70 years ago today, two men escaped from Auschwitz. Here’s the true story.

Vrba-Wetzler(Washington, D.C.) — Seventy years ago today, two men pulled off the greatest escape in human history — from a Nazi death camp in southern Poland.

Most of the world doesn’t know their names, but we should.

Rudolf Vrba was only 19 when he escaped Auschwitz. Fred Wetzler was only 25.

They are my heroes. They executed their ingenious plan on April 7th, 1944, and not simply to save their own lives, but to tell the world the truth about what Adolf Hitler was really doing to annihilate the Jewish people. They risked their lives to proclaim the truth, and in the process they helped save more than 100,000  Jewish lives.

It is their stories that inspired me to write The Auschwitz Escape. Now here is a brief version of the true story.

REMEMBERING FOUR HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST

By Joel C. Rosenberg

To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.

In 1933, the world was blindsided by the rise of Adolf Hitler. 

In 1939, it was stunned by the German invasion of Poland and the Nazi leader’s bloodthirsty quest for global domination. Perhaps most tragically, most of the world did not understand Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews until it was almost too late.

Today, we face dangerous new threats from Iran, North Korea, and a rising czar in Russia, not from Germany. Yet curiously, in recent weeks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have each warned that as we confront current challenges we must be careful to learn the lessons of history regarding how the world failed to understand the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis and deal with it decisively, before events spun out of control.

I agree, and as an example, I would point the extraordinary events that occurred in the spring of 1944. 

Four men pulled off the greatest escapes in all of human history, from a Nazi death camp in southern Poland. They did not simply escape to save their own lives. Nor did they escape merely to tell the world about a terrible crime against humanity that had been – and was being – committed. What set these true heroes apart is that they planned and executed their escapes in the hope of stopping a horrific crime before it was committed – the extermination of the Jews of Hungary.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of these escapes, and to draw attention to the significance these unknown – or unremembered – events, and the lessons they have to teach us, I recently wrote a work of historical fiction, The Auschwitz Escape. I changed the names of key figures involved so as not to put words in their mouths that cannot be verified to be their own. But it is my deepest hope that the book will cause many to dig into the real history of these remarkable heroes.

Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were Slovak Jews. They escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944.

[NOTE: In the novel, I explain exactly how they did it, what supplies they needed, what their escape route was, how they outfoxed the guards, etc. -- an extraordinary story.]

Arnost Rosin was also a Slovak Jew. Czeslaw Mordowicz was a Polish Jew. Together they escaped from Auschwitz on May 27, 1944.

Upon making it safely to Czechoslovakia, Vrba, only 19 years old, and Wetzler, 25, linked up with the Jewish underground. They explained Auschwitz was not simply a labor camp, as most thought, but rather a death camp. The Nazis were systematically murdering prisoners, mostly Jews, using poison gas called “Zyklon B,” then burning their bodies in enormous ovens.

The men explained the Nazis were dramatically enlarging an expansion camp a few miles from Auschwitz called “Birkenau,” building new train tracks, enormous new gas chambers, and massive new crematoria. They had also completed ramps leading all those arriving in the cattle cars directly into the gas chambers.

Vrba and Wetzler said they had heard SS guards talking about Hungarian “salami” that would soon be arriving. They knew from their jobs as clerks in the camp that none of Hungary’s nearly 450,000 Jews had yet arrived, even though Jews from most of Europe had come already. 

They urged the Czech Jewish leaders to warn Hungarian Jews immediately so they would revolt and not get on the trains. They also urged that the Allied leaders be notified so they would mount an operation to liberate Auschwitz.

Both men were asked to separately draft detailed eyewitness reports. Their reports were then cross-checked, compiled into a single report, and then simultaneously translated into multiple languages.

Eventually, Mordowicz, 23, and Rosin, 30, escaped as well. When they got to Czechoslovakia, they wrote up reports of their own, which were added to the existing document. But all this took precious time the Hungarian Jews did not have.

The report, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” was sent to Jewish and Allied leaders in early June 1944. Excerpts were leaked to the press, creating an international uproar. But the Germans had begun deporting Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in massive numbers on May 15th. And “The Auschwitz Protocol” landed in the hands of President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and their top aides just as the Allies were executing the D-Day invasion of Normandy and trying to liberate France.

On July 2nd, the U.S. began bombing Budapest. Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Nazi-backed Regent of Hungary, feared the air raid was in reprisal for the Jewish deportations. He ordered the trains halted. Thus, while, more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews had already been sent to Auschwitz and gassed, 120,000 more Hungarian Jews were saved from deportation and certain death.

Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian, would later note, “The Auschwitz Protocol” was responsible for “the largest single greatest rescue of Jews in the Second World War.”

That said, neither the U.S. nor the British military took direct action to liberate Auschwitz during the war. Nor did they bomb the train lines to the death camps, or bomb the camps themselves, as Jewish leaders had implored. 

When the Soviets finally entered Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, only 7,000 prisoners remained alive. More than 1.1 million had already been exterminated.

Why didn’t Washington and London take decisive action upon receiving detailed, inside intelligence? Couldn’t they have at least tried to stop the Holocaust, or at least disrupt it, knowing the hellish nightmare people in the camps were experiencing?

Historians have been debating this for years. Yet the issues are not academic. Today, our leaders also face urgent questions. 

Let’s consider just one. Iran has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” It has threatened to create world without the “Great Satan” (aka, the U.S.), as well. The mullahs are actively developing the ability to build nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them. 

Do we currently have inside sources giving us accurate intelligence on the state of Iran’s nuclear program? If diplomacy and sanctions fail, should the West take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities before the mullahs can set into motion a Second Holocaust? 

Rather than attack ourselves, should the U.S. support an Israeli preemptive strike? What are the risks of launching such a strike? What are the risks of delay? 

Would history forgive us if we wait too long and Iran strikes first?

The moral courage that Rudolf Vrba, Alfred Wetzler, Arnost Rosin, and Czeslaw Mordowicz demonstrated seventy years ago was extraordinary. They understood the nature and threat of evil, and they risked their lives to tell the world the truth. 

They deserve to be remembered and heralded by Jews and Christians and all who care about freedom and human dignity. 

We must never forget what they did, and why they did it. But we must also be ready to act wisely, bravely and decisively if a mortal threat rises again. For if we learn nothing else from the history of the Holocaust, we had better learn this: Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.

(Note: this article was originally published by FoxNews.com on March 18, 2014)

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Here’s the video of the Fox News interview from Jerusalem: “The dangers of unchecked evil.”

Discussing "The Auschwitz Escape" with Fox News anchor Shannon Bream from Jerusalem.

Discussing “The Auschwitz Escape” with Fox News anchor Shannon Bream from Jerusalem.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — On Sunday, Fox News Channel anchor Shannon Bream interview me via satellite from here in Israel about the new book, The Auschwitz Escape. She also asked me about the national survey we commissioned for the release of the book.

Here are some of the results of the poll we discussed. Later today, I plan to post more of the poll we discussed.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Sources say Israel prepared to give up 90% of West Bank. Here’s the latest in the drip, drip, drip of leaks from the peace process.

netanyahu-map(Washington, D.C.) – A drip, drip, drip of leaks this week may be giving us a clearer picture of the Mideast peace plan that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are cooking up.

Here’s the latest:

To be clear, neither Netanyahu nor his inner circle has been quoted as saying they are ready to give Abbas and the Palestinians 90% of the West Bank. That’s a leak from the American side, and I cannot confirm it’s true.

Maybe Netanyahu is just playing along with Kerry, biding his time, looking interested, looking ready to make major concessions, but hoping all the while that the Palestinians say “no” to the American plan first, thus making it unnecessary for him to do so.

But it is also possible that Netanyahu is really getting close to saying “yes” to Obama and Kerry.

Remember: In his address to the U.N. General Assembly last October, Netanyahu signaled he was preparing to make “painful concessions” for peace. “Israel continues to seek an historic compromise with our Palestinian neighbors, one that ends our conflict once and for all,” the PM said. “We want peace based on security and mutual recognition, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. I remain committed to achieving an historic reconciliation and building a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Now, I have no illusions about how difficult this will be to achieve. Twenty years ago, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians began. Six Israeli prime ministers, myself included, have not succeeded at achieving peace with the Palestinians. My predecessors were prepared to make painful concessions. So am I. But so far the Palestinian leaders haven’t been prepared to offer the painful concessions they must make in order to end the conflict.”

At the time, it wasn’t clear anyone was listening to that paragraph, or believed him — after all, the bulk of that speech was about the Iran nuclear threat.

But it’s clear that Israelis are listening now, and some are growing angry, even those within his own government.

