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Compromise and Concession

Harav Aharon Lichtenstein


[This article first appeared in Yeshivat Har Etzion's Dinner Journal, March 1994.]

Prefatory note: This piece is a translation of a transcription of an address delivered from summary notes last summer (3 Av 5753, July 20, 1993). It is thus thrice removed from the form it would have assumed had I undertaken to write on the subject, initially; and it is, having been delivered prior to the current peace initiative, in many respects distanced from some of the specific concerns, especially as regards security factors, with respect to that process. Nevertheless, inasmuch as it does, essentially, present a fairly accurate rendering of my basic attitudes regarding the basic approach to the primary substantive issues, I have, after reviewing the translation, assented to its publication. It should, however, be read with this note in mind.

It seems difficult to find anything new to say about the issue on the agenda today - the question of handing over territories that are part of Eretz Yisrael within the framework of a possible peace process. We have been living with this issue many years, nearly a generation, since the Six-Day War. And it seems that all the proofs have been presented, all the doubts clarified. Nevertheless, I believe that it is certainly appropriate, and possibly even necessary, to renew the discussion of these issues once in a while, if not more often, even to consider once more the same familiar and apparently hackneyed issues, if only because of their centrality in our experience and consciousness; and hopefully, to make them fresh again, and deal with them in a new way. Let us open, then, in the spirit of R. Moshe Haim Luzzato's introduction to Mesilat Yesharim:

I did not write this essay to teach people things they don't know, but to remind them of what they already know ... because even though they are so widely known and their truth is so obvious to everyone, they are just as widely ignored and forgotten.

Beyond the need for continual, or at least periodic, discussion of central issues, it is particularly important to re-examine this topic at the present time. It is entirely conceivable that a door has been opened to change this issue from a speculative problem to an immediate, pressing question. Let us not delude ourselves: The policy-makers are unlikely to consult the people in this audience in their policy decisions. Yet, it is undoubtedly a matter of both national and spiritual importance that we should know how to respond to prospective circumstances and outcomes; and, to this end, we may hope and expect that our discussion this evening will make an imprint upon the broader religious public, and through it, perhaps, to a wider arc of the general public.

I began by saying that it is difficult to say anything new about this issue. People who already know me and my opinions on the topic are unlikely to learn very much here. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, there is some point in discussing the matter. I intend to present it not so much as a Halakhic discussion with a clearly outlined plan, but, rather, as a spiritual expression of a mood, in the face of the reality in which we find ourselves. The following discussion has, then, a double focus: on the one hand it refers, pragmatically, to the existing possibilities; but on the other, it grapples with some related ethical and educational aspects, beyond the issue's political implications.

As a student of the Talmud and the Halakha, I will begin by referring to two terms that are used in this context. These terms are, of course, familiar in a general context as well, but I want to discuss them precisely in their special Halakhic connection. What I intend is to briefly explicate two conceptual terms that appear in the world of Halakha: the term 'vitur,' whose meaning in modern Hebrew may be rendered in English as 'concession,' 'giving in,' or 'abandonment;' and the term 'pesharah,' which is generally translated as 'compromise.'

The term 'vitur,' when it appears by itself, has two separate meanings in the rabbinic literature. Sometimes it refers to a simple loss that the person is not aware of and has no control over. The Gemara in Bava Kama 9a specifies the ruling in the case of a person who died and left an inheritance which was divided up among his sons, whereupon one of the father's creditors arrived and took the entire amount of the debt from one of the brothers: "Brothers who divided [an inheritance] and a creditor came and took the share of one of them - Rav says, 'The division is void;' Samuel says'Viter.'" And Rashi comments: "'Viter' - He lost.'" This is one of the meanings of 'vitur' - a loss imposed on a person by circumstances.

There is also another meaning of this term, which is closer to the modern one - 'voluntary abandonment' or 'concession.' The term 'vitur' in this sense appears in the rabbinic literature in two contexts. Sometimes, it refers to a certain degree of generosity. For example, the Gemara in Megillah 28a tells that one of the great Tannaim, R. Nehemia b. Hakaneh, when asked how he had merited longevity, gave the following answer: "I was a vatran with my money" - that is, he didn't stick to the letter of the law with regard to his money.

