The four-cubits syndrome

Published in The Jerusalem Post on April 30, 2000

The country is shrinking by the day, yet the streets are quiet. Prime Minister Barak is speeding ahead with plans to hand over yet more land to the Palestinian Authority, including the immediate environs of Jerusalem — an “advance deposit” he euphemistically calls it — yet there are no protest demonstrations. Why?


Why is it that all of Israel appears to be asleep? How is it that *the* touchstone of Israeli politics – the dispute over giving back or giving up Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem – has fallen into disregard? Do we not realize that the “difficult, big decisions” about our borders, previously dreamed about only in futuristic terms or the worst nightmares, now are about to be made?


One explanation, which I don’t buy, argues that the streets are quiet because everybody trusts Ehud Barak. This Prime Minister *knows* what he is doing. Mr. Security (didn’t they once call Yitzhak Rabin that?) won’t give the store away, so there’s no need to get alarmed. Trust him.


Uh-uh. After the failed Syria caper — during which Barak pumped Hafez Assad and us with weekly doses of propaganda about “Assad the brave”, “Assad the wise” and “Assad’s strategic decision to sue for peace” — I don’t think the public any longer places great stock in Barak’s negotiating sagacity. You can’t tell me that confidence in Ehud explains the eerie tranquility as we head into final status talks.


Others will tell you that Israelis are calm because they *believe* in reconciliation with Yasser Arafat and his state-in-the-making. Unfortunately, this argument is hard to sustain.


It is now clear that the more we withdraw, the more the Palestinians hate us. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vituperation in the PA has reached unprecedented, pandemic heights (or depths) — despite our repeated territorial withdrawals and the pliant Labor government.


Ten years ago, who would have believed that the PLO would control 40 percent of the West Bank and 95 percent of the Palestinians through a state-like entity recognized internationally – and still preach regularly that Jews are Nazis and the Holocaust never happened?!


Remember, Oslo was supposed to usher in a period of incremental coexistence, of confidence-building measures, of learning not to hate and not to threaten violence. As we withdrew, we were to witness the emergence of a civilized, neighborly Palestinian entity. Instead, a perverse dynamic is at work. We get used to giving-in; they get used to hating us. And to demanding ever more.


No, the cause of the perilous quiet, I’m afraid, is the Four-Cubits Syndrome; an ailment that causes apathy and indifference. Four small cubits, the Talmud’s measure of a person’s private domain, is about as far as our myopic, selfish concerns extend.


The epidemic Four-Cubits Syndrome has contracted our attentions to the route we drive from home to work, to the mall, and back again. It prevents us from caring too much about what is happening beyond the tips of our own noses or the boundaries of our backyards.


Indeed, Israelis have become very liberal about giving away the land of other Israelis – as long as it doesn’t immediately and directly (they think) affect them. Thus, Ehud Barak can count on the fact that the hand-over of Abu Dis and eastern Jerusalem will pass quietly — as long as Arafat doesn’t cut off our private, high-speed Internet lines or access to on-line stock trading. Simply put, the peace process just doesn’t bother or interest us when it isn’t inching-up right on our doorsteps.


As long as Arafat’s boys don’t throw stones or shoot at the fancy cars along the way from Ramat Aviv to Silicon Wadi in Herzliyah, who cares whether the PA army is on the outskirts of Kfar Saba?


As long as it is quiet in central Jerusalem, why should anyone from Rehavia care whether Azaria and Abu Dis are handed over to the 50,000-strong PA “police” force? Only the residents of East Talpiot or Gilo on the edge of Jerusalem will be harassed by the terrorists and raiding robbers, right?


Barak’s attempt last month to hand-over Anata just north of Jerusalem proves my point. The move was scuttled (temporarily) by protests led by residents of Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaacov, the nearby, most-imminently-affected neighborhoods. They feared of becoming another Hebron, where there about 200 anti-Jewish incidents a month; a good example of what happens when you live in close proximity to a PA-controlled zone. But where were all the other Jerusalemites and other Israelis?


Where were they? Home tending to their own, personal garden patches, stricken with Four-Cubits Syndrome.


Pursuit of personal happiness in absolute disregard for what is happening more than a kilometer away — is a frightening ethos. Sounds an awful lot like the Second Temple’s final days. The Talmud (Gitin 56) says that one half of Jerusalem was still partying while the other half already was burning.


Continue down this path, and pretty soon all we’ll be left with is four cubits.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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