For more context:

Here are the latest leaks picked up in a Times of Israel story:

  • The closed-door negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over the future contours of a Palestinian state, and how much land and settlements Israel will retain, have reportedly come down to a matter of a few percentage points, with both sides agreeing in principle that the majority of Jewish West Bank settlements would be transferred to Israeli sovereignty in a final status deal.
  • Citing anonymous Israeli, Palestinian and American sources close to the negotiations, Walla News reported on Thursday that Israel is seeking to annex about 10 percent of the West Bank’s land area in a final deal. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are seeking to have Israel annex only around 3% of the West Bank, the report said.
  • According to both Israeli and Palestinian officials cited in the report, the Palestinians have agreed to Israel’s annexation of the Gush Etzion bloc, just south of Jerusalem, but are arguing over the settlements of Efrat and Migdal Oz, which lie east of Route 60, a major north-south road running between Nazareth and Beersheba, through Jerusalem, Hebron and much of the West Bank.
  • Israel is seeking to also retain several of the smaller communities in the immediate area of Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem, but the Palestinians have been opposed to such a move, the report said. Israel has said in the past it expects to keep control of the city of Ma’ale Adumim.
  • Both sides have reportedly agreed that the settlements that lie more or less along the 1967 border will be annexed by Israel, as will Givat Ze’ev, just north of Jerusalem. More-isolated Jewish settlements, such as Beit El, Ofra and others in the Samaria region, are not slated to be annexed, but Israel is reportedly seeking a long-term lease agreement for those communities.
  • The report did not touch on the issue of East Jerusalem, which Israel formally annexed in 1980, a move not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians seek to create their capital in the eastern part of the city, but the area is also home to several large Jewish neighborhoods, such as Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Homa, which Israel is unlikely to consider parting with.
  • The future of settlements such as Ariel and Karnei Shomron in the northern West Bank is unclear, as the Palestinians are said to be extremely opposed to their annexation by Israel. It is supremely important for the PA to create “a contiguous Palestinian state” with sensible borders, and it will not agree to “a state whose map will be broken,” according to sources cited in the report.
  • The report noted that Israel seeks to “retain a presence” in Hebron, but there was no mention of the status of Kiryat Arba, a major settlement just outside the city, or any of the smaller Jewish communities in the surrounding area.
  • Israel has offered land adjacent to the southern West Bank, inside of Israel proper and not far from Hebron, as well as an area near Bet She’an, in exchange for the West Bank areas to be annexed. Israel has also raised the possibility of monetary compensation and other forms of economic assistance in exchange for the annexed territories, the report said.
  • The Americans are also attempting to persuade the two sides to agree to the creation of a “safe road” linking the West Bank and Gaza, but that idea, which has been raised before during previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, is complicated by the security situation in the Strip, which is controlled by Islamic terror group Hamas. Israel is not opposed to the idea, an official said, but its implementation depends on “developments in Gaza.” If such a deal were agreed upon by the two sides, the official noted, it would create massive pressure on Hamas to comply with a general peace agreement.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Are the rumors true? Is Netanyahu about to make “painful concessions” in the peace process? Here’s what we know.

netanyahu-Obama-inPMofficeUPDATED: (Washington, D.C.) — The very fact that Israeli leaders on the center-right of the political spectrum are getting so anxious, even angry, strongly suggests two rumors are true:

  1. The Obama administration and the Europeans are putting enormous pressure on the Netanyahu government behind the scenes to say “yes” on to an American-crafted peace plan; and
  2. Netanyahu is seriously contemplating agreeing to deeply painful and enormously controversial concessions, possibly even dividing Jerusalem and rolling Israel back to her pre-1967 borders.

Many analysts have felt for the past year that Secretary Kerry’s frenetic efforts to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were going nowhere and doomed to failure. Now there is rapidly growing evidence that Kerry has driven the two parties into the corner, and that he appears to be putting the most pressure on the Israeli side to make the deepest concessions.

Here’s what we know so far:

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly last October, Netanyahu signaled he was preparing to make “painful concessions” for peace. “Israel continues to seek an historic compromise with our Palestinian neighbors, one that ends our conflict once and for all,” the PM said. “We want peace based on security and mutual recognition, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. I remain committed to achieving an historic reconciliation and building a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Now, I have no illusions about how difficult this will be to achieve. Twenty years ago, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians began. Six Israeli prime ministers, myself included, have not succeeded at achieving peace with the Palestinians. My predecessors were prepared to make painful concessions. So am I. But so far the Palestinian leaders haven’t been prepared to offer the painful concessions they must make in order to end the conflict.”