If this does not yet entail true generosity, it is at least an avoidance of petty possessiveness with respect to one's money and other goods. There is a similar use of the term in the Gemara Bava Batra 15b:

[The book of Job describes Job as] "a man who was innocent and righteous, who feared God and left evil." What does it mean, "and left evil"? R. Aba b. Samuel said, "Job was a vatran with his money. If it was customary to give half a peruta to a poor person, Job viter with his own money.'

What 'viter' means in this context seems to be giving more than is customary. I.e., when it was his due to split a paltry sum with a poor person, he would not engage into accounting with him but gave him the entire amount. This may not seem to be a manifestation of unusual generosity, but it does express a type of sensitivity. This is one sort of vitur - giving things to others.

The term can, however, also be understood as referring not so much to generosity as to indifference. The matter at stake is not important enough to the individual for him to insist on it, and because of this he concedes it. This is the main context in which we encounter the term vitur in a pure Halakhic setting. There is, for example, a controversy in Nedarim 32b and in Bava Batra 57b between R. Eliezer and other Tannaim as to whether vitur is permitted or forbidden in a case where a person makes a vow of hanaa (roughly, the enjoyment of a benefit). This means that the person makes a general vow not to grant any benefit to some other person or not to enjoy any benefit from some other person. In either case, the question arises as to what exactly constitutes the hana'a that is, the subject of the vow. The Gemara says that there are some things that people can be assumed not to care about, and to abandon (levater, the verb related to the noun vitur) any claims about, such as other people crossing their property. The focus of the question thus refers to a situation in which the benefit cannot be considered as having any appreciable monetary significance.

One type of vitur is, then, simple loss, while another involves giving something away, whether out of generosity, on even the most minimal level, or out of inattention or indifference. The common denominator of the two types of vitur is that they denote unilateral acts - they are acts undertaken by one person which have implication for others. They do not involve actions forced upon the person, but are subject to his decision - everything depends on the one performing the vitur. There is no shared initiative involved here, no agreement where the other person is alsin the picture, but a purely one-sided act.

Compromise, in contrast, is fundamentally different. The concept of compromise, pesharah, is found in the Gemara in Sanhedrin 32b, which describes two sorts of legal process - judgment and compromise. The Gemara there interprets the biblical verse, "You shall pursue justice," in which the Hebrew word for 'justice,' zedek, is written twice, as repeating the word 'justice' in order to denote two types of justice - judgment and compromise, as two forms of legal process. 'Judgment' denominates a process in which the law is supreme, overriding any other consideration, while 'compromise' is based either on a direct agreement between the two parties or on their acceptance of a suggestion offered by a third party to whom the two contenders have agreed to bring the problem at issue, as an authority to decide the matter. Compromise is a phenomenon which essentially involves communication between two parties. It is not an initiative of one party directed at the other party, but the result of cooperation reflected in a final decision or in the creation of a system for making decisions.

As we can see from the Gemara Sanhedrin 6a, there is even a discussion about the question of whether a compromise is an act that requires a kinyan - a formal act of validation - as a condition for its application. In other words, is an oral agreement sufficient to validate a compromise, or does it acquire its full force only through the formal act of kinyan? The discussion in the Gemara seems to imply that the issue applies to both litigants. Let's say Reuven brought Shimon to court, and in the end the two of them reached a compromise. From the viewpoint of Divine omniscience, one of two cases is possible: either Reuven was completely justified in his suit, and so he is absolving Shimon of a debt that he really has the right to demand; or Reuven's suit was completely unjustified, and if the matter had been judged by the court Shimon would have been relieved of all obligation. In the latter case, Shimon's acceptance of the compromise does not involve the remission of a debt, but rather constitutes an obligation. Shimon assumes an obligation which does not exist at all from the standpoint of absolute truth.

It's clear that as long as we are concerned with the question of whether the formal act of kinyan is required, we may distinguish between the various cases and postulate various cases that kinyan is required in order for an obligation to be imposed on someone, but not for the remission of a debt. The commentary of the Tosefot on this passage is in accordance with this view, and they discuss at length the question of whether or not the remission of a debt requires a formal act of kinyan.

