The Deal with Iran: Is It Really So Good ?

landauGuess the author of this reaction to the American (and P5+1) led treaty with Iran to be signed in June:

“This is a dangerous agreement, particularly for Saudi Arabia … it provides Iran with what it needs most to pursue its wars and expansionism against the Arabs. Lifting the sanctions is America’s way of backing the dangerous and direct wars against Arabs.”

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this might be an Israeli diplomat or even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been appearing everywhere denouncing the treaty as a bad deal. But the writer is Salah al-Mukhtar, a Jordanian columnist who writes for Ammon News.

If that’s not enough, continue reading the next concern:

“The United States surely does not want to see a more powerful Iranian hegemony in the region, but at the same time, it does not appear to mind some kind of Iranian influence in the region.” Israeli propaganda? This was written by Nasser Ahmed Bin Ghaith, from the United Arab Emirates.

It seems that Netanyahu is not the only one with stratospheric concerns about Iran’s apocalyptic plans. The entire area is very nervous about the true intent of the Iranians and their plans in the area.

If Iran was the kind of international player who plays by the Queensbury Rules, and elicited an aura of trust, the concerns would be diminished, and the fears would be neutralized. But that is not the case. As talks focused on the sole concerns of limiting Iran’s centrifuges, Iran has been allowed to interfere, direct and extend its influence through powerful terrorist groups whose viciousness, mayhem and thirst for autocratic Islamist fundamentalist power knows no bounds. And all this while ISIS and its allies are charting their own paths of destruction and murder of innocent civilians and creating huge population changes, as innocents are forced to leave and find safety in other countries that lack the resources to care for them.

An old story has it that a scorpion asks a fox if it would be good enough to give it a ride across the Suez Canal. The fox responds by saying that the scorpion will then go ahead and sting the fox, hence killing it. To which the scorpion replies that if it went ahead and stung the fox, then both of them would drown, and why would the scorpion want to do this? The fox agrees, and the scorpion rides on the fox’s back. Halfway through, the scorpion stings the fox. The fox, in shock, responds: Now we shall both drown. Why did you do that? And the scorpion replies: Because this is the Middle East.

This isn’t funny if the world is carrying Iran along on its back in the belief that it is going to be a peaceful partner to the talks. For Iran will sting, and then the rest of the world will suffer the poisonous consequences of that trust … particularly the “Zionist entity” of Israel and the Great Satan of America.

Chaim Landau is rabbi emeritus at the Greenspring Valley Synagogue.

Why Doesn’t World Care about Palestinian Refugees in Syria?

It’s happening again — Palestinian refugees are caught between warring factions in the Middle East and the world is reacting too slowly to their plight.

In earlier times, Palestinian refugees found themselves in the crosshairs at the Sabra and Shatila camps, when Lebanese Phalangists massacred them while Israeli forces stood by. Now it’s the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, where militants from the Islamic State have targeted Palestinian civilians in a reign of terror that Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, has called the “deepest circle of hell.”

Some have used the Yarmouk tragedy to point out, appropriately so, that the world is relatively silent about the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of ISIS. The point is made that it is only when the Jews can be blamed for what is happening that the international community rises up. Otherwise it couldn’t care less.

I reach a similar conclusion but from a different perspective. If the world truly cared about the situation of Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, it would not wait for a humanitarian crisis to erupt before acting to fundamentally improve their quality of life and end the circumstances that set the stage for these disasters.

Yes, we know the arguments for maintaining the status quo regarding Palestinian refugees. Many of those Palestinians wallowing in camps await the time they can return to their homes in what is now Israel. This, of course, is a non-starter since it has always been clear that this would lead to the demographic demise of the Jewish state. Without denigrating the motives of many Palestinians who long for their old homes, for the Palestinian leadership, the refugee issue has been a primary vehicle for sustaining the war against Israel.

Then there’s the argument that the refugee camps need to be sustained until the Palestinians achieve a state of their own — and indeed, a Palestinian state should be the first option for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. But it hasn’t happened yet, mostly because the Palestinian leadership turned down multiple opportunities to create such a state. Yet even without a state, there is no reason why the condition of Palestinian refugees cannot be improved.

The goal must be to end their refugee status as soon as possible. There needs to be international pressure on Lebanon, Syria and other Arab states to dismantle these refugee camps and institute an orderly procedure to integrate Palestinian refugees into their societies.

