Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Baleful Peace Process. By Reuel Marc Gerecht.

A Baleful Peace Process. By Reuel Marc Gerecht. The Weekly Standard, March 17, 2014. Also here.

Israel Today: A Society Without a Center. By Carlo Strenger.

Israel today: a society without a center. By Carlo Strenger. Haaretz, March 7, 2014.

The struggle for Israel’s soul: Human rights vs. rampant nationalism. By Carlo Strenger. Haaretz, January 22, 2014.

If I were an American Jew, I’d worry about Israel’s racist cancer. By Daniel Blatman. Haaretz, March 7, 2014.

Strenger (The struggle):

The conflict between the center-left and the ultranationalist right isn’t about risk management.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett recently claimed that Israel shouldn’t worry about the implications of the occupation on its economy. Israel, he said, survived earlier boycotts and would survive future ones.
His view on the creation of a Palestinian state was different. Israel’s economy wouldn’t survive the constant shelling of Tel Aviv and Herzliya from a Palestinian state, or the shooting down of airliners flying into Ben-Gurion Airport by a terrorist waiting in the Judean Hills, Bennnett said.
His concern about what would happen if radical jihadist terror groups infiltrated the Palestinian state isn’t to be taken lightly, and these concerns play an important role in the negotiations with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Given the chaos in Syria and Al-Qaida’s role there – often literally at the Israeli border – it would be preposterous to dismiss Bennett’s scenario out of hand.
Then again, I see no reason to take Bennett’s assessment of the future as authoritative. Consider, for example, the six former chiefs of the Shin Bet security service interviewed in the documentary “The Gatekeepers.” They’re likely to be at least as informed as Bennett about the risks in establishing a Palestinian state, yet they’re all convinced that Israel’s only way to survive is to end the occupation.
There was some hope that Bennett, a successful startup entrepreneur, would put a modicum of sanity into the national-religious way of thinking. Alas, we were wrong. After all, a few months ago, he suggested that Israel rupture ties with the European Union, Israel’s largest trading partner, over the EU’s guidelines prohibiting any EU grants, loans or prizes from going to activities of Israeli entities in the West Bank, Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. That was an unbecoming statement for a government minister.
Bennett’s propensity for populist hyperbole may make him popular in his ultranationalist constituency, but very few others are likely to take him seriously when he talks about the impact of a boycott by the free world on Israel’s economy. Instead of Bennett’s tirades, I prefer the judgment of the many leading businesspeople who are warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the consequences of continuing the occupation.
But let’s face it. In a place as volatile as the Middle East, the certainties are even fewer than in calmer regions – and even in the United States and Europe almost nobody foresaw the economic meltdown of 2007/8. In the end, the conflict between Bennett and the Israeli ultranationalist right on the one hand, and the center-left on the other, isn’t about risk management. It’s a struggle for Israel’s soul.
Bennett is enamored with a mythical Israel that relies on itself and God’s guidance alone. He dreams of reestablishing the Kingdom of David and Solomon, which he imagines as mighty and impressive. And he disdains the virtues of prudence and diplomacy as well as consideration of the rights of non-Jews.
The story of Masada is an inspiration for him. Bar Kochba, the leader of the revolt against Rome that led to the death of 600,000 Jews in the second century C.E., is a story of heroism for him. Hence we can slap Uncle Sam in the face and tell the EU to leave us alone; Jews no longer need to listen to anybody.
Jewish liberals in Israel and in the Diaspora look at this war-mongering mythology with surprise and sometimes shock. They know that the Kingdom of David and Solomon was nothing but an extended tribal chiefdom, and that there is very little to be learned about modern statecraft from Israel’s kings.
They know that Bar Kochba was a fool who brought nothing but suffering to the Jewish people. If anything, they want to connect to the humanist-ethical element in the Jewish tradition, not to the stories of misguided pseudo-heroism.
In addition, they know that the idea of an Israel that doesn’t depend on anybody is an adolescent fantasy. They know that Israel’s alliance with the West is a vital strategic asset, and that Israel couldn’t survive long without the backing of the United States.
But the alliance with the West isn’t just a matter of prudence and economic interest, it’s an expression of core values. Jewish liberals care about Israel’s soul. We recoil from Bennett’s vision of a brutal country that cares about nothing but itself. We feel morally bound by the story of Jewish suffering to a simple conclusion: We have known what it’s like to be devoid of rights, trampled on, disowned and displaced.
And Jewish liberals ranging from René Cassin, who was instrumental in crafting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the founders of the Anti-Defamation League, have been involved in the causes of liberty, equality and human rights around the globe. As Jews we want to fight injustice, not perpetrate it.
We care about Israel’s security as much as Bennett does. But when we look at the sheer brutishness of the behavior of many settlers, the callousness of their disregard for Palestinians, we simply say: This is not Jewishness as we understand it. This is not the dream of Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am, nor does it correspond to the values of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which explicitly disavows discrimination based on religion and ethnicity.
This is why we are willing to take certain risks for the sake of salvaging Israel’s soul. We are not naïve. Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna, Meir Dagan, Ami Ayalon and Yuval Diskin served Israel’s security for most of their lives, and they all have thought the occupation is a greater danger to Israel’s survival than the dangers in retreating from the West Bank.
I trust their judgment on matters of security. But even more I’m filled with pride that despite their keen awareness of the dangers, their concern for Israel’s soul determines their vision for Israel’s future. For without a soul, Israel will lose the strength to continue renewing and reinventing itself and make good on the promise of being the democratic homeland of the Jews.

