A Viable Alternative to Oslo
By Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski
Reprinted from the Algemeiner Journal Friday January 26, 2001

Jews around the world are in uproar over the latest round of the “Peace Talks.” Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s counter argument is that the only alternative to “Oslo” is war. The truth, however, is that the eruption of violence in Israel did not happen despite the Oslo accord, but because of it. 

Seven years ago war in the Middle East was inconceivable; today Israel is at the brink of war thanks to the ill conceived Oslo accord. If ideas have consequences, then the terrible idea that gave birth to  “Oslo” has brought us the most disastrous consequences. 

Barak, however, is right about one thing: The right-wing has no viable option. By embracing the basic assumption behind “Oslo,” it has proved that it is just as intellectually bankrupt as the left. The irony is that those who are opposed to the Oslo accord are more optimistic about the chances for genuine peace in the Middle East than the starriest eyed, leftist dreamer! 

Before considering a viable alternative to Oslo, however, first one must firmly grasp what is wrong with Oslo. The problem is that Oslo is based on three troubling, and tragically flawed assumptions.

Fatal flaw #1: Appeasing terrorists will lead to peace. 

Every Jewish child is taught that life is holy and has absolute value, not as a means to an end but as an end itself. There is nothing in the world, with the exception of self-defense, that could justify the taking of a life, or even the risking of a single life.

The terrorists philosophy, however, is that life is expendable, it is a means to an end. If blowing up a busload of men women and children will grab a headline and further their political cause, it is okay, even heroic. It’s a culture where children are sent to the front lines to score political points. 

How could there be peace when our core values and theirs are at war? What is unforgivable about Oslo is that for the first time Israel has made peace with terrorism. “Sacrifices for peace” surely is the single most loathsome and morally repulsive idea to emanate from “Oslo.” 

Terrorism is like a cancer, and you never make peace with cancer. Certain battles you don’t have the luxury to grow tired of. Israel has attempted to placate and appease terrorism and now it has come roaring back with a vengeance, threatening Israel’s very existence. 

Fatal Flaw #2: Israel is ours to give up. 

Rashi, (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, [France, 1040-1105]) who is considered the greatest Jewish teacher ever, lived during the first crusade when the Moslems and Christians battled over Jerusalem. He writes in his very first commentary, that the only reason the book of Genesis is included in the Torah is to equip the Jewish people with a reply to the international allegation that they are usurpers in the Holy Land. 

Genesis proclaims that only G-d has the power to create and only he has created heaven and earth, therefore he may do with his world as he pleases. And he has chosen to take the land away from the Canaanites and to give it as an eternal inheritance to the family of Israel. The Jewish attachment to Israel doesn’t come through human might or political intrigue, it is a divine privilege. 

Even during the Babylonian and Roman exile, the Jewish soul was never exiled from its homeland. For thousands of years now whenever a Jew prays, three times a day, he turns toward Jerusalem. Indeed for 3,300 years since the times of Joshua, there has never been an independent nation in Israel other than the people of Israel. 

Israel is universally acknowledged as the “Holy Land” because no human being owns or controls the land. Jews are guests who have been invited to stay in the royal palace. Imagine the absurdity of the guest giving away the hosts dining room or living room and negotiating away the royal bedroom! 

The choice has never been clearer: Either Torah or “Oslo,” the two are mutually exclusive. It’s an easy decision too. Oslo: Seven years later and it’s blowing up in our face. The Torah: 3800 years later and we’re still around as promised! 

Fatal Flaw #3: The end of the cold war presented us with a historic opportunity to make peace with the PLO. 

This represents a colossal mistake of biblical proportions. The collapse of communism proved the futility of dictatorship in the information age. When authorities can’t control information, authoritarian regimes fall by the wayside.

The Jewish prophets standing on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem 2600 years ago, prophesied of a new world order, a world that will inevitably change for good. They characterized the messianic age as the information age when knowledge will flood the earth, when the main occupation of Jew and Gentile alike will be the pursuit of knowledge and information, the ultimate knowledge being the knowledge of G-d. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, ztz”l heralded the collapse of communism, the modern day exodus of biblical proportions of a million ex-Soviet Jews to Israel, and the onset of the information age, as harbingers of the Messianic era.

Only the Arab Middle East, however, has successfully resisted the tidal wave of democracy. Indeed in most of the Middle East, the Internet is highly restricted if not outright illegal.

Instead of holding out for genuine peace with democracies founded on righteousness, human dignity and respect for human life, Israel has surrendered to the status quo. Why Israel has chosen a moment of triumph to send a defeatist message projecting weakness, while our wildest dreams were materializing before our very eyes, is truly puzzling. Will our children and grandchildren ever forgive us?

No nation on earth could ever be powerful enough or affluent enough that it could afford to lose its soul. Oslo represents a moral crisis, a cancer eating away at the very heart and soul of Israel. While the Palestinians believe in what they are fighting for, Oslo has succeeded in sowing doubt and confusion, in creating a crisis of confidence, causing many to question the righteousness of Israel’s position.

Peace through strength holds out the only hope for this troubled region. By standing firm, Israel could deliver the coup de grace to terrorism around the world. By helping to hasten the inevitable collapse of dictatorship and totalitarianism in the Middle East, Israel could earn its honorable place in history.

Ben Gurion once quipped: While it’s easy to take the Jew out of exile, it’s difficult to take the exile out of the Jew. Instead of exiling themselves, it’s high time that the Jewish people removed the exile within.