Israel's 11th Commandment and How It Makes Peace Near Impossible

08/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • MJ Rosenberg Worked on Capitol Hill for Democratic Senators and House members for 20 years

Today's Israeli press quotes Prime Minister Netanyahu as telling 27 EU ambassadors that he was willing to "make concessions to the Palestinians" but did not want to be a "sucker" if the Palestinians pocket his "concession" and give nothing in return.

Netanyahu was speaking to the ambassadors in English. If he was using Hebrew, he would say that he didn't want to be a "freier" which is Hebrew (really Yiddish) for sucker. Ha'aretz says that "thou shalt not be a freier" is Israel's 11th commandment. Above all, an Israeli does not want to be taken advantage of which is why he often will take advantage of the other guy first. (The Palestinians have almost always been freiers in their dealings with the Israelis).

Americans don't spend much time worrying about being suckers. The equivalent "thou shalt not be" for us is not to be an "a-hole" which is what we would call the people who make other people into freiers. In my experience, most Americans would rather be accused of being a sucker than of being an a-hole. For Israelis, it is just the opposite.

See this Ha'aretz piece elaborating on this Israeli malady which causes so many problems, especially for those Israelis who have to deal with those adhering fiercely to that 11th commandment and, above all, for Palestinians.

For the record, Rahm Emanuel is not a freier. That is one of the reasons President Obama is not backing down in the face of the pushback from Israel on settlements. I can just hear him tell Obama, "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. You can't be a freier when you deal with the Israelis. Trust me on that one, sir."