But the literal meaning of the passage in the Gemara implies that the question of the need for a kinyan is equal for both parties: the one who is remitting a debt" and the one who is 'incurring an obligation,' the prosecutor and the defendant. On this reading, the passage reflects the conception that the two parties to a process of compromise should not be seen as proceeding on two contrary tracks and meeting at some intermediate point, with the defendant incurring an obligation on one side and the prosecutor remitting a debt on the other. Rather, a compromise must be seen as a positive act in which both sides participate - primarily, in the creation of the framework and the authority, and, secondarily, in the acceptance of its decision; and this, irrespective of monetary implications and the contrast between remitting a debt and incurring an obligation. The question of the need for kinyan in the process of compromise touches upon the very creation of the structure and the acceptance of authority; and, hence applies to both, as compromise is to be seen as a shared initiative. Moreover, even in the opinion of the Tosefot - although they divided the structure of the compromise into its component parts, the remission and the obligation, and separated the need for kinyan in accordance with this division - they may have dealt only with the need for assent that is required from the parties in order for them to be included within the framework of the compromise. As to the essence of pesharah, when it comes to defining the creation of the framework and the process, they may very well argue that it should be seen not as two tangent initiatives, but as one shared initiative of compromise.

This is one respect in which compromise is essentially and fundamentally different from vitur, which is a manifestation of a one-sided initiative. There is, in addition, a second. Issues which require compromise are generally not matters of indifference to the participants. They are close to the heart of both participants, and are highly valued by them, or at least are sufficiently valued so that the parties are willing to fight for them in court. Nevertheless they finally elect to resolve the issue with a compromise - a "peace judgment," in the words of our rabbis, where truth and peace are embodied together, in preference to continual rivalry and controversy.

Let us now examine these concepts with respect to the political reality confronting us today - with respect to our link to Eretz Yisrael.

We often encounter people from a certain segment of the political spectrum who pride themselves on their willingness for vitur, for giving up parts of Eretz Israel. They speak of the need to "get rid of" Gaza, to throw off the burden of the territories, to remove the gigantic albatross from the nation's back, as it is strangling and confining us. Expression of this sort are familiar to all of us, and we even hear them from thinkers and intellectuals. We, however, must refrain absolutely from using such expressions, or even from thinking this way.

On Israeli streets one can see many cars with stickers proclaiming, "Rabin has no mandate for giving up (levater al) the Golan". I don't know exactly what this slogan means to the people who formulated it, but it seems to imply that the problem is a purely political one, involving democratic procedures - as if what should deny the prime minister the right to give up a part of Eretz Yisrael is the fact that the majority supporting him in the Knesset is not large enough. But would a larger group of supporters - represented, say by seventy-five Knesset members - grant the prime minister a mandate to forfeit the Golan.

Categorically not. No Jew has a mandate to forfeit an inch of Eretz Yisrael. And if the Golan really is a part of Eretz Yisrael, then we cannot consider forfeiting it. And if Gush Katif is part of Eretz Yisrael, we cannot consider forfeiting that either. Secular Jews may well think in terms of "giving up this" and "getting rid of that," or speak about the burden on their shoulders, in connection with a land that they feel very little for - certainly not a significant existential link.

But religious Jews, who study the Torah and keep the mizvot, Jews who cling steadfast to the ancient Jewish world-view, can do nothing of the sort. It is no wonder that religious Jews are considered more "nationalistic". 'The historical dimension is more likely to be bred into our bones. First, they are, almost by definition, likely to be more ideologically oriented, less pragmatic in approach. Second, the historical dimension is generally more endemic to this community. The consciousness of religious Jews is saturated with the view of Eretz Yisrael as the Holy Land, the land on which a covenant was forged with our forefathers, "a land which the Lord your God looks after, on which the Lord your God always keeps his eye, from year's beginning to year's end" (Devarim 11:12). This land is stamped into our minds. It is, in Hazal's phrase, a land that our greatest, Moshe and Aharon, did not have the privilege of entering, although they hoped and longed to see it. Thus there is no comer, no stone, no clod of earth that can be given up easily, with a sigh of relief. Ours is a sensibility animated by the spirit of Hazal's relation to the land, as summarized, on the basis of the Gemara in Ketubot (11a) by the Rambam (Melakhim 5:10): "The greatest of the sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones, and roll over upon its soil; this, in accordance with what has been stated, 'For your servants have desired its stones, and they have cherished its soil.'" From birth, we are saturated with the idea that "whoever walks four amot in Eretz Yisrael will merit olam haba." These four amot may be located in some corner of Gaza, in the heart of the plains, in the center of Shechem or in the streets of Jerusalem. Forfeit parts of Eretz Yisrael? Heaven forbid. The very thought is beyond consideration.

