In a battle of wills, what is Israels best self-defense Jews should reject the culture of killing

We grieve and we are angry; we are frightened and we are fierce. The Palestinians preach steadfastness and practice suicide murder. The Israelis defy death by walking in the street and strike back with methodical mortal force.

This is a time in which emotions are at their height and the anguish is unbearable. Yet we must force ourselves and our leaders to think clearly and to face the harsh realities without blinders and without slogans.

We see that suicide attacks, the search for martyrdom, have become a spreading wave of collective behavior and no longer a product of even a twisted, self-destructive political strategy.

This wave has engulfed any strategy of ours or theirs and we are all deeply enmeshed in it — Jews and Arabs, Israel, America and the Arab world.

We know that we are morally justified in quelling it with all the means at our disposal, but we must know even more so that using all the means at our disposal will only lead to a catastrophe.

This license to kill is in danger of becoming mutually assisted national suicide, if we do not break out of this embrace of death.

We say that we know they care more to kill us than to live, and yet we do not draw the full conclusion of this realization: We persist in a strategy that feeds the killing culture. We will not prevail by hating them more than they hate us and we will not survive by becoming more efficient and brutal killers than they are becoming and so many of them have already become.

We owe it to ourselves, not to them but to ourselves, to break out of this culture that they are determined to create and that is sweeping their youth and their vigor, and will ultimately eat our own.

We need to insist on a different model of courage, the courage to live and let live. The courage of killing and willingness to be killed is not a way for Jews after the horrors of the last century. We learned that the ultimate statement of strength and steadfastness is the will to live and that must be our first principle in designing our strategy.

If we start from that principle and do not waver from it, it means that we will seize upon the Saudi initiative as if it were in the welcoming spirit of Anwar Sadat and not in the ultimatum spirit of the Beirut summit.

We will recognize that now we have to form a bond with those in the Arab world who understand that this mutually assisted suicide can only be stopped by a grand act of civil and spiritual courage.

Let us ask the president of the United States to call together the leaders of Israel and the Arabs to a joint covenant of rejection of violence and terror, and an end to all occupation. Let the covenant ring out of a mutual respect among Judaism, Islam and Christianity, a creation of a Jerusalem that is not only a secular capital of Israel and in eastern Jerusalem a capital of Palestine, but a capital of peace and religious tolerance.

Let us insist on the most universal and dramatic rejection of this culture of terror in favor of respect for the life of the individual human being.

Let us realize that the 1967 borders, as defined in U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, can now be the borders of rationality and of assertion of the primacy of life over a mutual death pact. Let us assert the life principle of the Jewish state and not the death principle of permanent war with the Palestinians and with Arabs and Islam.

We can no longer tolerate a slow process of subtle political bargaining against the racing process of death and destruction.

We may not be able to implement these principles with present leadership and we may surely have to implement these actions in stages, but we need the commitment to these fundamentals now and urgently.