As we go to press, the diplomatic position of Israel could
hardly be more opaque. Talks were held in Washington, with no
official word as to their contents.
On Israel's side is a caretaker government that has had the
support of only about 25 percent of the Knesset for more than
six months, led by a prime minister who resigned after being
deserted by all his natural allies. His resignation was a deft
move that was designed to forestall opposition from within his
own party that was building up, as well as to increase his
chances against the Likud candidate.
According to the unofficial reports from Washington, Barak is
willing to give up almost everything, and to make what he
repeatedly calls "painful" concessions, in a desperate effort
to keep his job. It is conventional wisdom that Barak's only
chance to win the elections for prime minister lies in signing
an agreement with the Palestinians and then making the
elections into a referendum on the agreement, casting it as a
choice between peace and war. It is a good thing that Barak is
so aware that he must secure the approval of the Israeli voters
and not just of Arafat, for if not it appears that there is no
limit to what he will give up in order to secure the assent of
Not the least of what Barak is apparently willing to give up,
is our Shabbos kodesh. Last week on Shabbos Chanukah, as
we marked the stubborn triumph of the cruse of pure oil over
Greek might, official representatives of the Jewish State,
Rachmono litzlan, conducted negotiations in Washington
as usual: they met with the Palestinians, with Clinton and with
the press, just like any other day. Shabbos as a Jewish day of
rest did not appear on the Israeli delegation's calendar.
All governments of the State of Israel, even those who were
very far from Jewish tradition, honored the Shabbos if only
from a nationalistic perspective. Everyone understood that
Jewish national honor itself demands respect for Shabbos since
it is in the name of the Jewish nation -- and only in the name
of the Jewish nation -- that the Israeli government has a claim
to our land.
For this government, there is nothing left. It is not only that
it attempts to secularize the country internally and to destroy
the yeshivos, but it tramples even the most basic national
Whoever is astonished or shocked by the talk of giving up
control of the Har Habayis, should understand it well when he
sees the public retreat from Shabbos which is much worse.
Everything is negotiable, and probably if the current
government were convinced that they could win the elections
with massive Arab support if they gave up the Kosel, they would
not let it be an "obstacle to peace."
Our greatest distress is not from the competent or incompetent
conduct of negotiations or government. This wholesale
willingness to give up everything shows that they lack even the
most minimal respect for any and every Jewish value. From their
conduct it appears that the Jewish holy places such as Kever
Rochel and even the Kosel itself are only so much real estate
whose importance lies in how they affect the voting. Shabbos,
Eretz Yisroel, and everything else is available to the highest
Anyone who cares not for Jewish property and treasures loses
not only any trace of Torah and Jewish tradition, but also any
shred of national pride.