At the time, it wasn’t clear anyone was listening to that paragraph, or believed him — after all, the bulk of that speech was about the Iran nuclear threat. But Israelis are listening now, and some are growing angry, even those within his own government.

Two weeks ago, for example, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon lashed out at the American plan, describing it as worthless, naïve, “messianic,” and dangerous. ”The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” Ya’alon said. “It contains no peace and no security. Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure that Ben-Gurion Airport and Netanya don’t become targets for rockets from every direction. American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians….Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) is alive and well thanks to us. The moment we leave Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) he is finished. In reality, there have been no negotiations between us and the Palestinians for all these months – but rather between us and the Americans. The only thing that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.” The Obama administration was furious, and Yaalon apologized, sort of, under pressure from Netanyahu.

This week, Israeli Economic Minister Naftali Bennett lashed out at the American plan and harshly warned Netanyahu not to give away Judea & Samaria and put Jewish settlers under Palestinian sovereignty. “Our forefathers and our descendants will not forgive an Israeli leader who gives up our country and divides our capital,” Bennett warned, adding that the government’s growing fear of boycotts “is what will bring on the boycott. This is no way to handle negotiations, running frightened between the capitals of the world.” Bennett later added that the Prime Minister’s approach “reflects the loss of a moral compass. We didn’t experience 2,000 years of yearning for the Land of Israel so that we could live under the government of Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas). Anyone thinking of placing the lives of Jews in the Land of Israel under Palestinian rule is pulling the rug out from under our presence in Tel Aviv….I call on the prime minister to immediately reject this terrible idea.” Netanyahu’s team threatened to fire Bennett from the ruling coalition unless he took back his personal attack. Eventually, Bennett apologized, sort of.

Such tensions would not be flaring this intensely if Kerry wasn’t about to lower the boom on Israel, and center-right political leaders in Israel weren’t so worried Netanyahu was about to agree to far-reaching concessions.

Consider the following:

What is in the ”framework agreement”? The Obama team has leaked key details to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times:

  • The “Kerry Plan,” likely to be unveiled soon, is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims
  • following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines)
  • with unprecedented security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.
  • The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs
  • but Israel will compensate the Palestinians for them with Israeli territory.
  • It will call for the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem
  • and for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
  • It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel proper.

Is there evidence that Netanyahu and Abbas are trying to prepare their people for painful concessions? Here’s an interesting analysis of the “framework agreement” — and Sec. Kerry’s effort to hammer out “interim” deals on both the Iran issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — by David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

  • [The]  issues may still prove insoluble: Listening to Israeli Finance Minister Naftali Bennett at a conference here Tuesday, it was clear how vehemently the right-wing settlers’ movement he represents would oppose a Palestinian state. “Our forefathers and ancestors and our descendants will never forgive an Israeli leader who gives away our land and divides our capital,” Bennett said, his voice almost a shout.
  • Yet the prospect of a framework agreement, of the sort Kerry is seeking, seemed tantalizingly close in comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the gathering, which was sponsored by the Institute for National Security Studies.
  • Netanyahu told the conference that the U.S. was compiling a document that would summarize the points that have emerged during the months of secret Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
  • He said that Israel might agree to further talks under this framework, while not accepting all the U.S. ideas, as long as the Palestinians agree to a demilitarized state that guarantees Israel’s security and accepts Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people.
  • Abbas said in televised remarks to the conference that he might be willing to accept a phased, three-year Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and continued presence by other military forces, as ways of satisfying Netanyahu’s security concerns.
  • Amos Yadlin, a retired chief of Israeli military intelligence who heads the institute that hosted the conference, described Kerry’s goal: “It’s a framework agreement, or an agreement on a framework, or an American piece of paper,” he said, but the aim was to roll forward the negotiations for another nine months.
  • The White House has backed Kerry’s attempt to pull together the parameters that have emerged in the negotiations, rather than simply striving for another round of confidence-building measures, such as Israeli releases of Palestinian prisoners and Abbas’ restraint from taking his case for a Palestinian state to the United Nations.
  • As in the Iran negotiations, a framework agreement would patch over what are still wide differences on a permanent, final-status agreement. But they would reduce the risk of outright conflict while diplomacy continues.

