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Obama has ventured a new policy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: discuss the tough items first. Israel has traditionally opposed discussion about our borders, including Jerusalem, ostensibly because it would leave us without bargaining chips when negotiating other issues. In truth, no Israeli government has been bold enough to admit publicly that we will abandon the Temple Mount and almost all isolated settlements.

Obama’s approach is eminently sensible but unworkable: Netanyahu, with his remnants of Jewish decency, is not yet ready to abandon Jerusalem and the settlements. Also, he would be unable to prevent a revolt in his own faction once he announced such a decision.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian governments are too weak to sell the unavoidable concessions to their people.

On a positive note, Obama has returned to Bush’s promise to allow Israel some rectifications to the 1948 border—essentially, to keep the settlement blocs.

On visiting Israel, British Attorney-General Patricia Scotland praised universal jurisdiction as her country’s way of prosecuting war criminals—namely, Israelis. Other British officials are less candid: they either promise to curtail universal jurisdiction or accuse their parliament of blocking the changes.

Why doesn’t Israel start prosecuting visiting British officials on equally spurious charges of association with terrorist organizations and racial incitement against Jews?

The University of Haifa has deciphered the most ancient Hebrew writing, which pushes the date of Jewish writing abilities back to 400 years before the previous estimate. The 10th century BCE inscription on potsherd closely parallels the biblical commandment to provide justice to widows and orphans.

The text is nothing short of astonishing:

You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
Judge the slave and the widow, Judge the orphan
[and] the stranger. Plead for the infant, plead for the poor [and]
the widow. Rehabilitate … at the hands of the king.
Protect the poor [and] the slave, support the stranger.

Religion, thus, seems to have been a major issue for Jews already three thousand years ago. Slaves had full access to courts—a thing unheard of even 29 centuries later—and there is no indication in the text that they were only Jewish slaves. Justice, as the Torah enjoins us, has indeed always been a major value among Jews.

Jews had full sovereignty on this Land around 1,000 BCE—so much that they recognized and accorded benevolent treatment to strangers. At that time, Jews were ruled by monarchs, contrary to the claims by biblical minimalists of the fictitious nature of the Chronicles.

Shall we give this land to the Palestinians?

January 2010
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