Strenger (Israel today):

The clash of three sacred values − liberal Zionism, ultra-Orthodox continuity and romantic nationalism − is more dangerous for Israel’s survival than any external enemy.
Much ink has been spilled about who has benefitted from the showdown between Yesh Atid and the ultra-Orthodox Haredim. I think that beyond this issue it is important to reflect dispassionately on what recent events teach us about Israeli society.
Research in political psychology has shown that many groups rally around sacred values that are non-negotiable: No compromise is possible about these values without the group’s feeling that its very existence is threatened. This is why people are often willing to die for these values, and why pragmatic arguments do not motivate them to compromise but generally increase their intransigence, because their core identity is at stake.
Israel today has three basic forms of sacred values that have almost no common denominator.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Labor, Hatnuah and Meretz represent liberal Zionism. In their view Jewish history shows that Jews need and are entitled to a nation-state of their own. But they also think that this state must be a liberal democracy, which means that there must be strict equality before the law independent of religion, ethnicity or gender. Many commentators have questioned the wisdom of Lapid’s insistence on the Haredim’s serving in the IDF on pragmatic grounds. They have not realized that for him equality before the law is a sacred value and that without it the Zionist project is doomed.
For the Haredim the one sacred value is the Jewish people’s eternity (Netzah Yisrael), and for them the State of Israel is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for Jewish survival. Judaism, in their view, has survived because of only one reason: that there have always been Jews who have obeyed the laws of Judaism in the strictest manner. From their point of view Israel might disappear, but without them, the Haredim, Judaism will perish.
It is crucial for Haredim that young men and women be educated in a way that will make sure that they remain embedded in Haredi society and not be exposed to external influences before they have spent a long time in the Yeshiva world, are married, have children and are basically incapable of leaving Haredi society. Many secular Jews see the Haredim as nothing but parasites and do not realize that many Haredim see army service at an early age together with secular Jews as an existential threat to their sacred values.
Then there are the romantic nationalists for whom the State of Israel is not just the homeland of the Jews, but realizes the sacred bond between the Jewish people and the Greater Land of Israel. This idea derives from the extreme European right since the late 19th century, and is fused with messianic orthodoxy in national-religious Zionism. Democracy is secondary for romantic nationalists: If the sacred bond of people and land is endangered by the principles of liberal democracy, they are willing to sacrifice them, for example by curtailing freedom of speech for left-wingers or leaving Arab citizens with limited or no political rights.
The bitterness and the violent rhetoric of Israel’s political culture are largely due to this clash of three sacred values, with sometimes extreme consequences. The settler movement has already shown that it is capable of extreme violence when the two-state solution is about to be implemented. Haredim have proven that they are willing to go to prison to avoid what they see as fatal infringements on their way of life.
Liberal Zionism is at a disadvantage because it refrains from violence and abides with the law. Many believe that liberal Zionism’s majority in Israel balances this disadvantage – but this is an illusion. Likud is no longer liberal-Zionist but has adopted romantic nationalism. Only 48 MKs, i.e. 40 percent of the Knesset, represent liberal Zionism.
As a result of this clash of sacred values, growing numbers of Israelis feel they might no longer have a place in Israel without abandoning their identity. The Belzer Hasidim have declared that they will emigrate to the U.S. if forced to serve in the IDF. Ever-growing numbers of liberal-leaning Israelis leave for Berlin, New York or Los Angeles because they feel alienated by the rule of right-wing nationalism – a development encouraged by Im Tirtzu leader Ronen Shoval’s call for left-wingers to leave the country if they can’t stand the nationalist right.
None of these developments are to be taken lightly: At this point in history the clash of sacred values is more dangerous for Israel’s survival than any external enemy.

Bashing Netanyahu Won’t Bring Peace Any Closer. By Jeff Jacoby.

Bashing Netanyahu won’t bring peace any closer. By Jeff Jacoby. Boston Globe, March 5, 2014. Also here.


The delusion at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is that the lack of Palestinian sovereignty is what keeps the conflict alive, and that the tension and violence would end if only the Arabs of Palestine could have a state of their own.

That has never been true. What drives the conflict is not a hunger for Palestinian statehood, but a deep-rooted rejection of Jewish statehood. Arab leaders vehemently rejected the “two-state solution” that the United Nations recommended in 1947. Nearly 70 years later, the Palestinians are still unwilling to acknowledge Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people — to recognize that Jews are entitled to a sovereign state in their national homeland, just as the Irish are entitled to Ireland, the Italians to Italy, and the Japanese to Japan.

Yet Palestinian leaders heatedly insist that they will never agree to any such thing. “This is out of the question,” Abbas said last month. Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat complains: “When you say, ‘Accept Israel as a Jewish state,’ you are asking me to change my narrative.”

Just so. That narrative — that Jews are aliens in the Middle East, and Jewish sovereignty over any territory is intolerable — is precisely what must change if this conflict is to be resolved. Bashing Netanyahu may please the anti-Israel set, but it brings a just and lasting peace not one hour closer.

Rick Perry at CPAC: It’s Time for a Little Rebellion on the Battlefield of Ideas.

Rick Perry at CPAC: It’s Time for a Little Rebellion on the Battlefield of Ideas. Video. The ACU, March 7, 2014. YouTube. Also at Real Clear Politics.

Rick Perry: “Time for a Little Rebellion.” By Jerome Corsi and Garth Kant. WND, March 7, 2014.

Rick Perry wows crowd with #CPAC2014 speech. By Mandy Nagy. Legal Insurrection, March 7, 2014.