The most egregious example of this state of affairs is not in Lebanon or Syria but in the Palestinian territories themselves. At least in Syria and Lebanon, one must acknowledge the resistance by ruling governments to integrating these outsiders. But in the territories under Palestinian rule, there are no outsiders and nothing to stand in the way of the immediate dismantling of the camps.

Here, more than anywhere, the cynical motives of Palestinian leadership are apparent. Here, where the ability to transform the lives of people living in camps is in their hands, they do nothing. But that is no excuse for the failure of the international community to act.

It is not a simple solution, but it is a beginning for a people who have suffered far too long, with the unfortunate acquiescence of the international community.

Kenneth Jacobson is deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Yom Ha’atzmaut, When Everyone Is Proud To Be an Israeli

David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, said, “If you do not believe in miracles, you are not a realist.”
For centuries, Jews were expelled from the countries of their birth, forced to find a country of refuge. Sixty-seven years ago, the State of Israel was established, and for the first time, Jews felt welcomed in their own land; Israel protected the lives and rights of Jews.

Yom Ha’atzmaut for many people actually starts when Passover ends. Right after Passover, every street in every city “wears” blue and white. Flags are hung in the streets and from porches and car windows. Without a doubt, if you’re in Israel, you can feel the festivity.

However, in Israel the celebration and commemoration go hand-in-hand. Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and terror victims, is immediately before Yom Ha’atzmaut. We will always remember that our way to independence depended on the lives of our brave soldiers, boys and girls who sacrificed their lives so we could have our own country.

Yom Hazikaron is a day of national sadness: The stores are closed, everyone is quiet. Every Israeli knows someone who had fallen, and we are all united as one. In my family, on Yom Hazikaron day, we drive north, to my great-grandparents’ Kibbutz to attend the ceremony and to honor the memory of my father’s uncle who fell in 1956.

Seconds after Yom Hazikaron ends, Yom Ha’atzmaut starts. This transition is so special that no words can describe it. One second you feel grief and sorrow, and then, with a blink of an eye, Yom Ha’atzmaut is here. The happiest day to our nation.

Yom Ha’atzmaut starts with the tradition of the beacon lighting at the opening ceremony in Jerusalem. If you’re not there, you’re “glued” to the television. Official state observances include the World Bible Quiz for Jewish youth and the awarding of the Israel Prize, the state’s highest honor, to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the State of Israel.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut’s eve, everyone is on the streets. Each city conducts its own ceremony that contains music performances, fireworks and street food. All kids (and adults also) play with inflatable hammers and cans of spray foam and silly string.

The thing that symbolizes Yom Ha’atzmaut to me is “Mitzad Ha’mecholot” (the dance parade) on my city Ra’anana’s main street. Every elementary school student participates iand actually prepares for it a few months in advanced.

One last tradition that every Israeli won’t miss is the “Al Ha’esh.” The literal translation is “on fire,” and the actual tradition is barbeque. If you can have an overview from the air of Israel on Yom Haazmaut day, you would probably see smoke all over this small country. People go outside to nature or just do barbeque in their homes. No one misses a chance to eat a little to celebrate Israel’s independence.

On this day, everyone is proud to be called an Israeli, just like I feel writing these words.

Carmel Nitsani is the official Israeli representative at the Jewish Federation of Howard County.

Lessons of a Passover Diet

2013ftv_oshry_aleezaThis year, I have been contemplating a lot about the Passover diet. Not the abundance and mass consumption of matzah and eggs. Rather, I’m fascinated by our consumption (pun intended) with what eat and the elimination of many common foods from our diets during Passover.

More than any other holiday, Passover is the most widely celebrated in some form by Jews across all denominations. As with all Jewish holidays, meals are central to the festival. Passover ranks No. 1 in Jewish participation in the Seder, a kind of twist on dinnertime story-telling or theater. Specially made foods are served made from few ingredients, symbolic of the journey of our ancestors who left Egypt as slaves to enter the desert on our way to receive the Torah and enter the land of Israel.

A major requirement of the holiday is to not own or consume leavened products. Although matzah is the cornerstone for this observance, replacing all bread products, many people go beyond the letter of the law and restrict their diets even further by cutting out many other grains or traces of those grains, called kitniyot. For our heavily processed and industrially manufactured food, this also means cutting out most of the preservatives, fillers and other additives.

Because of the complexity of food products, the list of permissible foods can be very limited compared with what we are used to throughout the rest of the year. And so, for one week during the year, we alter and restrict our diet. With most chemical and artificial dyes and fillers are not considered kosher for Passover, the ingredients are often unaltered and wholesome.

Every year we challenge ourselves with how to make an array of satisfying foods from only a few ingredients. Store-bought packaged products do offer variety, but due to the lack of artificial flavorings and preservatives that can’t be used for the kosher-for-Passover certification, they tend not to be as tasty as their chametz cousins consumed the rest of the year.

The best bet for delicious foods on Passover is to go homemade. We are lucky in Baltimore that there are many options for ordering fantastic and delightful creations by talented home cooks and bakers as well as restaurants.

And — minus the indulgences — it is a simplistic diet that is generally more natural and wholesome.

Many of the conventionally processed foods on the shelf are “food products” — in that there are more chemically synthesized ingredients than not. And although it might technically give us enough calories to keep us alive, it does not sustain us in the same way as more naturally derived products are shown to provide more nutritional benefits.

So what can we glean from our Passover diets?

Stripping away all of those extra and artificial ingredients, we are left with fewer processed food choices, but more wholesome home-cooked foods. What if we cared as much about the sourcing and preparation of our food not only for one week, but during the entire year as well? Like with Passover, is there an ethic and mission about who we are as a people that can feed our soul as well as our bodies when we give meaning to being selective in choosing what we consume? I believe there is.

Aleeza Oshry is a local geologist, educator and sustainability consultant.

One Movement, One Community

BBYO is a huge part of my life, just like it is for thousands of Jewish teens worldwide. And when I say worldwide, I mean it. BBYO touches the hearts of people across more than 30 countries. From Bulgaria to Argentina and Georgia to China, BBYO impacts so many people daily.

Although I may live far away, I feel connected to my sister BBGs and brother Alephs globally. I have been so lucky to have the chance to communicate with many people in different countries about BBYO and what itís like to be a Jewish teen in their community. I was so happy to share these stories with the girls in my chapter, Achot BBG, during a BBYO Around the World program. We explored different aspects of their unique cultures such as music, language and food.

When comparing lifestyles, there is so much that we can learn from each other. For example, one of the BBGs who I communicated with was a girl named Marina from Serbia. Since her region, BBYO Balkans, is very spread out geographically, every week they have a video call that is basically like a virtual event. They start with icebreakers and then move into programming or discussions. I think this is so cool, because although they do not see each other often, they still have many similar bonds that I do with the girls in my chapter. This taught me that if the people in BBYO Balkans can function together, my chapter can overcome anything that is thrown at us.

I also think that it is amazing and exciting that I have the opportunity to have friends that live on a different continent. About a month ago, BBYO held its annual International Convention with the largest global delegation in BBYO history: Over 100 teens traveled from countries other than the United States. Unfortunately, I did not attend the convention, but almost all of my friends from home who did attend came back with stories of international experience that they were happy to share. I was so fascinated with everything they had to say. I would not be able to do this anywhere except for BBYO.

More importantly, these global experiences through BBYO have taught me that my Jewish community does not only lie in Owings Mills, or Baltimore, but everywhere on earth, whether we can see it or not. We may be different, but we all have something so important in common, and that is our Jewish roots. Even though many of the international Jewish teens live thousands of miles away, BBYO makes that distance feel a little bit shorter, because we are one movement, and one community.

Lindsey Weiskopf is a freshman at Park School and serves as vice president of programming in her chapter, Achot BBG, and as publicity chair of BBYO Baltimore Council. To learn more about BBYO, contact its Baltimore Council regional director, Danielle Hercenberg, at bmore@bbyo.org or call 410-559-3549.

Advocating for Israel in the American Media

When was the last time anyone in the American Jewish community heard or saw a creative, impacting short message about the many unique Israeli accomplishments geared to the American public as opposed to our own Jewish community again?

Israeli accomplishments are most creative and numerous — prosthetic legs for our wounded American vets, advancements in energy techniques, new agricultural technologies for developing countries to feed their people, effective strategies for first-responders during civil disasters, one of the first countries to respond and help with the Ebola crises and many more than space permits here. These are all achievements the general American public would love to know about, but as yet, they have not been told by us, the spirited advocates for Israel.

