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The Israel-Palestinian Conflict Needs a Political, Not a Legal, Solution

Sept. 14 2017

Surveying some of the recent debates among Israeli intellectuals about the possibilities of a lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians, Peter Berkowitz criticizes those who, out of frustration with the political-diplomatic process, want to use the law—usually expressed in the dubious claim that international law renders any Israeli presence in the West Bank illegal—to force a resolution:

[This line of argumentation] illuminates the dangerous propensity of liberal democracies, against which Tocqueville warned 180 years ago, to transform political questions into legal ones.

The “juridification of politics”—to borrow a term from the French thinker Alexandre Kojève—erodes citizens’ civic habits by depriving them of the opportunity to resolve political controversies through democratic give-and-take. It also distorts those controversies, which are inextricably bound up with conflicting interests and perceptions, contingent events, and prudential judgments. To subject them to legal reasoning that purports to yield rational, objective, and necessary judgments is to pretend that one right answer is available for disputes that can only be managed through compromise and mutual accommodation. . . .

American efforts to ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should [instead] focus on making peace more valuable to Palestinians by promoting in the West Bank the protection of rights; popular rule; and industrialization, commerce, and trade. [But] the challenge is likely to remain vexing. That’s because the means available to the United States—as well as to Israel, surrounding Arab nations, Europe, and the world community—to transform Palestinian ethnic and social bonds, cultural judgments, and religious beliefs are quite limited.

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: International Law, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount