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This Yom Kippur, So Many Apologies to Offer, So Little Time

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks at the Hudson Institute's Herman Kahn Award Ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 22, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Andrew Kelly, Reuters

On Erev Yom Kippur, I too must ask forgiveness. For words too harsh, criticism too biting and for causing unnecessary offense. The problem is that you can’t atone for your sins against another individual in the newspaper or on Facebook. You have to go to the person you’ve offended and placate him until he says, “I forgive you.” And that’s not easy.

My only comfort is that there are people in worse shape than I. Their sins are greater and more numerous, and there are so many people from whom they must request forgiveness that they might not get to all of them. After all, our verdict will be sealed shortly, on Wednesday night.

Benjamin Netanyahu must beg forgiveness over the most important issue of all, the peace process. He has been fooling us for 20 years on this life-or-death matter. He received the Oslo Accords before the 1996 election, and shattered them immediately afterward. He’s been talking about a two-state solution for seven years, but in practice he undermines it systematically.

There are two possible outcomes to his policy. The first is the de facto annexation of the territories, without enfranchising the Palestinians and while continuing the military regime. That will destroy Israeli democracy and create an apartheid state that will limp from one war to another. The second is complete annexation, including voting rights for Palestinians. That will lead to a binational state — a surefire recipe for continuous civil war, à la Lebanon. It would also be the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic refuge for the Jewish nation.

Netanyahu must also apologize to Isaac Herzog, whom he crushed in a most cynical fashion. Each time there was a hint of a police investigation of Netanyahu, the prime minister saw to it that reports of “progress toward bringing Zionist Union into the coalition” were leaked to the media, which pounced eagerly on the old-new story and made Herzog’s life a misery.

Herzog came off looking as if he were ready to hold his nose and crawl into the cabinet for the sake of a position; after all, he cannot genuinely believe there’s even a one-in-a-million chance that Netanyahu will change his spots and enter negotiations that would involves conceding territory.

Netanyahu is willing to speak at a convention or a conference or take part in a swimming competition against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from now until the cows come home. But yield territory? Don’t be ridiculous.

Herzog believes that the odds of his retaining his leadership in the Labor Party primary scheduled for July 2017 are similar to the odds of Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh becoming prime minister. Thus, he would rather lead seven dwarfs into Netanyahu’s government and become foreign minister. In that job, he will travel the world, attend very important meetings in very fancy venues — and talk himself to death. It’s a lot more pleasant than sitting in the back benches of the Knesset.

Upon reflection, then, Herzog also needs to ask forgiveness — from each of the 786,000 people who voted for him, and whom he disappointed. They hoped for an aggressive opposition and the creation of a sane alternative to Netanyahu, and instead Herzog walks willingly into a trap.

Next in line to apologize are Arye Dery, Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman, who must ask much forgiveness from all those ultra-Orthodox teenagers they are dooming to a life of poverty and distress by not allowing them to study the core curriculum.

There’s another religious group that must seek forgiveness — the tens of thousands of people who flew to Uman, Ukraine to pray at the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. They must first apologize to their wives and children, whom they happily abandoned for Rosh Hashanah. Then they must understand that it’s not Jewish to believe that a dead rabbi can bless them. He’s dead, you see. Dead. Dead and gone. But then, the Lubavitcher Rebbe is also dead, and he still lives.

Anyway, pardon me — I must run off to ask forgiveness.

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