First, it’s important to define media. Too often I hear media defined as slanted TV news reporting and newspaper editorials, when in fact media is best defined as many various tools that communicate short impacting messages such as radio/TV spots, outdoor billboards, posters on the sides of buses, in trains and in sub-way stations and newspaper/magazine ads. Imagine short, creative, impacting messages geared to the American people and not ourselves, great messages that could wow the American people, who, by their own culture, love to hear about achievement. It’s the American way.

My hope is that our Israel advocacy organizations one day come together with the help of creative public relations professionals and tell some very impressive messages to all my non-Jewish, non-evangelical American friends who have no clue about Israel except what they hear about“occupiers.”

The time to work on these educational hasbara efforts is in times of calm, not conflict, as we have done often in the past. Over the many years, I recall our communities and their organizations reacting during a major conflict such as the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War with the usual response — a full-page expensive ad filled with text margin to margin signed by numerous people at the bottom, often resembling the Declaration of Independence. It’s definitely not an attention grabber and a total waste of funds and effort, because it’s really of no interest to the audience. What a waste of energy and precious funds.

For sure, advocating for Israel does mean going to Capitol Hill and pressing the flesh, but the other half of advocacy is to educate the American people who, when impressed, will call their congressional representatives.

I often lecture to Jewish audiences hoping to alter their advocacy thinking and present hasbara workshops to teens who soon will be our Jewish leaders and know how to create impacting messages. I would hope that sometime in the future our Zionist advocates for Israel take a second look at communicating to Americans not about borders, conflict datelines and unreadable maps loaded with extensive text, but instead with messages about really impressive Israeli accomplishments.

Avrum Ashery is a retired media adviser to the U.S. Congress.

Iran Nuclear Nightmare: Framework Fail

After more than 20 years of sanctions against Iran concerning its illicit nuclear program, President Barack Obama has not only precipitously squandered the international community’s economic leverage, but he has also collapsed diplomatic isolation of Iran that had been built up by Congress, six U.N Security Council resolutions and multiple presidents. Now, following over 18 months of nuclear talks, Obama is poised to legitimize the very pathway to a nuclear weapon he promised the American people for years that he would prevent.

The “framework of understanding” announced by the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran in Lausanne on April 2 represents a series of dangerous capitulations by the U.S. on key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program and a damaging betrayal of long-stated American policy. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was grinning from ear to ear at the announcement; however, in our allies’ capitals throughout the Middle East, the response was much less celebratory.

As reported on the day of the announcement, the “understanding” is not a final accord; neither side is bound by its terms. And within hours, Zarif was already accusing the West of lying, overstating Iran’s obligations and shading the rapid pace of Iran’s coming cash and prizes. While many details that could derail a comprehensive agreement remain to be negotiated, the reality of what was announced is deeply alarming and signifies a dramatic weakening of the positions America held for decades.

Iran entered these negotiations as an international pariah state. As the regime pursued its illicit nuclear program, its economy was crumbling under the weight of crippling economic sanctions. When Obama originally opened these talks, the country was six months from bankruptcy and that pressure could have been used to dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

However, the Iranians’ shrewd negotiation tactics completely unraveled the original U.S. goal of absolutely no enrichment in Iran. According to the new framework, Iran now stands to operate over 6,000 of the 9,000 centrifuges spinning today. Instead of dismantling Iran’s plutonium plant, now Iran can produce plutonium more slowly. And once the final accord expires, Tehran will be able to build unlimited plutonium reactors.

Obama said a final agreement will not be based on trust. But the entire framework seems to hinge on asking Americans to trust the Iranians not to cheat, and trusting that the Administration knows better than Congress.

Obama said that Congress has an important role to play. He welcomed a vigorous debate about the agreement, but in the same breath warned that if Congress scuttles the deal, then America will be blamed for failed diplomacy. Let’s hope Congress sees this message for what it is: pure politics.

Only Congress can unwind the sanctions it has imposed under the law. And only Congress at this point can ensure that the United States does not pave Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Joshua S. Block is President & CEO of The Israel Project.

Breaking Free from a Personal Mitzrayim

Passover is a holiday defined by coming out toward freedom. The Hebrew word for Egypt, mitzrayim, meaning, “from the narrows,” represents not so much a geographic location as a state of mind, from which each of us seeks liberation in our own way. In my case, I started life as a first-born son but could now say I was born, at first, a son. As I reflect upon my own unique journey into Jewish womanhood, it helps me not only relate to the narrative of our past, but recommit myself to the responsibility of being a Jew in the present.

