The Defense Minister’s Pen: By Shmuel Sackett
It has been stated many times that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. To be perfectly honest, in a war situation I prefer the sword (or machine gun, tank, F-16 or nuclear bomb!) but in many situations, the pen is indeed extremely mighty. I am not exaggerating when I write that with a few strokes of a pen, Israel’s history can be changed forever. Allow me to explain.
The whole country is ecstatic over the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel’s new Defense Minister. Some people are ecstatically excited while others are ecstatically depressed but everyone is ecstatic! The people who I usually hang around with are all telling me how – finally – we have a Defense Minister who will do what must be done. They are convinced he will destroy Hamas and every one of their tunnels coming from Gaza, annihilate Hezbollah and the 150,000 rockets pointed at Israel from Lebanon and will strengthen the IDF to its glory days of the Six-Day War and Entebbe. Sounds too good to be true? It is.
Lieberman will do none of those things. The toughest part of his body is his mouth and he will use that in many ways but at the end of the day, he will accomplish very little, and I can prove it. I will be the first to admit that defeating Hamas and Hezbollah are complex issues that will not be solved overnight so let’s give him time with those issues. Let’s focus instead on a different and far easier task: What will he do with his pen?
For various ridiculous reasons, the State of Israel has never annexed the land Hashem gave the Jewish nation back in 1967. All of Judea and Samaria – with its population of 450,000 Jews – is still not officially part of the State of Israel. This has many legal ramifications but let me focus on just one: Every building project in those areas, every road, house, Yeshiva, factory and mikva can only be built with… the signature of the Defense Minister! Right now, as you read these words, there are 50,000 housing units (combination of private homes and apartments) in Judea/Samaria that have passed all approvals, except one. Their plans have been designed by professional architects, inspected and signed off by engineers, passed all safety checks, conform to all building codes and – in many cases – even have mortgage approvals! The problem is that none of these 50,000 housing units, plus over 200 new factories and 50 new shuls, yeshivas and mikvas can be built until one last thing is done… Israel’s Defense Minister signs his name on those plans.
Can you imagine what Immanuel will look like when 3,000 new Haredi families move in? How about Gush Shiloh with 1,500 new families and Gush Etzion with 1,200? This will change the map forever and will make the “facts on the ground” so powerful that it permanently changes all the dialogue around the negotiating table. And what do those families in Immanuel, Shiloh and Bat Ayin need? The “John Hancock” of Avigdor Lieberman. He can literally do it before you finish reading this article!
And now for the million dollar question: Why won’t he do it? What is stopping him… no ink in the pen??
The answer to this question is similar to the reason why Ariel Sharon threw 10,000 Jews out of their homes in Gush Katif. It is also the answer to why no Prime Minister ever annexed the liberated lands since ’67 and why every single government – even the right wing ones – never allowed Jews free access to build in Hebron, Shechem and the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the same answer to why Jewish prayer is forbidden on Har Ha’Bayit and to why Kever Rachel is protected today more than Fort Knox. It is because our leaders are dreaming incorrectly.
If the dream for Israel is to become a super-technological and modern country with great beaches, tourist attractions, hiking trails and Jewish history then we did it!! We are a fabulous success story! We are a Hebrew speaking Singapore… and more! We invented WAZE and the computer chip. We cured life threatening diseases and discovered ways to make the desert bloom. Obviously, in the middle of all these modern advances, we cannot let our Judaism get too much in the way. Yes, we will stop everything on Yom Kippur and allow things here and there but that cannot be our focus. We need to compete with the world, be accepted by the “family of nations” and be loved in the UN. We need to run to help poor people in Africa, even though there are hungry Jews in Netanya. We need to provide field hospitals in Sri Lanka even though thousands of Jews are waiting for operations in Afula and Jerusalem. We need to provide free electricity to people in Gaza as we disconnect the electricity in Bnei Brak.
If that is the dream, then the new minister; Avigdor Lieberman is perfect. He is the guy who supports importing pork into Israel so his non Jewish Russian buddies can have bacon with their eggs. He supports the creation of a Palestinian State (and said so on the FIRST DAY of his new job!) since that will prove that Israel is a true member of the international community and that is why he will never, never sign the paper that approves the building of 50,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria. Yes, he will throw a bone once in a while to quiet the masses but 50,000? Never! I would be surprised if he approves 2,000.
Please don’t make the same mistake over and over again. You need to learn this one golden rule: The key is the dream. Sit down and focus on what Israeli leaders are dreaming about. A modern, technological state with some Judaism or a Jewish state that is modern and technological? Where is the focus? Where are the priorities? If the focus is on being Jewish then we will build 50,000 homes and much more in every area of the country. We will still have great hi-tech and medical breakthroughs and save the world… but the focus will be on Israel being strong, proud and guided by authentic Jewish values and concepts. Sadly, Avigdor Lieberman, Bibi Netanyahu and even Naftali Bennet do not share that dream which is why they will all fail.
With Hashem’s help, new leadership will emerge with the dream of fulfilling what we pray for every day and only when that happens will the pen of the Defense Minister run out of ink from all the approvals he will be signing.