Friday, February 28, 1997

To Clone or Not to Clone

To Clone or Not to Clone
February 28, 1997

Shimon Peres reportedly told the King of Sweden, after receiving the ‘Nobel Piece Prize,’ that he, Peres, viewed Sweden as a role-model for Israel.  That philosophy, regarding Israel as ‘just another country,’ ‘like all the other countries of the world,’ led to the political upheaval of the previous administration. Total disregard for Jewish heritage, for Judaism as a way of life, for Jewish past, for Jewish tradition, resulted in willingness to partition Eretz Yisrael. After all, if the land has no meaning, if it has no intrinsic value,  why keep  it? 
This was one of the major reasons why the Israeli electorate voted Peres out and voted Netanyahu in. At least on the surface, Netanyahu seemed to have a commitment to Judaism and to Eretz Yisrael. His campaign promises, as well as the rhetoric he espoused during his tenure as opposition leader, expressed an intense desire to ensure continued Jewish presence throughout the Land of Israel. His utterances  seemed deeply rooted, not only because of political or security rationalizations, but because he really believed in inherent Jewish rights to Israel. Netanyahu is not a practicing religious, Orthodox Jew, but his comprehension of a Jewish legacy in Israel seemed firmly established.
I use the word ‘seemed’ because it appears that we were wrong.
The Netanyahu government is on the verge of abandoning an additional 10% of Eretz Yisrael to Arafat. The land he is reportedly about to abandon includes regions in area C - land still entirely controlled by Israel. It was expected that he would transfer only a small area, at most 2% of Yesha, and only land presently in area B, areas presently partially controlled by Arafat. This is the first ‘pi’ima’ the first of three ‘further redeployments’ Israel obligated itself to with the signing of the Hebron accords a month ago. In Hebrew the word ‘pi’ima’ means heartbeat. Why these ‘further redeployments’ are termed ‘heartbeats’ are beyond anybody’s understanding. Perhaps they are concurrent with Arafat’s intentions to see Israel dead by the time they are completed, in September, 1998.
According to ministers in the Israeli cabinet, Netanyahu has yet to fully reveal his intentions concerning these ‘further redeployments.’ They do not yet know what exactly the government is relinquishing in the first ‘further redeployment,’ even though it is to be implemented next week. They do not yet have any idea what Netanyahu plans to desert by the end of the third, and expectedly, largest ‘further redeployment.’  Yisrael b’Aliya ministers Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein have promised not to support next week’s redeployment if Netanyahu does not divulge his future map of Israel, following the third redeployment.  In an interview with Arutz 7 yesterday, Edelstein said that the position and direction of the government is still unclear. After eight months in power, Netanyahu has yet to disclose his true intentions, even to his own cabinet ministers.
In another interview with Arutz 7, Netanyahu’s brother-in-law Hagi ben Artzi, who walked out of a top government post in protest of the Prime Minister’s policies, said that since the September attacks by Arafat’s soldiers on Israeli soldiers following the opening of the Jerusalem tunnel, Netanyahu has totally capitulated to Arab demands. He said that he doesn’t believe that Israel will actually implement the decision to build the ‘Har Choma’ neighborhood outside Beit Lechem. In his words, “Netanyahu is only clouding the issues, and pulling the wool over the eyes of the citizens of Israel.”
In Hebron, Netanyahu made specific pledges, both before the election, and with the signing of the Hebron accords over a month ago. The government decision to confirm the accords included a statement affirming the Jewish presence in Hebron, and promising to expand and develop the Jewish community of Hebron. Since then, we were told by Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai that ‘timing is of the essence, and the time is not now.’ He expressed confidence, during the meeting with Hebron leaders, that ‘the time would be right, not in a matter of months, but in a matter of weeks.’ Well, those weeks have passed, and the order issued forbidding preparation for construction in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, at the site of the new Beit Nahum b’Yehuda building, is still being enforced.  We have no doubt that eventually we will build the building, but why do we have to struggle so much for what is such a basic and elementary living condition?
We were guaranteed that the Arab market would not be opened until implementation of security measures, assuring our safety.  However, the market is being prepared for opening in the very near future, and the security measures are still quite invisible.  The same promises were made concerning the opening of King David Street, called by the Arabs Shuhada Street (Martyrs Street) to Arab traffic. Unfortunately, this vow has also been ignored.
In essence, Netanyahu is following very closely in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors. His actions are, perhaps, totally inexplicable.   Unless we take the following into account.
This week a sheep named Dolly made big news. Dolly, an adult sheep, was cloned from another adult sheep. Two sheep, of the same exact genetic characteristics, one created by G-d, the other, duplicated by man. Immediately after revelation of the scientific success, U.S. President Clinton announced formation of a special committee to examine the moral and ethical implications of genetic cloning. The consequences of such scientific accomplishments are mind boggling, both positively and negatively.
So we too, must query, is Israel to be a cloned version of Sweden, as Peres formulated? Or, are we to be what G-d created us to be - a distinct people, living in our land? It seems that Netanyahu is confused - his basic principles of life are not those expounded by Peres, but he is having a difficult time translating his beliefs into actions. It is much easier to escape the dilemmas created by standing up for what you really believe in and what is actually right, than to face them head on. That is what Netanyahu is doing. It may seem to be easier to be a cloned version of someone else. But this is a very superficial way of looking at life. Even President Clinton acknowledged, the moral, ethical predicament cloning entails. If that is so with sheep, how much more so when dealing with a 3,700 year old nation.
If Netanyahu really thinks that cloning is the answer,  he will fail. He cannot succeed. Israel has, in the past, tried to escape its true self. Attempted assimilation - i.e. self-cloning, boomerangs.  We witnessed the results of our partial denial of our self identity fifty years ago. The reason for this is because we cannot be cloned versions of another people - we cannot be something that we are not. We have no choice but to be ourselves - our real selves, including living in Eretz Yisrael, - in Hebron, Shechem, Jerusalem - because Eretz Yisrael is as much a part of our being as is the air be breath. Our attempts to deny this only delay the inevitable, and at a steep price. However, in the end, truth will prevail and we will live as we should - not as cloned Swedes, but as originals, as Am Yisrael.

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