The concept of transgender individuals need not be alien to any sect of Judaism. Talmudic references to suprabinary sexes aside, the necessity of a person to permanently assert a new gender based upon sincere self-awareness, let alone the medicine to influence physical characteristics to match, was simply not on the minds of our sages; whereas, homosexuality, albeit grossly misunderstood, was. In Torah, crustaceans are “shellfish” and cetaceans are “big fish.” As Jews, we read many books beyond Torah, each building on humanity’s knowledge of Hashem’s creations, as they line the walls of our synagogues and homes. Seeing only male and female is seeing only “fish,” a beginning to the conversation at best. Sadly, gender identities, and sexuality in general, remain taboo in many circles of our community. This is not a problem unique to Judaism, yet is one we can uniquely remedy by relating new ideas through the history we tell best.

Gender matters within the Passover story as early as line 16 in Exodus. The Hebrew midwives are ordered to smother the newborn boys, yet spare the girls. Obviously, they disobey. Oppression can take many forms, sometimes only a perception is sufficient. With the help of a different newborn, the dial-up Internet, I discovered scarce reports of other trans-children like myself. The fear in revealing myself was not my parents’ rejection, but rather their support. They would have moved heaven and earth, perhaps to a different state, for me to quietly continue on as a girl, were that my need. Circumstances have changed, but years ago, even the prospect of unintended consequences was itself a captivity. Hidden within me was a girl trapped in her own mitzrayim by the first-born big brother’s obligation to look out for his siblings, rather than change at risk of uprooting them. It took me decades to escape that mindset, but Passover is a reminder that transformation requires both preparing yourself and preparing the world. The woman I am could never have existed before; by outward appearances alone, I’d have been among the smothered.

My journey toward liberation and self-actualization against societal expectations and my own fears helps me look upon the journeys of others, realizing that I once was restricted as well, and in different ways still am. To be a Jew reminds me, in this age and every age, that asserting our own and ensuring others’ freedom of expression is, perhaps, our greatest expression of freedom.

Hannah Elyse Simpson is a medical student in New York City at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is active in numerous Jewish congregations and is the volunteer coordinator for Trans Lifeline, a peer crisis hotline.

Gender and Passover: Breaking Free from a Personal Mitzrayim

Hannah Simpson

Hannah Simpson

Passover is a holiday defined by coming out toward freedom. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, meaning, “from the narrows,” represents not so much a geographic location as a state of mind, from which each of us seeks liberation in our own way. In my case, I started life as a first-born son, but could now say I was born, at first, a son. As I reflect upon my own unique journey into Jewish womanhood, it helps me not only relate to the narrative of our past, but recommit myself to the responsibility of being a Jew in the present.

The concept of transgender individuals need not be alien to any sect of Judaism. Talmudic references to suprabinary sexes aside, the necessity of a person to permanently assert a new gender based upon sincere self-awareness, let alone the medicine to influence physical characteristics to match, was simply not on the minds of our sages; whereas, homosexuality, albeit grossly misunderstood, was. In Torah, crustaceans are “shellfish” and cetaceans are “big fish.” As Jews, we read many books beyond Torah, each building on humanity’s knowledge of Hashem’s creations, as they line the walls of our synagogues and homes. Seeing only male and female is seeing only “fish,” a beginning to the conversation at best. Sadly, gender identities, and sexuality in general, remain taboo in many circles of our community. This is not a problem unique to Judaism, yet is one we can uniquely remedy by relating new ideas through the history we tell best.

Gender matters within the Passover story as early as line sixteen in Exodus. The Hebrew midwives are ordered to smother the newborn boys, yet spare the girls. Obviously, they disobey. Oppression can take many forms, sometimes only a perception is sufficient. With the help of a different newborn, the dial-up Internet, I discovered scarce reports of other trans children like myself. The fear in revealing myself was not my parents’ rejection, but rather their support. They would have moved heaven and earth, perhaps to a different state, for me to quietly continue on as a girl, were that my need. Circumstances have changed, but years ago, even the prospect of unintended consequences was itself a captivity. Hidden within me was a girl trapped in her own Mitzrayim by the first-born big brother’s obligation to look out for his siblings, rather than change at risk of uprooting them. It took me decades to escape that mindset, but Passover is a reminder that transformation requires both preparing yourself and preparing the world. The woman I am could never have existed before; by outward appearances alone, I’d have been among the smothered.

