9 Tevet 5777 B’SD
The Betrayal: a Post-Mortem
If “Read my lips. No new taxes” is the legacy of Bush 41, then “Israel has no greater friend than the Obama administration” may be the legacy of the Obama presidency. Most of us are still shellshocked by the US abstention of the UN resolution that castigated Israel for its policies and laying blame on the lack of peace solely on Israel. We were then left reeling by the callous denunciation of Israel by John Kerry. Moreover, we are fearful that Israel’s allegation that they have ironclad proof that this entire resolution was choreographed by Washington will soon be verified as factual.
Over the past few weeks we have read the story of Joseph, including his brothers’ collusion against him, his ultimate enslavement in Egypt, his deciphering of pharaoh’s dreams, and this week we will read of his reunion with his brothers. The initial lesson we derive is this: although only two brothers plotted to kill Joseph, the biblical text indicates that all his brothers we responsible because abstention from voting to murder is the same as acquiescing to murder. Similarly, refraining from vetoing a resolution whose sole intent is to support Israel’s enemies and wreak havoc is tantamount to actually signing the resolution.
The Gemara Avodah Zarah relates a fascinating story concerning Elazar ben Durdayah. For many years he lived a frivolous life, steeped in immorality. Once he heard of a prostitute who lived very far away in one of the towns by the sea, whose charms were so great that she demanded a large sum of money for her services. So he gathered a sufficient sum and crossed seven rivers to reach her. In her anteroom she told him that even if he repented, his teshuvah (repentance) would never be accepted. Her words shook him to the core and he decided to prove her wrong, alter his path, and change his destiny.
When Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, who is popularly known as the great Talmudic Sage “Rebbe,” heard this unusual act of honest introspection, he cried, saying “There are those who earn eternal life only after many years of work, and there is a person who is koneh olamo besha’ah achat — acquires his world in one hour!”
Yet the reverse is also true, there are those who lose their world in a fleeting moment. The Talmud relates the story of Yochanan the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest who at eighty abandoned his piety and strayed from the path of righteousness. All that he previously accomplished was for naught as his final act of betrayal rewrote his legacy. Thus, even though the Obama administration gave Israel the largest aid package and sent patriot missiles during the Gaza incitements, his final act of betrayal is what will mark his presidency.
What gave our president the impetus to betray Israel? It could not be his righteous indignation against any country that defies international law as he commuted the sentences and pardoned more criminals than any other president. He freed (or arranged their transfer to Muslim countries, so they are basically at will to return to their terrorist origins) the majority of radical terrorist in Guantanamo Bay. He made peace with Cuba, ignoring their diatribes against our country and lack of human rights. He allowed concession after concession to restore Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ignoring their threat of wanting to wipe a member nation of the UN off the face of the map. He drew a line in the imaginary sand of Syria, only to ignore the plight of hundreds of thousands of civilians that were brutally murdered and gassed. He allowed Aleppo to fall and failed to resort to sanctioning Assad and the Syrian regime. The list is abbreviated only by the limitation of space.
Thus whatever his reason was, it would be foolish to think that it has anything to do with international law. If it did, why would he only be concerned with the dispute in Israel and not in the 104 other disputed territories? I don’t think he is an Anti-Semite; I believe the correct phraseology would be Semitic-neutral. He acts according to his political or personal interests. When sending aid or weapons to Israel would achieve his political objectives, he did so. Now that his and his party’s fortunes have changed due in part to the perception that Israel has a friend in the president-elect, it behooves him to act in his self-interest. To be quite honest, I think most politician that are perceived to be philo-Semitic may also be Semitic-neutral and can change on the whim if it suits their agenda.
The prophet states: mehorsayich umachrivayich mimech yetzeiu, your destroyers will come from within the ranks. It is possible that our president examined the lack of cohesion in the broader Jewish community and feared little backlash to his anti-Israel plan. He realized that many Jews are involved in the movements of ‘J’ Street and BDS and openly charting a vision in support of the Palestinians, freeing him to act in the manner he chose. He could chime in with phrases such as Tikkun Olam and use it in pursuit of his anti-Israel rhetoric while his Jewish base ‘kvells’ that he used a Jewish word. He can marginalize AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups by claiming they are pro settlers and part of the fringe right. To the politician, truth is merely an obstacle in forging their revisionist ideals forward. By getting his proxies in the media to denounce and dehumanize the settlers, it is an easy leap to call the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall, occupied territory. The fact that Jews have laid claim to Jerusalem and Israel for thousands of years is qualified by statements that the land belongs to a Palestinian people that never existed in history. The fact that every day buildings that belonged to Jewish families’ pre-1948 are being reclaimed by the descendants of the original owners is but one way to stem the tide of a yudenrein Jerusalem. That these buildings located in Muslim neighborhoods have old mezuzah markings in the stone doorways may actually prove that the land is occupied. Not by the Israelis but by those who forced every Jew out of their Jerusalem home after the armistice was decreed.
Perhaps this is a continuance of Obama’s eight year conflict with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his offense at Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of congress. His hurt may be so strong that it clouds his judgement and reduces the highest office in the world to that of a high school bully. Perhaps he was influenced by his formative years in a country that considered Israel a pariah state and considered Jews as the precursor and proof of evolution. We may never know the truth (unless Russia or WikiLeaks decide to hack some private emails) nor is the truth something that will ultimately benefit us or Israel.
The purpose for writing this article is not to malign, denigrate, or besmirch the sitting president. Its intent is to call out in the loudest means I have that Israel’s salvation and future doesn’t depend on anyone other than itself. It’s time for us and the world to realize that am Yisrael chai, Israel will survive, is not a catchphrase but a reality. Although we are grateful for the help given by friendly countries, the payment exacted in return should never be usurious. What Israel receives is not a gift, it is a quid pro quo arrangement tallied to the exact penny. While the Palestinians and Gazans live off handouts, Israel pays back every gift measure for measure. It may not be in cash, it may be in intelligence, research and development, or matters that are better not made public. So the next time you begin to feel melancholy or depressed, remember the promise God made to Abraham: I will bless those that bless and those that curse you will be cursed. Now, how exactly do you calculate the value of God’s blessings?
Shabbat Shalom and Am Yisrael Chai,
Rabbi Jack Engel