This kind of appeasement mentality towards radical Islamist terrorism is usually associated with the more myopic elements of the political Left. In this case, however, it has emerged from within Israel's version of the religious right:
Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman, a leading Ashkenazi haredi spiritual leader, have given their blessing to a meeting with Hamas aimed at reaching a hudna (Arabic for cease-fire) that could save Jewish lives.
The plan approved by Yosef and Steinman calls for three rabbis representing Sephardi, Ashkenazi and religious Zionist Orthodoxy to meet with Hamas representatives. The three rabbis are: Rabbi Shmuel Jakobovits, son of former chief rabbi of Britain Immanuel Jakobovits; Rabbi Zion Cohen, rabbi of the Sha'ar Hanegev region; and Rabbi Menahem Fruman of Tekoa, a veteran interfaith dialoguer who is the driving force behind the initiative . . .
The proposed hudna would be between Hamas and the Jewish people - not with the state of Israel - to circumvent Hamas's refusal to recognize the Zionist entity . . .
[According to Rabbi Jakobovits], "[t]he Islamic world has deep concerns about the penetration of liberal, secular values and lifestyles into the Middle East. A major factor in the conflict between radical Islam and the Western world is Islam's opposition to secular lifestyle and ideology.
"The haredi community understands their sensitivities and mentality and feels threatened by the same phenomena. The haredi community could play a key role in dialogue between the West and Islam because we live in two worlds, one deeply religious and the other liberal and pluralistic. We understand that the secular mind is different from the religious mind.
"Today in the West the assumption in dealing with Muslim extremism is that moderation and tolerance are the keys. But what the West does not understand is that there is something threatening in that approach, both to the haredi mind and to a deeply Islamic mind. Both haredim and Muslims see multicultural society as an anathema.
"The West, which has the power, needs to assure Islam that no one is going to try to force a multicultural worldview on them. Otherwise the clash with Islam will only get sharper and sharper," Jakobovits said.
For those VC readers who may not know, the haredim are a highly traditionalistic branch of Orthodox Judaism. Some of them do not recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel part because they consider it to be excessively secular, and not governed by their interpretation of Jewish religious law.
These particular haredi rabbis have clearly deluded themselves about the nature of Hamas and other radical Islamist terrorist groups. Among other things, there is absolutely no reason to believe, as the rabbis seem to, that radical Islamists are any less hostile to highly traditional Jews than they are to more secular Jews and Westerners. Hamas and other terrorists have repeatedly made it clear that their goal is to kill all Jew - especially all Israeli Jews - without distinction (see, e.g., here). As the Hamas Charter says:
The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.
Other parts of the Charter blame the Jews (again without distinction as to religiosity) for virtually all the problems of the world, including the French Revolution and the outbreak of both world wars (Article 22), and make clear that Hamas intends to expel all Jews (again without distinction) from all parts of "Palestine," including pre-1967 Israel.
Given that radical Islamists are intolerant even of devout Muslims from sects other than their own, they are hardly likely to warm to the rabbis merely because both "see multicultural society as an anathema."
Finally, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, "liberal values,""tolerance," and a "multicultural society" are among the most important of the principles that the West should be fighting for in the struggle against radical Islamism. Sometimes, even the most shopworn of cliches is appropriate: to sacrifice these values in order to make a deal with the enemy is truly to let the terrorists win.
The misguided thinking of these rabbis would be insignificant were it not for the fact that some of them are major figures in Israeli politics and society. Rabbi Yosef, for example, is a key leader in the Shas Party, which holds 12 of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament and is part of the current Israeli coalition government.
UPDATE: To avoid misunderstanding, I should make it clear that by "multicultural society," I mean a society where people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures can find acceptance and coexistence. I do not mean a radically relativistic society under which any and all cultural practices, including those that go against fundamental liberal principles are considered "equal." I suspect however that the haredi rabbis are opposed to this limited formulation of multiculturalism and not just to the extreme moral relativist version.