A hint at how to prepare the world for redemption comes in another line from Exodus, so early in the tale that I fear it gets passed over. Line eight speaks of a new ascending Pharaoh, to whom Joseph and the prosperity the Hebrews brought was unknown, no sooner were we enslaved. Today, multiple states have introduced legislation proposing that I must use men’s public restrooms. I may comply at risk of violence or defy at risk of arrest. Further bills, notably one just passed in Indiana, may give anyone who desires an exemption from serving me in the first place. Yet again, the world finds itself dignifying discourse around where a minority can pee or where they can be.

As Jews, our own history should remind us: Next come the ghettos. Joseph was viceroy to a mighty empire, yet within a line was erased without even a why or how. Perhaps the Hebrews in Mitzrayim became complacent in their affluence? For all that American Jews take for granted, not 75 years ago this same nation could not make space for a single ship of refugees waiting at its shores. How soon could the tides change or the sea split once again? For whom must we stand up now, lest no one be left to stand for us?

Our narrative as a people of eons adds Milk to Miriam and Moses, growing braver with each new hero or heroine who rises to the challenges of preparing the world in that day, so long as we keep telling their stories and broadening conversations.

My journey toward liberation and self-actualization against societal expectations and my own fears helps me look upon the journeys of others, realizing that I once was restricted as well, and in different ways still am. To be a Jew reminds me, in this age and every age, that asserting our own and ensuring others’ freedom of expression is, perhaps, our greatest expression of freedom.

Hannah Elyse Simpson is a medical student in New York City at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a marathoner, supporter of Israel, and total unabashed nerd. She is active in numerous Jewish congregations and is the volunteer coordinator for Trans Lifeline, a peer crisis hotline. She has recently been featured on refinery29.com and has been interviewed by Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. Find her on Twitter @hannsimp.

Restarting U.S.-Israel Relationship Also Depends on Palestinians

040315_Foxman,-AvrahamAs someone who was critical of several steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his campaign for re-election, I am even more troubled by statements coming out of the White House calling for a reassessment of policy toward Israel, including a reconsideration of the historic American veto in the U.N. Security Council.

Let me be clear: I wish Netanyahu would do more to solidify relations with Israel’s ally in America and to stand up to those in Israel who seek to make impossible a Palestinian state. None of this, however, justifies what we are hearing from the Obama administration.

From the beginning of the Obama years, there was a disturbing indifference to the mindset of the Israeli public, characterized by the president’s speech in Cairo and focus on Israeli settlements as the key obstacle to peace.

Certainly, resentment at Netanyahu’s sidestepping the president in his speech before Congress is understandable. However, if there was concern about the election of a right-wing government, attention should have focused less on not liking what Israeli democracy produced and more on examining why Israelis voted as they did and what can be done to change that reality.

The answer lies not in the United States distancing itself from Israel, which will encourage Palestinians in their belief that they can have their cake and eat it, achieving a state without accepting the legitimacy of the Jewish state. And it will reinforce Israeli fears of being under siege.

Rather, it lies in doing something the administration has seemingly been reluctant to do: pressuring the Palestinians into finally making the qualitative leap toward accepting the legitimacy of the Jewish state. This and this alone could truly change the dynamic of the conflict that has been troubling the world for so long.

Steps that would represent such change would include concrete indications of finally recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, accepting that the Palestinian refugee problem would be resolved within a new Palestinian state, declaring that a peace accord would represent the end of the conflict and future demands and eliminating the hate campaigns in the media and schools against Israel and Jews.

The absence of any progress on all these issues over many years leaves Israelis with the belief that not much has changed on the Palestinian side, and that they need to tough it out until change comes.

There are good arguments against this Israeli approach even if there is no change on the Palestinian side. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opted for a unilateral initiative despite his belief that Israel currently had no peace partner. But as these elections show, most Israelis are ready to vote for security in the current environment.

On the other hand, if real positive Palestinian change would occur, that would generate the greatest impact for change on the Israeli side. A diminution of fears about Palestinian intentions is the best formula for a more moderate Israeli electorate and Israeli policies.

This should be a time for healing between American and Israeli leaders. The prime minister, the president and congressional leaders should not be trying to score points at the expense of the other. Instead they should refocus on the common values and interests of the two nations and recognize that we both face many common challenges in the Middle East.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League.