. Like Erekat, Indyk has also been a major player in the peace industry since the early 1990s, and he also can point to zero achieve- ments in bringing peace and prosperity to our region• On the contrary, when Indyk served as the American ambassador to Israel during Prime Minister Netanyahu's first term, he was known for his disparaging attitude towards the democratically elected government• of Israel. Since leaving public office, Indyk has publicly revealed his true political leanings. Until his recent appointment by Secretary of State John Kerry, Indyk chaired the Interna- tional Council of the New Israel Fund (NIF). Over the past few years, NIF has become noto- rious for refusing to stop funding groups that call for a BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel and for actively aiding organizations that provided false details to the Goldstone Commission. Finally, we are left with the chief negotiator on behalf of the State of Israel. Compared to Erekat and Indyk, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is a relative newcomer to peace negotiations. Nevertheless, she too has endured countless hours of negotiating with the Palestinians. Most troubling, her views do not represent a majority of the current government, and are most definitely at odds with the average Likud voter, not to mention the Israeli public, which sharply spurned her in the recent elections. While serving under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Livni offered the Palestinians more than 95 percent of the historic Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria and the unprecedented division of Jerusalem--an offer that was ultimately rejected by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Erekat. It is a fair assumption that She will try to up her offer in the. latest round of talks to succeed where she abjectly failed to surrender in the past. As a father of three small chiidrenl there is nothing I want more than to believe that the latest round of talks will lead to true and lasting peace in Israel. On the other hand, we all know that the definition of insanity is the endless repetition of the same experiment in the hope of obtaining a different result. If this is the case, I call on all sides to end the" insanity and appoint negotiators who have not failed us all in the past and who truly represent the best interests of the people they aspire to represent in this area. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is Chairman of Word Likud and author of"Israel: TheWill to Prevail." THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEIENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN•0199-0721 ,Winner of 43 Press Awards " Editor/Publisher HERITAGE Florida Jewish News ( ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc•, 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PH()NE NUMBER EO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha PauJette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo ° Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley • Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein • Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman • Dawn Lucchitti Elaine Schooping • Gil Dombrosky came across an editorial in the latest edition of the liberal Jewish newspaper, The Forward. Entitled "Letting Syria Go," the editorial was candid in contrasting the "lame" American commitment to the Syrian rebels against the active backing that Bashar aI-Assad's foul regime has received from its allies in Russia and Iran. According to the Forward editorial, America's inaction over the Syrian civil war reflects "who we are now." Obama's "'lead- ing from behind' foreign policy expresses the will of the people," the editorial stated, because America has been "traumatized" by the combined experiences of intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jane Eisner, the Forward's editor, told me via email that the editorial "did not state support for isolationism or interventionism." Eisner added, 'Ifwe accept what is our de facto isolationism, let's at least also understand and face up to the moral implications. And if we intervene, let's remember what we have already learned, that such a path is rife with unintended consequences and costly in blood and treasure." If Eisner is correct, and we really are faced with this profound choice in our foreign policy, then it's worth examining the assumptions of those wo lean towards isolationism. After all, this is a loose grouping that spans left-wing Democrats, who falsely suggest that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between educating our children at home and defend- ing human rights abroad, and right-wing Republicans, who are quite content to live, Cohen on page 15A Letter from Israel Fuzzy boundaries between private and appropriate criteria By Ira Sharkansky The privacy bugaboo has struck twice at the summit of Israel's government. Two nominees for the important post of Governor of the Bank of Israel have had to withdraw their candidacy after embarrassing detaiis began circulating in the media. One had been caught leaving a Duty Free shop in the Hong Kong airport without paying for a garment bag. He held on for a couple of weeks, saying it was all a misunderstanding, but was tripped by a sloppy cover-up. The story he told was plundered by journalists who found • more holes than substance. It might have been better to have