Reading the newspapers and listening to radio news gives me a feeling of deja vu. Israel is (again) negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas to free Palestinian prisoners, just as we did with Yasser Arafat – because we must “strengthen the moderate Palestinian leadership” against the more radical Hamas.

We are turning over tax money to Abbas to help the Palestinians on the West Bank economically, just as we did with Arafat – because, we are informed, we must “strengthen the moderate Palestinian leadership” against the more radical Hamas.

And we are being urged by the US State Department to ease up on the various West Bank checkpoint restrictions to make daily life more liveable for the Palestinians just as we did with Arafat – because, we are advised, we must strengthen the moderate secular leadership against the more fanatically religious Hamas.

But we were tragically disappointed by Arafat. His Oslo package turned out to be a Trojan Horse, and what we got in exchange for land concessions was not peace, but more terror.

And even when former prime minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinian chieftain 96-97% of the West Bank and a land swap for the remaining 3-4%, he declared unequivocally (in Arabic) that his intention was not to go back to the pre ’67 lines, but rather to the pre- ’48 situation – before there was a State of Israel. Indeed, his response to the much-too-generous offer was the second intifada, in which the very Kalashnikov rifles with which Israel supplied him to supposedly fight Hamas were used against our civilians and our children.

IS MAHMOUD ABBAS truly a moderate, sincerely interested in making peace – or is he merely a clean-shaven, tie-sporting version of Arafat?

Well, he certainly had no difficulty joining a Hamas government which refused to recognize Israel, until they overthrew the sparse and craven Fatah forces in Gaza last month. He has never declared unequivocal acceptance of the Jewish state in Arabic, and he has never admitted that the Holocaust actually took place – after having written a doctorate attempting to prove that it did not.

And most importantly, Palestinian schoolbooks and radio, television and print media are still spewing out hateful caricatures and wretched rhetoric reviling Jews (and Zionists) and praising suicide bombers – all under Abbas’s “moderate” regime.

I remember once calling my wife from a London hotel room, telling her I felt deathly ill after having eaten a portion of fish which didn’t taste “right” in one of the restaurants.

“How much of the fish did you eat?” she asked. “About half the portion,” I replied.

“Well,” was her wise response, “the first bite was the restaurant’s fault, but the second bite was your fault!”

HOW OBTUSE can we be? How can we account for making further concessions before having any tangible proof that Abbas is different, that he does in fact recognize our right to exist in the Middle East, that he will not countenance anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist text books and media hype?

When I attempt to understand the psyche of our government’s actions, only one explanation comes to mind: Israel has fallen prey to belief in a false messiah named “Peace Process.”

How ironic it is that the West Bank settlers and religious Zionists are called the false messianists when, in truth, it is the political Left who actually belong in that category.

And in a way, it is difficult to blame our leaders. After five difficult wars and tens of thousands of shattered families as a result of the devastation wrought by terrorist suicide attacks, drive-by shootings and Kassam rockets, they yearn for peace – even if it is only a mirage.

Tragically, the one thread that connects all fake messianic movements is the failure to be influenced by facts on the ground; despite the fact that – at least in accordance to classical and normative rabbinic sources – a dead messiah cannot be the messiah.

Shabtai Zvi enthusiasts, Jews for Jesus and Chabad messianists continue to believe in their messiah, despite their respective passings from this world.

And in our case, we dare not place our citizenship at risk on the basis of an illusion. Oslo is a dead messiah; it can only be resurrected on the basis of undisputable changes on the part of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah cohorts – in speech as well as in deed.

We dare not attribute to these Palestinians a “moderate” political stance of compromise simply because that is what we would like them to be thinking and saying. The first time we blindly trusted before making concessions, it was their fault; this time, it would be our fault – and the State of Israel cannot afford to become even more vulnerable as a result of further misguided concessions.

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

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