What are the political ramifications inside Israel if Netanyahu says “yes” to the U.S. “framework agreement”? Useful analysis by Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News:

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is obviously getting somewhere in his attempt to achieve a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, because all the right people — the far-right people — are going a little nuts.
  • At a security conference this week in Israel, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party — reacting to an earlier suggestion made by the leader of his governing coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that Jewish settlers could conceivably find themselves living under Palestinian rule one day — asked, “Why should Jews live in Tel Aviv with Israeli sovereignty and in Eli and Hebron under Palestinian sovereignty? Open up the Book of Genesis and form an opinion. I demand that this idea be removed from the agenda.”….
  • Netanyahu, unlike a set of government ministers to his right, including Bennett, understands that Israel’s addiction to West Bank settlements is undermining the legitimacy of his country, and endangering its role as a democratic haven for Jews.
  • This is why he appears to be taking small rhetorical steps in Kerry’s direction — floating the idea that Jews on the West Bank could remain where they are under Palestinian rule (a proposal the Palestinians, so far, at least, reject) is one way he’s signaling to the Israeli public that unpopular decisions might be coming.
  • Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also seems to be bending under Kerry’s pressure, offering just this week a concession of his own: Israelis forces, he said, could remain in parts of the West Bank for as long as three years after an agreement is struck. Previously, Abbas had argued that all Israeli forces must depart as soon as a deal is made.
  • For Israelis, there are two ways to look at Kerry’s Herculean (and often Sisyphean) efforts to outline an agreement between extremely hesitant parties.
  • The first way is Bennett’s: Much of the Israeli right sees Kerry as the enemy, trying to break the will of their prime minister in order to uproot settlers and create a Palestinian state that will become a source of endless violence.
  • The second way is the one favored by Israelis of the center and the left: suspicion of grandiose American schemes but also a sober realization that someone needs to figure out a way to disentangle Israel from the lives of its Palestinian neighbors, and that that person may well be Kerry.
  • The particular difficulty for Netanyahu is that he might have both of these understandings fighting it out in his head.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

The White House is trying to impose a Mideast peace deal. Here’s what you need to know.

Is the Obama administration trying to divide Jerusalem?

Is the Obama administration trying to divide Jerusalem?

(Washington, D.C.) — A fascinating but dicey and possibly dangerous moment is rapidly approaching in the epicenter.

The Obama administration is about to tell the Israelis and Palestinians how to solve their problems. The White House is about to pressure both sides to agree “in principle” to an interim agreement, and then work on a final peace treaty. How the two sides will react is anyone’s bet. Could the dynamic actually lead to a peaceful resolution of an ancient conflict? Seems unlikely. Could it lead to a calm and quiet at least for a while? Sure, theoretically. But to be candid, it could also lead to political chaos, or even to renewed violence.

Let me explain as concisely as I can.

Within days, or at most a few weeks, Secretary of State John Kerry will present both sides with what he calls a “framework agreement.” Essentially, this is an American-crafted peace plan. Yes, it will be based on month after month of discussions with both sides, and with the Jordanians. But make no mistake: it’s the plan President Obama wants to impose on the two parties. It is supposed to create the context for the final peace treaty, which the White House wants negotiated, completed, and signed by the end of 2014.

There will be much in the “framework agreement” both sides don’t like. For example, the plan reportedly calls for dividing Jerusalem and turning into East Jerusalem into the Palestinian capital, something the Netanyahu team adamantly rejects. The plan also keeps Israeli troops helping patrol and secure the Jordan Valley for a period of years, something the Abbas team adamantly rejects. Nevertheless, the two sides are supposed to say “yes” to this interim deal, and then use it to craft a final and supposedly ”better” deal.

But this where the problems lie. There are many. Let’s consider just two.

First, the Obama team could inadvertently make the situation worse. It could accidentally set into motion events that lead to renewed Palestinian terrorism (i.e., a “Third Intifada”) which would force the Israeli Defense Forces into a combat mode. Casualties could escalate, and things could get out of control. It’s happened before. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton tried to pressure the Israelis and Palestinians to make a final deal at Camp David. Then-Israeli PM Ehud Barak finally agreed to make sweeping concessions to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Barak offered the Palestinians all of Gaza, 93% of the West Bank, and half of Jerusalem for their capital, in return for a final peace treaty and the end to all claims. But wanting much more, Arafat said no. He quit the talks, left Camp David and then supported the Second Intifada, which unleashed a wave of suicide bombers who kept killing Israeli civilians, and caused the IDF to invade cities and towns in the West Bank to find and crush these terror cells.

Let’s pray this doesn’t happen. We all want peace. We certain don’t want violence to break out again, especially on such a wide scale.

Second, trying to force both sides to accept an American peace plan could blow up either or both governments.