admitted guilt, and explained it with a simple story that payment "slipped my mind when I was preoccupied." The second withdrew less than a week after the first, and within two days of being nominated. The revelations about him dealt with consulting an astrologer, and a charge of sexual harassment while working for a major international bank. The nominee insisted that he sought ad- vice from an astrologer only on personal and family matters, and not on anything profes- sional. None the less. the Governor controls interest rates and advises the government on all economic matters. The nominee is well credentialed with a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and a list of professional positions in banking as well as a professorship at the University of Tel Aviv. But who wants an expert in reading the heavens advising the head of the national bank? We may never know for sure whether sexual harassment or astrology was the a more se- rious problem of this nominee, insofar as he withdrew without•enduring any. official determinations of unsuitability. There are al- legations that the charge of sexual harassment, and well as additional assertions that he had problems with tax authorities, and had a spotty management record were fabrications, or not weighty enough to disqualify the candidate, but they managed to get headlines. An item in the internet edition of Ha'aretz began, "Farce of the Governor's Appointment; Another Candidate Falls--Onward to the Next Victim." Several questions pertain to both with- drawals of candidacy. We might applaud the likelihood that personal errors, weaknesses, or follies are out there for all to see. We'might also yearn for serious inquiries about quali- fications and disqualifications, conducted in private to protect candidates from unfounded rumors. Yet the free enterprise of competitive media makes discretion unlikely. Qualified candidates for top appointments turn down the opportunities rather than face the pos- sibilities of unfriendly campaigns. Soon after the second candidate withdrew, Yair Lapid--the Finance Minister who shares responsibility with the Prime Minister for mak- ing nominations to the position of Governor of the Bank cff Israel--wrote, "It is apparent that professors of economics are very colorful and unpredictable. I yearn for people who are solid and stable, like Yatzpan and Baraba (two Israeli comedians). Both cases titillate those antennae that vibrate in the presence of juicy gossip, but also lead us to ponder the limits of acceptable behavior, s well as the ethics of responsible • media. Or what personal sins or foibles are sufficient-to disqualify a candldate for an important position• The borders are fuzzy, vary from place to place, and change with thetimes. Would someone with John F. Kennedy's sexual drives be outside the running for the presidency now that th e media is not reluctant to report on what was considered private in 1960? Bill Clinton's escape from impeachment keeps that question in the realm of the obscure. The issue of astrology is no less clear, but raises some interesting questions about what may be improper in a Jewish country, albeit one with a substantial Muslim minority and lots of Jews who do not observe religious laws, There are several passages in the Hebrew Bible that condemn witchcraft, magic, sorcer- ers, enchanters, those who communicate with the dead, interpret omens, or worship the sun, moon or other heavenly bodies. (See Exodus 22,.Leviticus 19, Deuteronomy 17, 18, 2 Kings 21) They do not explicitly con˘iemn astrology, • but come close. All of these references fit within the notion of a jealous God, who on several occasions condemns those who follow other gods. • Daniel 2:27 has been translated to say that wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers are unable to reveal secrets, but there is some doubt about the derivation of "astrologers" from the Aramaic. Less problematic in Israel are those who pursue the meaning of God's intentions via devices with considerable following among religious Jews, and some Jews active in b.usiness or governmimt who are not overtly religious. Once again we are at the borders of defining Judaism, and left with nothing clearer than Judaism is what Jews do. Kaballah, gematria, and the advice g'iven by charismatic rabbis may be kosher, even though they are as problematic intellectually as astrology. Israelis are generally tolerant of those who violate religious law. To be sure, there are Orthodox Jews who will not see'and thereby avoid saying Hello--to an acquaintance seen driving or listening to music while walking on the Sabbath, and individuals considerably more extreme.who curse and even strike out at women and girls who insist on sitting near the front of a "glatt kosher" bus or walking • on the wrong sidewalk. For the most part, however, Israeli individuals and government bodies accept substantial variations from what others see as Biblical law. Just to cite one example among many, the IDF promoted an acknowledged homosexual to the rank of general long before the US military considered acceptance of homosexuals at any ranks. ' But reliance on astrology, or perhaps a man accused of sexual harassment, or an accused shoplifter who cannot tell a convincing story at the peak of the national economy? Those appear to be outside the fuzzy borders of what is acceptable in Israel. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.