The following consist of letters from readers and a reply from Daniel Pipes. To the Editor: While I do not disagree with the four essays by Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes, Hillel Halkin, and Efraim Karsh on the current situation in Israel ["Intifada II,"

The following consist of letters from readers and a reply from Daniel Pipes.

To the Editor:

While I do not disagree with the four essays by Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes, Hillel Halkin, and Efraim Karsh on the current situation in Israel ["Intifada II," Commentary, December 2000, available at], I do quibble with the underlying assumption that the al-Aqsa intifada succeeded in radically altering the perceptions of the Israeli public.

As one might expect, the renewal of wide-scale Palestinian violence shocked many Israelis, and the response of the Barak government profoundly weakened the prime minister's public standing; but that does not tell the whole story. In a Gallup/Ma'ariv poll conducted in December, Israelis were asked whether Barak, having resigned as prime minister, had a mandate to make a deal with Arafat during the period leading up to the February 2001 election. According to the poll, the country was split, with 46 percent believing Barak would still have a mandate and 47 percent believing he would not. Similarly, 59 percent were in favor or leaning in favor of a referendum based on a "permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians," with a near majority preferring such an agreement, "including compromises over Jerusalem and a declaration ending the conflict with the Palestinians," to an interim agreement. On the flip side, 56 percent said there was not "a partner for peace on the Palestinian side."

One is tempted to disregard such polls, particularly in light of the fluidity of events on the ground. But there can be little doubt that Israeli public opinion has continued to be schizophrenic about the peace process. While skeptical of Palestinian intentions, a majority of Israelis still hunger for a permanent agreement and remain unwilling to entertain the bitter (if more sober) alternatives. It is this political reality that drove Barak forward and that had bent his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, however reluctantly, in the same direction.

Until the Israeli public gives its politicians a mandate to resist—however long and hard the road may be—more concessions will surely follow.

Gary M. Osen
Oradell, New Jersey

To the Editor:

Your excellent essays omit one major factor that is responsible for Israel's absurd willingness to give up land in exchange for vague promises from sworn enemies.

The problem is not, as some of your essayists claim, that a good part of the population has become weary and demoralized, or has bought into the peace process. Rather, Israel has become the victim of its own secularism. Having been taught for a generation that the Bible is not sacred but is simply a source book for archaeological digs, that the land is not holy, that Jewish history and Jewish destiny are without special meaning, and that the prophets of Israel were merely good poets, Israelis have inevitably come to possess no serious attachment to the land and to have no qualms about giving it away.

Israel's indifference to the Arab destruction of Joseph's Tomb, its willingness to trade away Rachel's Tomb, and the cavalier treatment of Judaism's holiest site—the Temple Mount—are all traceable to a secular indoctrination that has emptied Israel of Jewish pride and self-respect. After all, why concern oneself with a Jewish history that goes no further back than Theodor Herzl?

It is no coincidence that the only groups in Israel that are still fully conscious of their heritage and that have not lost their spirit and courage are precisely those groups that have not been secularized, and for whom Judaism and Torah are living entities.

[Rabbi] Emanuel Feldman
Jerusalem, Israel

To the Editor:

The four depressing articles in "Intifada II" suggest that the crisis facing Israel is self-inflicted and largely psychological. This certainly seems to be the case. No other people would allow an uprising like this to go on without crushing it. Would the United States tolerate, even for one day, known terrorists operating within its borders, smashing up religious shrines, shooting into apartment buildings, stoning and fire-bombing cars on the roads, blowing up school buses, or kidnapping, torturing, and then butchering soldiers?

Israel's weak leaders might have looked to the late King Hussein of Jordan to learn how to deal with an intifada. In 1970 Yasir Arafat tried out a similar terrorist campaign in Jordan. King Hussein immediately ordered his army to defeat Arafat's forces; 5,000 were shot down in what is now mourned by Palestinian Arabs as "Black September." King Hussein saved his country and received the respect of the entire world.

George E. Rubin
New York City

To the Editor:

The authors of the articles in "Intifada II" seem to argue that Israel's own actions are responsible for its current situation. Nowhere are there references to outside pressure from the U.S. or Europe. But, although Israel may have been at fault at Oslo and perhaps even until recently, certainly its current travail is to a great degree the result of external influences. Note the vote of fourteen to zero at the UN condemning Israel's use of violence against the Palestinians, criticism from the U.S. for responding to Arab attacks, and thunder in the European press for Israel's role in the deaths of Arab children.

