The Jerusalem Post


By Gabriel Danzig

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a very reasonable statement. He said that it was clear that the Palestinian Authority was involved with terrorism and that therefore it would be extremely foolish for Israel to concede territory to this organization.

His statement was logical, measured, non-inflammatory, and simply drew an obvious conclusion from well-known facts. It is hard to see how anyone could object, least of all Israelis.

Of course in the present circumstances, Palestinians will object to almost anything.

They are compelled to create a smoke screen of strong emotion in order to cover up the flagrant abuses of Israeli hope and trust which they have committed in the past two years, ever since prime minister Ehud Barak's astounding offer. So it is understandable, although still reprehensible, that they would attack Rumsfeld for making this statement.

It is presumably because of his concern that his words might be treated this way that Rumsfeld has not spoken out more frequently and that when he did, he tried to put it in such clear and logical terms that no one could reasonably object.

At the very least, he might have expected that Israel would welcome his statement. After all, his advice was not intended to offer any particular benefit to American interests. If anything, it may have weakened US President George W. Bush's efforts to keep things cool in Israel while he prepares for whatever it is he is preparing to do in Iraq.

Rumsfeld's words were clearly made for the sake of Israel's security. They were reasonable, well-intentioned – to my mind obviously correct – and no one has suggested that he had any ulterior motive.

In short, Rumsfeld has expressed himself in a courageous manner as a true friend of Israeli interests and has helped to deflect any blame that might be placed on Israel for not proving more "flexible" than we should be in our negotiations with the Palestinians.

Israel had good reason to rejoice.


HOW DID Israel actually react? It boggles the mind.

Unable to find an Israeli to object to his statement, the popular Army Radio station Galei Zahal found an Arab spokesman who condemned Rumsfeld as a right-wing extremist.

Even he could not pretend that there was anything actually wrong with Rumsfeld's analysis, so he resorted to the usual tactic of those who wish to perpetrate fraud: he attacked the character and association of the speaker.

That is his right. But why did Galei Zahal find this to be a worthy statement to broadcast? And why was this the only reaction that they felt appropriate to offer us? Was there no one in Israel who was relieved to see that an important American figure had found the courage to tell the truth?

Hilik Gutman, the host of the Israel Radio talk show Hafuch al Hafuch (loosely translated as "thinking backwards") was not much better.

There appear to be no persuasive rational grounds for disagreeing with Rumsfeld's assessment, since he also was unable to find any. But disagree we must, particularly if the statement was reasonable and in our interest.

So, demonstrating that the title of his program refers especially to his own manner of thinking, Gutman commented that Rumsfeld has joined Moledet. This is the small Knesset faction, headed by Benny Elon, which advocates the transfer of the Palestinians to neighboring Arab countries.

Gutman compared Rumsfeld to Moledet in an irresponsible effort to stigmatize Rumsfeld. But in truth, the comparison might work better the other way around. In today's atmosphere, some of Moledet's ideas do not seem so crazy after all, and the fact that prominent American leaders are saying things not so different should make us think twice.

Tom Daschle, the Democratic Senate majority leader, went even further than Rumsfeld, suggesting that the Palestinians should consider setting up their state somewhere else. Not a bad idea at all.

But many of us are still stuck in a mind-set which was never right and which has long since been clearly refuted by reality. People like Gutman will never learn.

Rather than taking Rumsfeld's assessment seriously or rejoicing over one of the few beacons of good sense and one of the few signs of hope for Israel's future, this particular opinion-maker seems to be bending over backwards to spit in his own face. That is truly "hafuch al hafuch", thinking backwards."

What would Rumsfeld think if he understood Hebrew and had happened to be listening to these disgraceful and ungrateful comments? We can only hope that he would have been aware that these so-called opinion-makers represent a very small and non-representative portion of the population – and not the most perceptive element, either.

I think that I speak for the many of us when I say thank you Donald Rumsfeld, thank you Tom Daschle. Thank you for your perceptive assessment. Thank you for discovering the truth. Thank you for the courage to speak out.

And please accept our apologies for the pea-brains in our midst.

The writer is a classicist at Bar-Ilan University, specializing in political thought.

(c) 2002 The Jerusalem Post

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