Forfeiting any part of Eretz Israel, on the part of any authority, whoever he may be, would not only create a deep axiological problem on both the personal and the national level. It would also raise the prospect of possible Halakhic prohibitions, such as "lo techanem," especially, with respect to the sense of the problem of foreign ownership of land in Eretz Yisrael. And no less serious, vitur implies an unconcern the land, in the vein of vayim'assu b'eretz hemdah, "And they scorned the cherished land" (Tehillim 106:24). How can a generation that has witnessed our national rebirth, that settled our Holy Land, that acquired the land by living there and intended to live there forever - how can that generation commit this sin?

In the Gemara Ketubot 75a our rabbis offer an interpretation of the verse Tehillim (87:5): "Indeed, it shall be said of Zion, 'Every man was born there.' He, the Most High, will preserve it." In the original Hebrew the word for 'man' appears twice (it translates literally as "A man, a man will be born there"). Our rabbis interpret the duplication as including "those who are born there and those who long to see it." Can one imagine that people who were born in Eretz Yisrael and have their roots there are not to be counted among those who long for it, those who are tied heart and soul to our Holy Land?

There is no mandate for vitur. Even to speak of vitur amounts to a serious spiritual flaw. However, this is not the issue confronting us. The question we must ask ourselves is not, "Should we forfeit or concede?" but "Should we compromise?"

We must never be indifferent to the fate of Eretz Yisrael. We must never say, "So it's a little bit bigger, so it's a little bit smaller, so it includes this part, so it doesn't include that part, what's the difference?" For how can Jews be indifferent to parts of Eretz Yisrael or to the possibility that they will be handed over to others? How can we act out of one-sided generosity, out of our own initiative, handing over parts of our land out of a lack of appreciation of what we are giving away? It is conscionable.

But there is a huge gap between absolutely rejecting vitur and disqualifying any sort of compromise. With all our devotion to Eretz Yisrael, all our appreciation, love, longing and hope, it is still possible that under the force of circumstances, within a comprehensive spiritual view and an appropriate order of priorities, we can well recognize the need for compromise - even if it involves a value that we would not under any circumstances be willing to give up.

Here we return to the question that needs to be decided. On the educational and ethical level we dare not give up the least bit of our connection with our land. We must not be complacent, we must not avert our attention, and we certainly must not be indifferent to the possibility of losing part of the land of our ancestors. But if we ask what alternative is required of us on the practical level, and if a careful examination of the other options leads us to the conclusion that these options are dangerous for the Jewish people as a whole, then we may come up with an entirely different answer. Then, even if we insist on not giving up an inch on the level of vitur, we may still have to go into the matter quite thoroughly on the level of compromise. Naturally we must strive to make the compromise minimal. But we cannot reject the prospect categorically. Whatever the pain, we cannot be oblivious to circumstances.

It may be in order to cite an analogy to something that is very close to our hearts. In reference to Torah study, our rabbis state in the Mishna Avot (3:9):

R. Dustai b. Yannai said in the name of R. Meir: If a person forgets one item of his Torah learning, he is considered as if he had forfeited his life, as it is written (Devarim 4:9): "But take the utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes." But what if he could not help forgetting? The verse continues: "and so that they do not leave your mind as long as you live.' This implies that he does not forfeit his life unless he deliberately removes them from his mind.

When a person loses some item of his Torah knowledge, it is not a voluntary act. He is overtaken by forgetfulness, his new learning drives out the old. A considerable part of what he has learned with devotion and love, with the aspiration that the learned material will remain in his mind, is nevertheless lost. Does this mean that the person forfeits his life? Heaven forbid! He forfeits his life only if he turns his mind away from sustaining and keeping what he has learned, if he is indifferent to it, if he says "Okay, so I forgot. After all, can everyone remember everything?" Only then, when his forgetting does not bother him, when it does not cause him continual anguish and frustration - only then does he forfeit his life.

When the Mishnah says, towards the end, "unless he deliberately removes them from his mind," this obviously does not mean that the person makes an intentional effort to eradicate what he has learned from his memory. R. Yona, in his interpretation of this passage, explains that it refers to someone who, if he had not "removed them from his mind," would have been able to review the things he had learned, to delve more deeply into the issues, and thus to remember them better. It is only his indifference that has caused him to forget what he learned. Only a person who does this can be considered to have "forfeited his life". In other words, only a person who gives up (mevater) on the words of the Torah, turns his attention away from them, does not care about them, and accepts with indifference the fact that he has forgotten them can be considered someone who has "removed them from his mind."