If the Netanyahu government says “yes” to this interim Obama peace plan, his coalition may revolt. Already the right-wing parties fear that Netanyahu will make dangerous concessions in the final negotiations. He has made major concessions before, giving the ancient city of Hebron to the Palestinians, for example. If Netanyahu looks like he’s agreeing to more painful and arguably unwise concessions, certain Israeli political parties may quit the coalition, or Netanyahu might fire them. Political tensions in Jerusalem have been spiking all week for these very reasons. Saying “yes” might mean the Netanyahu government has be significantly reshuffled (i.e., replacing defecting right-wing parties with one or more left-wing parties). But it also could collapse all together. If so, then new elections would have to be called, which would further delay if not derail the “peace process.”

But if Netanyahu’s government says “no” to the Obama plan, there could also be repercussions.

  • Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid warns European countries could impose a boycott on Israeli goods to punish Israel for saying “no” to the American plan. Lapid says this could cost Israel billions of dollars in lost exports and  “hit every Israeli citizen directly in his pocket.”
  • Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz says Lapid’s concerns are overblown, and Israel could weather the storm.

Given that no one knows which side of that debate is right, there is a great deal of pressure on the Netanyahu team not to inadvertently create an economic nightmare for the Israeli people.

Yet there is also great pressure on Netanyahu not to make concessions that threaten the long-term security of the Jewish state.

  • What if Hamas Islamists seize control of the West Bank government from the more secular Fatah faction, like it did in Gaza? Then what?
  • If the IDF stops operating in the West Bank — arresting terrorists and shutting down rocket factories — then the security situation in the West Bank could devolve into the nightmare that we see in Gaza, with rockets being fired at Israeli towns and cities, and even at Israel’s airport. Then what?
  • If the IDF stops overseeing security in the West Bank, what if al Qaeda and Hamas and other jihadist groups (such as the 30,000 jihadists that are operating in Syria right now) turn the territory into yet another base camp for suicide bombers and other forms of terrorism?
  • What if Christian holy sites in Jerusalem are turned over the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas eventually comes to power? Will Christian tourists feel safe visiting those sites under Hamas supervision? Would the Hamas government even allow Christian tourists to visit?
  • The “framework agreement” reportedly would put 75% to 80% of Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Palestinian control. Would the Jews living in the rest of the settlements be safe in such a scenario?

That said, you and I have not actually seen the Obama/Kerry plan yet. There is no need to rush to judgment. We’ll see all the details soon enough. I just want you to be aware of the dynamic, and the tensions that are building.

Like many of you, I am praying for peace. I want Israelis and Palestinians to live in freedom, security, prosperity and with full religious freedom. 

I don’t want to be a cynic. But I must be honest — I am skeptical.

The interim agreement this administration just struck with Iran — on the way to a full, comprehensive agreement — is a terrible deal. Dangerous for the U.S. Dangerous for Israel. Dangerous for all our allies in the Middle East.

Will this interim deal be similarly flawed, or even dangerous? Time will tell. But there are real reasons to be concerned. Let that drive us to prayer all the more.

What’s the latest with the “framework agreement”? Here are excerpts from useful story published by the Times of Israel:

  • “The Obama administration will soon present a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that the sides may accept with reservations as a basis for a final deal by year’s end, the top US negotiator told Jewish leaders.
  • Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on Thursday that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would remain in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state.
  • This was because Indyk and Secretary of State John Kerry consulted closely with the leaders of both governments as Indyk’s team drafted the agreement.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas would be expected to accept the agreement, with reservations, as the basis of continued negotiations, Indyk apparently said.
  • Making it a US-drafted framework permitted the leaders to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues, Indyk said. “There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” he said, according to the notes of one participant.
  • Broadly, Indyk said, the agreement will address: mutual recognition; security, land swaps and borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and the end of conflict and all claims.
  • A request for comment from the State Department was not returned.
  • On some sensitive issues — particularly the status of Jerusalem — the framework would be vague, but Indyk went into detail on other issues that participants said was surprising.
  • Among these was the security arrangement for the border between Jordan and the West Bank: Indyk said a new security zone would be created, with new fences, sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • Indyk also said that the framework would address compensation for Jews from Arab lands as well as compensation for Palestinian refugees — another longstanding demand by some pro-Israel groups but one that has yet to be included in any formal document.
  • He said that the framework would describe “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people,” a nod to a key demand by the Netanyahu government that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
  • He said the framework would address the issue of incitement and Palestinian education for peace.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog