Israel Deserves to Have Worthier Ministers

How can we demand of Egypt and Jordan that they honor peace agreements when Israel shows contempt for its commitments?

There is a well-known story about a Jew who arrived in a town from a distant city, and stayed at the rabbi's house. Before Shabbat the guest asked to leave a wallet full of money - with which he was supposed to buy merchandise for the people in his town - for safekeeping with the rabbi. If we're talking about money, said the rabbi, we need witnesses. He invited two of local dignitaries over and asked them to serve as witnesses to the transfer of the wallet.

When Shabbat was over, the guest asked for his money. I don't know what you're talking about, said the rabbi. The guest asked that the two dignitaries who had served as witnesses be summoned. The rabbi immediately sent a messenger to call the two men, who declared that they also had no idea what the guest was talking about. We only saw him for the first time on Shabbat morning in the synagogue, they said. The Jew was about to leave the house, mortified, when the rabbi called him and said: Here's the wallet you left with me. Why did you play that game with me, the Jew asked. I just wanted you to know who you're dealing with in this town, replied the rabbi.

I recalled this story when I read that most of the Likud ministers on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted in favor of a private bill sponsored by MK Miri Regev, which would mean annexation of a large part of the areas of Judea and Samaria. Only the firm intervention of the prime minister prevented approval of the proposal, which would have precipitated an unprecedented political avalanche. It's impossible not to understand Benjamin Netanyahu or to identify with him when we see whom he's dealing with.

This is a step that no Likud prime minister ever proposed or even considered - not Menachem Begin, not Yitzhak Shamir, not Ariel Sharon and not Netanyahu - and it represents a blatant violation of signed agreements and of unequivocal commitments that Israel has given the United States. Passing such a law, certainly today, when Israel may be confronting crucial decisions and needs all the diplomatic support it can get, is a blatant act of irresponsibility.

We don't expect Miri Regev and Danny Danon to behave responsibly; their DNA prevents them from doing that. But we can demand of government ministers that they display responsibility and consider the good of the country - not only the Likud primary and the fears of Likud ultranationalist Moshe Feiglin.

After all, these are presumably serious people, who understand the situation and are aware of diplomatic considerations. Wasn't it clear to them that passing such a law would demonstrate defiance, break all the rules in terms of our relations with the entire international community, and intensify the isolation of the State of Israel? How can we demand of Egypt and Jordan that they honor peace agreements when Israel shows contempt for its commitments?

Didn't they understand what Benny Begin - who is not exactly a leftist - explained to them? That in any case such a move would mark a dramatic change in the policy pursued by Israel since the Six-Day War, and that such a decision cannot be made casually by means of a private bill by some Likud backbencher?

The fact is that the ministers understood the issue very well, but they irresponsibly chose to avoid making a decision and to leave it to the prime minister, who fortunately for us is the responsible adult.

Woe to the country whose ministers lack courage. This nation deserves to have worthier ministers.