Similarly, on the political level, where Eretz Yisrael is involved, we must distinguish between a situation in which, out of response to the force of circumstances, we make concessions against our fundamental will, and one in which, out of apathy and indolence, we "remove it from our mind." We must clearly see the difference between lack of caring and accepting a conclusion out of necessity, with much pain, when it is the result of sober realism, of a broad view, taking into account the entire range of our values, circumstances and needs.

Many of those who oppose compromise quote the words of the Ramban in his critique of the Rambam's Sefer Mizvot. It seems to me, however, that his pronouncement, "And we must not leave it with any nation but ourselves or allow it to become a desert," must be understood as referring to vitur. It refers to people who could have settled Eretz Yisrael, could have kept it in their possession, but instead give it up, leave it to others or allow it to become a desert, out of a lack of connection to it, out of inattention, out of indifference. It, surely, does not refer to people who act against their will, under the force of circumstances.

On the practical level, the obvious question is, how do we define the situation which may impel us to act against our will. What are the circumstances that are imposed on us? Or should we question the very analogy, saying that forgetting is something we have no control over, and that it can hardly be compared to the initiation of a compromise. Can we really say that in such a situation we are acting against our will?

This is the heart of the internal conflict among us, within the camp of lovers of Eretz Yis. This conflict is creating divisions among people who are not indifferent to their land, whose connection to Eretz Yisrael is no less deeply rooted than that of the most aggressive opponents of any sort of compromise. It is a conflict within our own camp, the one which is truly called the "nationalist camp," as opposed to the false definition that has become current. Even within this camp, whose members are "nationalists" in the full sense of the term, and who care about the Jewish people as much as they care about Eretz Yisrael, and therefore do not give up on them to the smallest extent - even here there is room for differences of opinion on the question of whether circumstances are actually forcing our hand. In other words, the question is centered on how we should understand one value as opposed to another, where there are differences of opinion not only in the evaluation of the reality itself, but also in the order of priorities we assign to the various values we hold dear.

The differences relate to both fundamental priorities and to matters of strategy or even tactics. Some contend that an overwhelming emphasis upon the single value of Eretz Yisrael and its integrity leads to the neglect of other needs, and that, in determining policy, this is one of the exigencies to be weighed. Others rejoin that while this may indeed be true, the political issues are of immediate urgency - in Hazal's phrase, a mizvah overet - while others are not. The process of compromise, it is contended, will be irreversible, while other spiritual and moral needs, even if defined as, ultimately, of greater importance than territorial integrity, can be addressed later through increased, shared efforts.

This is, however, a questionable proposition, and unlikely to be universally accepted. Beyond this point, however, looms the overarching element which is perhaps the most irreversible of all. This is the factor that we must keep in mind, whenever we discuss the issue of vitur as opposed to compromise. It is the factor of pikuah nefesh, of saving lives - an issue that need not be confined to the "classical" sense of pikuah nefesh as used in the Halakha in general.

Mori Verabbi, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik z"l often retold a story about his grandfather, Rav Chaim, who was once travelling on a train and heard some Jews sighing and groaning about the national situation. Suddenly he heard one of them say, "Oy, if only, as a result of all these tribulations, the Moshiah would come." Rav Chaim went over to him and said, "The Mishnah in Sotah list a number of signs of the Moshiah's coming. Spilled Jewish blood is not one of them."

This raises another question: After all, it is sometimes a mizvah to go to war, which clearly involves the sacrifice of human lives. Although the Sefer Hahinnukh does say that the mizvah of going to war applies only when there is no danger to life, the Minhat Hinnukh immediately raises the obvious objection that such a war is pure fantasy. The assumption is that the area involved is one where it is known in advance that there will be some sacrifice of human lives. Clearly, with respect to milhemet mizvah, it is difficult to apply the categories of pikuah nefesh in their full range and intensity, as we would do in the case of violating Shabbat or eating nonkosher food. On the other hand, it is unreasonable to assume that in the case of fulfilling a mizvah that is expected to demand some sacrifice of human lives, there should be no limit to the number of lives we are permitted or obligated to sacrifice in order to achieve this noble purpose.