Daniel Pipes wants the U.S. to help Israel out of its fix by providing military and diplomatic support—because, he argues, it is in America's interest to do so. But what is the U.S. likely to do if confronted with a choice between its support for Israel and its oil supply?

Morris Altschuler
Rockville, Maryland

To the Editor:

As an eighty-six-year-old man who lived through a narrow escape from the Nazis but whose family perished in Auschwitz, I cannot believe that I am now witnessing in Israel a repetition of the treacherous appeasement that took place in the months leading up to World War II. Just as the Western powers of Europe thought they could ensure the peace by signing a treaty with Hitler and the Nazis, Ehud Barak pursued utopian illusions of peace with Yasir Arafat and the Arab leaders.

These illusions were only encouraged by the interference and pressure of the U.S. in favor of Israel's aggressors. After World War II, the allies forced Germany to cede a significant part of its Eastern provinces to Poland; France recovered the province of Alsace; and all of the German inhabitants of the Sudetenland had to leave. By contrast, after Israel was victorious in the Six-Day war with Egypt, it was coerced into giving back the Sinai up to the last grain of sand. Not only have the Arabs escaped punishment, the United States now continues to supply Egypt with armaments.

Ernest Schwarcz
Mountain View, California

To the Editor:

The essays in "Intifada II" are reasoned indictments of terrible deeds done to the people of Israel. There is no gainsaying the facts or the conclusions drawn from them. But these accounts will make no difference.

We have in the Middle East an object lesson in how otherwise decent people allowed the slaughter of Jews in Germany. Everyone wishes to be reasonable; no one wishes to be regarded as an extremist. But in this case, as in the case of Germany, a solution will require force beyond any yet seen in the Middle East. I hope, but doubt, that the American military is already planning for it.

Ed Haefele
Alliance, Nebraska

To the Editor:

The articles by Norman Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes, Hillel Halkin, and Efraim Karsh are very pessimistic indeed; even so, they understate the threat that faces Israel. Israel's enemies include not only Palestinians and Arabs but Muslims all over the world and American politicians on the far Left and far Right, like Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan. Israel is small and unimportant, but it is the most hated country on earth.

George Jochnowitz
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, New York

To the Editor:

I much admire Norman Podhoretz's analysis of the dire situation in which Israel finds itself. His description of Oslo and its not-so-slow undermining of Israel's territorial integrity is unfortunately right on the mark. But how does Mr. Podhoretz then account for his relatively upbeat conclusion?

To assert, as he does, that "present circumstances will not last forever" is a given. Nothing lasts forever. But an "unexpected surprise," in which the Arabs will acknowledge Israel as a sovereign state, is about as likely as the moon falling on Alabama.

If there is no solution, then so be it. Perhaps miracles do happen, but it would be far better to reaffirm the legitimacy of Israel and whatever boundaries the majority of Israelis decide upon than to say, as Luther did, "Here I stand then to dream of a change of heart among the enemy."

Judith Hirsch
Boca Raton, Florida

To the Editor:

Norman Podhoretz correctly observes that almost everyone in the world took at face value the Palestinian Authority's version of the 1996 events regarding the Western Wall tunnel—that is, that it was supposedly intended by Israel to undermine the foundations of the al-Aqsa Mosque—when even a cursory glance would have shown that the allegation was blatantly false. Worse, however, is the fact that Israelis themselves are now spreading the Palestinians' propaganda.

In an article that appeared in September in the International Herald Tribune, Uri Dromi, the former director of the Israeli government press office, wrote that "[Netanyahu] started his term by inciting a bloodbath when he opened the tunnel under the Temple Mount, resulting in the death of dozens of Israelis and Palestinians."

It is scandalous that Dromi does not know where the Western Wall tunnel is. Not only is the tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount and not under it, but the controversial northern gate is in fact 500 yards away from the walls of the mosque.

Mladen Andrijasevic
Beer Sheva, Israel

To the Editor:

In his contribution to "Intifada II," Daniel Pipes writes that the Oslo agreement "paid off economically: the boom experienced by Israel in the 1990's can be partly attributed to a greater global willingness to trade and invest in the country." While it is impossible to know whether or how much of Israel's economic growth can be attributed to improved international sentiment, the boom itself has been greatly exaggerated by cheerleaders for the peace process.

Between 1991 and 1999 the Israeli economy grew, on average, 4.7 percent annually in real terms. This is certainly spectacular, especially when compared to the 3.6 percent average growth in the American economy over the same period. But if we focus just on the post-Oslo period from 1994 to 1999, the Israeli economy in those years grew at an average of only 1.8 percent, as compared to 2.9 percent in the U.S.

The roots of whatever growth has occurred in the Israeli economy can be found in the economic stabilization plans put into place by the Likud-Labor government in the mid-1980's, the massive influx of Russian immigrants, and the valiant struggle by the Bank of Israel to reduce inflation. The economic effects of the peace process were marginal at best, and should not be used as a justification of that policy.

Josiah Rotenberg
New York City

To the Editor:

Of all people, Jews ought to understand the desires of indigenous Arabs and Palestinians to maintain their own community of interests and symbols in the face of threats by a dominant power.

Modern scholarship has found solid reasons for understanding the biblical stories of David and Solomon as something other than literal historiography. What we know about the demographics and economics of the Iron Age precludes the possibility that a Davidic kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates existed circa 1,000 B.C.E., or that a temple of the size and grandeur attributed to King Solomon could have graced the humble City of David.

But this scholarship does not negate the existence and importance of the Second Temple in the history of Jerusalem, and it would be self-defeating for any Arab leader or Muslim believer to pretend otherwise. Likewise, Jews and Christians should not minimize the importance of the al-Aqsa Mosque, which has been in place on the Temple Mount for nearly twice the 600-year duration of the revered Second Temple of the Jews.

Third-Temple Jewish militancy, millennialist Christian fanaticism, and Islamic jihad are three equally provocative affronts to everything that the genuine deity represents within the world's extended monotheistic family. Martyrdom is a tradition that we could now do well without. May God bless us all if we can only get this lesson through our irrationally nationalist and/or religious heads.

Bob Garner
Bozeman, Montana

To the Editor:

Commentary merits congratulations for the fine essays in "Intifada II." It is time that Arab and Palestinian university professors, artists, intellectuals, musicians, writers, journalists, and trade-union leaders issued a statement acknowledging the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Like their Israeli counterparts—A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Tom Segev, Shlomo Avineri, Uri Avnery, Amos Oz, Ady Ophir, Dany Rubinstein—they too must publicly ask for peace.

Baruch Cohen
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

To the Editor:

May I express my thanks for the outstanding series of essays in "Intifada II." I am a Jewish educator and have asked my students to read them in order to understand the sad events now occurring in Israel. I am grateful to you for consistently providing your readers with articles of such importance.

Patti Moskovitz
Foster City, California

Daniel Pipes responds:

I agree with Gary M. Osen's point that the violence that began in September has not radically altered the perceptions of the Israeli public. By the way, this is far more than a "quibble," but is absolutely central to what Israel does next. I did not address this matter in my Commentary article, which is on a different topic; I have made precisely Mr. Osen's point elsewhere – notably in a Jerusalem Post column on October 25 titled "Oslo's Nine Lives."

Emanuel Feldman argues that the Israel's problem is not that "a good part of the population has become weary and demoralized, or has bought into the peace process. Rather, Israel has become the victim of its own secularism." These are hardly contrary points: surely Israel's secularism may be one reason for its weariness and demoralization.

George E. Rubin's suggestion that Israel learn from King Husayn's actions in September 1970 is not realistic; there is no way that democratic Israel, always the focus of world attention, could or should employ the brutal methods of the Jordanian armed forces back then. In this regard, one curious fact about that episode was when over two hundred PLO fighters escaped the Jordanian forces by crossing into the West Bank, where they surrendered to the Israelis.

Morris Altschuler chides the four authors for the absence of references to pressure from the United States or Europe. Look closer at my piece, please, for this is the premise of my entire article. Mr. Altschuler also asks what I think the U.S. government would do if faced with a choice between its support for Israel and its oil supply. To some extent, one need only think back twenty-seven years to find the answer: although the Arab oil boycott put tremendous pressure on Washington to abandon Israel, it did not do so.

Ernest Schwarcz is rightly amazed to see Israel repeating "the treacherous appeasement" of Great Britain and France in the 1930s. And while it is true that the Clinton administration encouraged these policies, I believe the ultimate responsibility for them lies with Israel's demoralized electorate.

Josiah Rotenberg holds that Israel's economic boom "has been greatly exaggerated by cheerleaders for the peace process." I agree and accordingly said only that the economic success story can be "partly attributed" to the diplomacy.