Ignoring the advice of all the experienced negotiators who
said not to offer anything without reciprocity from the
Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak laid just
about all his cards onto the table with the Palestinians.
Braving the pain he talked about all the time, Barak made
concessions that went far beyond what any Israeli official
had ever been willing even to discuss. Yasser Arafat, for his
part, conceded very little and certainly nothing in
proportion to the offers that Barak made.
In doing so, the prime minister seems to have won over U.S.
President Clinton to his side. If there are no other results
from this accomplishment soon, the good will of the current
U.S. President will be worthless since there will be a new
President of the U.S. in less than six months.
Some observers have pointed out that it is ironic that Barak
who so confidently set out to bring peace may have actually
set its cause back. This is because, in offering such far-
reaching concessions, Barak has forced the issue of whether
the Palestinians really are "partners" in wanting peace.
By offering so much, only to have it summarily rejected by
the Palestinian side, Barak raises the question of whether
the Palestinian side is at all prepared for peace. The issues
that were discussed -- especially Yerushalayim -- will
clearly require concessions on both sides if an agreement is
to be made. It is crystal clear to anyone who is serious
about reaching an agreement -- and the Israeli Left, for
example, is very serious about reaching an agreement -- that
doing so must involve concessions on both sides, and the only
thing to discuss is the exact configuration of the
concessions. By showing themselves unprepared for any
concessions on these issues, the Palestinians strongly
implied that they are not interested in peace.
For the Israeli Left this is a serious problem since their
entire approach was based on the assumption that the
Palestinians are their partners for peace.
For us, as we are reminded at this time of year, the pain of
Yerushalayim is different. We are not focused on the
political control of the area, but on its spiritual level. We
mourn the moral and spiritual fall that took place on Tisha
B'Av, and pray for a renewal that will be expressed in fire
from Heaven and not photo opportunities on the White House
Political uncertainty is a relatively benign aspect of our
long golus that we can tolerate as long as it does not
lead to bloodshed. We only expect our political situation to
be resolved in the context of a much more important spiritual
revolution led by our Moshiach.
Secular Jews see politics as the source of all that ails them
and the world, and they look to the political arena for
solutions. All their hopes are bound up in the political
process, and they cannot bear the idea that there is no way
to solve everything, once and for all.
Our eyes are turned Heavenward. We end our reading of
Eichah: Hashiveinu Hashem eilecho venoshuvo, chadeish
yomeinu kekedem. We wish to renew the spiritual glory of
yesteryear, and the politics will take care of itself.