On the level of the individual, our rabbis set a fixed financial limit - and a fairly low one, up to a fifth of one's assets - beyond which one is relieved of the obligation of fulfilling a particular mizvah. Presumably, as the Maharik posited, clearly if there is a monetary limit there should also be an existential limit, a sort of physical pain" limit that is beyond twenty percent of one's monetary assets, ought this not be relevant to the present case as well? Is it plausible that in the case of a mizvah that is a public obligation, a national mizvah - no matter how important it is and how careful we are not to belittle it even for a moment - the price in human lives should not have any significance?

Of course, no one can determine what would be the equivalent of a fifth here, for can anyone quantify the value of a human life? Still, it seems to me that all of us recognize that beyond a certain limit we cannot possibly ignore the price. And if this is the case when the very existence of our home is involved, how much more so must we take this price into consideration when the issue is on a different level entirely. For it is not the existence of our home that is at issue here, but rather the number of rooms it has.

You may ask me, "Who is your guarantor that it is only the number of rooms in our home that is at issue, and not our entire home? If we don't draw the line 'here,' we won't be able to draw it 'there' either." Very true: I don't think we can speak of absolute, total certainty. Yet, on the level of principle, at least we must aspire to a compromise, accepting as an axiom that an irreversible process is involved.

Our rabbis, as is well-known, often speak in terms that seem very far-reaching indeed. The Gemara says the following about the mizvah of shemittah (Hagiga 3b; Yevamot 16a): "There were many cities that were conquered by the Israelites who came out of Egypt but not by those who came back from Babylonia" - they were permitted to avoid making these cities part of Eretz Yisrael so that the poor people would have a way of earning a living during the shemittah years. And it was not merely villages that were involved here, but whole cities.

A compromise that will make it possible for us to preserve our home - even if it will be smaller - thus seems to me a Jewish, Torah-true, moral solution to our problem. We must not, of course, even think of vitur, of indifference, of belittling the importance of Eretz Yisrael in our ideology and in our consciousness. On the educational level especially, we must be very, very careful not to allow any hint of vitur. There is a real problem here: As more and more compromises are made, there is a tendency to grow accustomed to the situation, to forget the pain and to make peace with the reality on an existential level, which involves the danger that our values will be blurred. This danger does indeed exist. We are well-acquainted with it in other areas. Thus, for example, on the parliamentary level, which involves compromises on religious matters, the process of accommodation, with its concomitant concessions, sometimes results in blurred perception and in weakened commitment with respect to cardinal and fundamental truths. We must obviously be very cautious where this danger is concerned. No Jew has a mandate for vitur.

But where it is compromise that is involved - even though it touches upon matters that are very close to our hearts - and if the conclusion has been reached on the political and military level that pikuah nefesh, the saving of lives, is at stake here - if there is a possibility of damage to both our physical and our spiritual strength as a nation, then we have the obligation to consider which of them is preferable. On the educational and moral level we must definitely cling to our divine heritage of the whole Eretz Yisrael, but on the practical level such a notion may lead to catastrophe.

The feeling of pain will remain in our heart. At the time of the announcement of the United Nations decision to implement the "partition plan," in 1948, when the entire Jewish world was dancing in the streets, two Jews living in Jerusalem - R. Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook and R. Yaakov Moshe Harlop, sat and cried. Not because they did not share the joy, but because they felt the pain. This was an act that revealed their greatness of spirit, and it should be a source of inspiration for all of us. On the practical level, however, we must, presently, reject the ideas represented by their students and followers.

I amnot ignoring the fact that the position I advocate has some problematic aspects. On the practical level I say, "Let's reach a compromise and make peace," but even if we can make peace with the outcome in one sense, we cannot make peace with it in the other sense: We must remain filled with longing and hope for the time when Eretz Yisrael will be all ours. And here we are bothered by the question, "What if there are people who think this way on the other side as well? Isn't this just lip service, just a temporary cease-fire in which each side is waiting for the opportunity to fulfill its vision in its entirety?

As I see it, at least in the short term, where compromise and understanding is involved - and I am speaking here of the sort of compromise I mentioned at the outset, consisting of a shared initiative - even those who accept the value of devotion to Eretz Yisrael must realize that at this stage of history, on the practical level where we live and act, this is the reality and we must make peace with it.

I am not a prophet and I cannot predict what will happen, how Providence will bring it about that the whole of Eretz Yisrael will be ours once again. Since none of us could have predicted the present situation a generation or two ago, how can we believe that we can now predict what will be tomorrow? However, we must not allow the lack of prophecy to prevent us from making decisions and delay matters "until we merit prophecy". In this area, as our rabbis said, it is better to be wise than to be a prophet.


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