The Words of the Wilson Family
Brothers and sisters,
As I continue my prayers for the Middle East Peace talks, I've been focusing on the central role of Benjamin Netanyahu. His leadership or failure to lead will make or break these talks. Recently he spoke at the Rabin Memorial marking the 15th anniversary of his assassination.
I want to pick up on some of the points in his speech and see what choices they point to, as he struggles to deal with the many-sided issues that beset his premiership and also keep the nation moving towards rapprochement with the Palestinians.
"You were skeptical and careful, respectful and thoughtful, and you were determined to continue down a road leading to peace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Rabin at the ceremony. "I am a partner to your approach that we must always continue pushing for peace."
I have questioned in my mind whether Netanyahu is sincere in his desire for peace, or whether he is putting on a charade and really seeking to keep the status quo. I would like to take him at his word. Maybe he is divided in himself, knowing how difficult the road to peace is, and how in taking steps for peace he, like Rabin, might be risking if not his life then his political fortunes. I think he is tempted to take the easier course, bowing to Avigdor Lieberman who is against peace. I pray he won't take that course, but stay with the example of Rabin and walk forward fearlessly.
"There has been a positive change in Israel, saying that "now we are less divided within ourselves... We now hear less screams, people listen to each other more, and social gaps are narrowing," he said.
It can be debated whether Israel is less divided in the sense that there is more agreement about the need to come to a peace agreement while maintaining security. Is this code language that Netanyahu might be open to shuffling his coalition if certain Rightist groups prove to be too obstructionist? I'd like to think so, because it means that Netanyahu is reserving for himself the freedom of action to go beyond existing political alignments. It will give him some leverage to move forward.
But I am concerned that by "we" he is speaking only of Jews and not including the Israeli Arab minority. The heavenly perspective is to view all Israelis as one family, all the children of Abraham, whether through Jacob or through Ishmael. That is the reconciliation we need now in Cheon Il Guk. Politically speaking, I am persuaded that including the Israeli Arabs as full members of Israeli society will greatly ease the way to peace with the Palestinians who live on the other side of the Green Line. Any mistreatment of Israel's Arabs will be a cause of continuing friction with the Palestinians--such as dispossessing them of their homes in Jerusalem to make way for new Jewish construction. The proposed Loyalty Oath is another such insult, and thank God large portions of Israeli society are rising up to oppose it.
Netanyahu also said that these days more Israeli citizens understand that in order for a peace deal to be achieved, then Israel must ensure its security, warning of the threats of fundamental Islam. "In the 15 years that passed, fundamental Islam has strengthened. It won the elections in Gaza, took over southern Lebanon, and has threatened the United States," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu is right to worry about fundamentalist Islam. I believe this is all the more reason for him to get busy in making peace with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Fundamentalism thrives on frustration and unrequited injustice, and the best enemy to fundamentalism is hope that comes when society is improving and prospering. Israel has a window of opportunity to work with secular Palestinian counterparts now to create a state in the West Bank, but if this window closes, in the future Israel may face a fundamentalist regime there. That would be so much worse for Israel. On the other hand, a thriving Palestinian state formed in the spirit of cooperation with Israel can shed a hopeful light on those darker corners of the Islamic world from Gaza to Lebanon and begin to stem the fundamentalist tide. I pray that Netanyahu recognizes the seriousness of the hour. It is a providential opportunity that may not come again.
Shimon Peres also spoke. He said of Rabin, "You had the quality so needed of one leading a nation: not looking back in anger, but looking forward with faith," said Peres. "You won the trust of the nation, a trust that crosses all lines… a trust that bridges generations... In war, as in peace, our abilities come from within," added Peres.
Peres speaks to the center of my prayer, which is that Netanyahu can truly be open to the voice of God within, that he will be prayerful and listen to his "still, small voice." God has a plan for peace. If Netanyahu can hear God's voice, and have faith in God's gracious will which seeks for Israel's welfare, then he will make the right decisions. In the Hebrew Bible, many kings of Israel followed their own practical judgment but did not listen to the voice of God through the prophets. Every time they did so, Israel suffered defeat. The surest way to peace is in God. May Netanyahu be the kind of leader who seeks the voice of God.