Punish Good Neighbors?
By Jonathan S.
happened in Efrat, the city in the territories 12 miles from Jerusalem, was
exactly what those who wish for peace in the Middle East say should be
were invited on Wednesday to visit the home of the mayor of Efrat to celebrate
the holiday of Sukkot. The
event was discussed in a Washington Post feature, which described
a friendly gathering that demonstrated how people of good will could work
to resolve differences. It also noted that some of the Arabs who were invited
had declined to come out of fear that they would be seen as betraying the
Palestinian cause. As it turns out, they were right.The
next day the Palestinian Authority arrested four of the guests who attended the
holiday celebration. As of Sunday, the four were still in custody and their
families were seeking their release by publicly blaming the Jews for
“tricking” them into breaking bread with their enemies. That’s the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a nutshell.
the weeklong Jewish festival of Tabernacles, Jews invite their friends and
neighbors to dine in their Sukkahs, the temporary huts intended to recall
the dwellings the Israelites lived in after their liberation from Egypt during
their journey to the Promised Land. So what better way to promote coexistence
for the Jews of Efrat, a town just south of Jerusalem in the West Bank, than to
have local Palestinians come to the mayor’s sukkah where they could drink
coffee and get to know their neighbors better?
30 Palestinians came to Oded Revivi’s home in Efrat. As thePost feature
showed, Palestinians aired their concerns about Israeli security measures and
Israelis talked about the wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks. The effort to
better relations stemmed in part from a recent event in which a Jewish driver
had killed a Palestinian child in a traffic accident. That had led to a decision
by the Israeli authorities to create speed bumps on the road where the tragedy
Afterward, a Palestinian
Authority official said the sukkah visit was “under investigation” and
that visiting Jews in settlements is “completely unacceptable.” As far as
the PA is concerned, the residents of Efrat and the more than half a million
other Jews who live in either Jerusalem or the West Bank must pack up and get
stand is particularly unhelpful with respect to Efrat, which lies within one
of the settlement blocs adjacent to the 1967 borders that even President Obama
has said would be retained by Israel in any peace deal as part of a land swap.
It is also located in the Gush Etzion bloc, an area that was actually owned by
Jews prior to the 1948 War of Independence. The Jews who lived there at the
time were either massacred by invading Jordanian troops and Palestinian Arab
forces or forced to flee in a brazen act of ethnic cleansing. The communities of
the Etzion bloc were recreated after the 1967 Six Day War brought the area under
Israeli control. If there were any place where the Palestinians would be
prepared to show that their intent was coexistence it would be in Efrat.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bitterly criticized by
the Obama administration for saying that by demanding the dismantling of all
Jewish communities in the West Bank as well as parts of Jerusalem, the PA’s
goal was demonstrating that its goal was a Jew-free state. His assertion that
this demand amounted to ethnic cleansing was blasted as unhelpful to the cause
of peace. What happened in Efrat this past week showed how right he was.