December 1, 2020
by Sondra Baras
This past weekend, Mohsen Fakrizadeh, the founder of the Iranian Nuclear Program and a prominent scientist still involved in Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, was killed on a main road just outside of Tehran. According to journalist reports, a truck armed with explosives and a firing machine operated remotely, carried out the attack. It is still unclear which country is behind the attack but Iran has accused Israel and many assume that indeed, Israel is responsible for the attack.
Just a few days earlier, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia in what was deemed a secret visit, even though news of the visit reached the far corners of the globe. Although Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already signed agreements with Israel, Saudi Arabia has not yet done so. But it is widely believed that the Saudis are involved in a newly formed coalition of Sunni states with Israel to coordinate efforts to obstruct Iran, widely seen as the most dangerous nation in the Middle East. Iran is not only fomenting civil war and attacks on Sunni governments and areas in the Middle East, but is the single largest exporter of terrorism against Israel and against western targets all over the world, often through their Hizballah and Hamas proxies.
Under President Trump, the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions on this extremely dangerous country, recognizing that Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear program contrary to its obligations under the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump was also intimately involved in fostering new relationships between Israel and the Sunni Gulf States.
It is widely assumed that the events in the Gulf area, particularly the recent assassination of Mohsen Fakrizadeh and Netanyahu’s secret visit to Saudi Arabia, reflect serious concern in our area from the consequences of a Biden White House. It was Trump who understood that the path to peace in the Middle East lies with a coalition of forces against Iran and it is Biden who has declared that one of his first priorities is rapprochement with Iran. And Israel is not the only country who fears this new approach. Iran is a serious threat to all Sunni nations in the area.
Another recent event in our area was the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israel, including a historical visit to the Psagot Winery in Samaria. Pompeo stated unequivocally during his visit here that boycotts against Israel were illegal and anti-Semitic in nature. Seen together with his visit in Saudi Arabia just after that statement was made, the picture is clearer than ever before. The Coalition against Iran is sending a strong message to Biden — the Sunni countries and Israel are united against Iran. This is the true path to peace. Don’t mess with it.
And there is another, subtler message being conveyed as well: the Palestinians are not the key to peace in the region and Israel is not the problem. Pompeo’s statements made that clear and the fact that he was welcomed in Saudi Arabia just after those statements were made, say it all.
So where does that leave us in Israel and especially in Judea and Samaria as events unfold? We were bitterly disappointed that Israel did not apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria as Netanyahu had originally promised. And I view that as an unfortunate, missed opportunity. But we can move forward on a sort of unofficial sovereignty. The Government of Israel can apply Israeli law in many areas, de facto and under the radar. It can legalize the pioneering neighborhoods whose proper development has been halted and in some cases, houses destroyed, because of legal issues that would easily be solved if the Government were to take the necessary steps. It can authorize additional, massive residential construction in Judea and Samaria, while at the same time simplifying the process that was initially created in order to appease various American presidents from Bush to Obama. And it can reach out to local Palestinians, bypassing the Palestinian Authority, creating economic opportunities that would demonstrate to them that they are better served as part of Israel.
At the end of next week, we will be celebrating the holiday of Hanukah. More than 2000 years ago, the Maccabees rebelled against the Syrian Greeks and miraculously defeated them, liberating the Jews from pagan rule and re-entering the Sacred Temple in Jerusalem. They immediately set to work, purifying the Temple and renewing the ancient services. But when they tried to light the Menorah, they discovered that there was only enough pure olive oil to last one day. And it would be a week before they could obtain additional oil.
The Maccabees refused to despair. Realizing their amazing victory was miraculous, they hoped for another miracle. They lit the Menorah, not knowing if it would burn out before they could relight it. But another miracle occurred. The oil sufficed for eight full days and the Temple was rededicated.
And that is the message that we take with us when we celebrate Hanukah each year. The real miracles are not the military victories. They are the small miracles that reflect the spirit of endurance, of acting on faith, not knowing what will actually happen. The priests lit the Menorah and hoped that its light would not be extinguished. We move forward today, settling the land, raising our children in the heart of Biblical Israel.
Since its inception, the settlement movement has been under threat, security threats and threats of removal alike. But we have moved forward, building our communities, hoping that the light that we have kindled will never be extinguished. God brought military salvation to the Maccabees, but even more significantly, He ensured that the light they kindled would not be extinguished. That the nation would be free to worship God in their land.