David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, is one of the finest reporters covering Israel and the Middle East in the world. Over the past couple of decades, he has been influential in two key English language publications, the Jerusalem Report and now the Jerusalem Post. I look forward to his editorials and often learn a great deal from them.

His latest essay is a must-read. He writes about the international fallout of the Israelis’ offensive in Gaza. As we’re showing here on Jewlicious, and as anyone traversing discussion forums and blogs on the internet can see, Gaza has given a wide opening to those who oppose Israel, and has forced Israel’s defenders into a defensive posture. The bigger problem is that the true haters of Jews, the pro-Palestinians who seek a one state problem, the extreme leftists who have long held Israel in contempt and many of the Jews who have taken to bashing Israel for whatever reasons, now have the ball in their court and they are pressing.

This is combined with a new war on the intellectual and political fronts, where a number of prominent individuals have taken the tactic of divide and conquer to the Israel-America partnership. The perception of the Obama Administration as open to “alternative” approaches to the Middle East is prodding the Carters, Walts, Mearsheimers, Freemans, Finkelsteins, etc. of the United States to go on the offensive to ensure their message is heard. Jews across the country are astounded to see an Oliphant cartoon with their Star of David pushed along by a storm-trooper. They are amazed to hear that other Jews, those called the “Israel Lobby,” are called immoral liars by a man who was supposed to lead the intelligence community of the United States. They find themselves lumped in with accusations of war crimes which they are supposedly supporting. And then, these people have to deal with the knowledge that after watching and reading the news about Gaza, they are also unsure about their footing with respect to Israel.

The problem is that asymmetric warfare produces different results than wars between two state armies. It’s one thing when the IDF beats up the Egyptians or Jordanians, but it’s another thing when the IDF, using its powerful arms and well-trained soldiers, fights a war inside civilian zones against enemies who view their own civilians as nothing less than prized media puppets who will gain for them the victory which they will not earn militarily. It is the height of cynicism, but it is a war and there are no rules governing war except that you had better win in some fashion. Hamas may have lost one battle over Gaza recently, but they are winning the war over Gaza by having won the media war. It is not entirely surprising, by the way, if only because as we saw in Lebanon 2006, the media in general has been skeptical and critical of Israel while willing to buy the narrative provided by Israel’s enemies.

Assymetric warfare is challenging for Israel in a way that it isn’t for large and powerful states such as the US or Russia. Part of the conflict, the part that exists in the ether of media publications and reports, is the perception of the Israelis as strong and rich Westerners while their foes, the Arabs, are perceived as weak, poor and unable to compete with Westerners. War scenes from Gaza and from Lebanon enhanced this perception and sealed it with some effective visuals about the damage caused to Arab civilians. Thus, you can’t win if you’re Israel. If you don’t attack, you keep getting attacked, but if you do attack and win, then you lose the public perception fight.

This is a big deal. Israel can’t survive on its own, and Israel has, for good or bad, tied its future to the US. However, this is not a balanced partnership because Israel can never supply the US with enough intelligence or any other form of support to equal what the US gives Israel. Which is why Israel has to behave in a manner acceptable to the Americans, and to some degree that is going to be determined by the views of the person on the street…the one who votes and who matters to politicians.

That is the heart of the latest battle in the war. We are now witnessing an assault on the mainstream American view of Israel with the goal of weakening Israel to a point where it will lose the support of American governments. To some people, the objective is nothing less than the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. To others, it is merely a desire to punish Israel so that it is forced to offer a different range of compromises to the Arabs. There are those, of course, who may believe that Israel is harmful to American interests, but it’s hard to reconcile that view with people who support Western democratic values. For example, if Chas Freeman prefers that US foreign policy be friendlier to Saudi Arabia and less friendly to Israel because American interests will be better served, then the question that has to be asked is whether he actually believes that a theocratic dictatorship is the model of an ally he thinks the US should support over a vibrant democracy.

The last group is the key group the anti-Israelis are chasing: the mainstream voter who will come to view Israel as a liability. In order to make this case and to destroy the case that Israel is a strong democracy, they have to convince the public that Israel is immoral in its actions and that the Palestinians who live in Gaza and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, are the victims here and not to be seen as the source for the conflict. This is precisely what Walt & Mearsheimer do in their work on Israel. They seek to undermine its credentials as a moral state first. After they spend a great deal of time doing so, they attack Israel’s relationship on the US. Why, they ask, should the US defend an immoral state?

Why, says Freeman, should unethical lying “Israel Lobbyists” be heard? How, asks Carter, can the US support a state that practices “apartheid?” How can people respect a nation that uses religion to drive its own soldiers to become stormtroopers, asks Oliphant.

After Gaza, this argument is much easier to make for these people, and renders many Israel supporters speechless.

David Horovitz’s editorial made me realize what I already knew from recent debates and attacks on this site and others: it’s going to be rough going for a while and it’s going to require getting hands on good, solid information whether it is in Israel’s favor or not, so that the enemies of Israel do not succeed. Success will not mean some magical return to 1967 lines. The Palestinians can’t even get themselves to seriously negotiate a two state solution where they get virtually all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Success for these enemies of Israel will mean the destruction of Israel because the weakening of Israel will lead to a point where it will not be able to defend itself or hold on to the idea of Israel being the home of the Jewish people.

I ask you to read Horovitz’s editorial in its entirety. It’s an important article. I will, however, just point out one section from it. As we know, recently some Israeli soldiers reported heavily unethical behavior by other soldiers. This story was publicized far and wide across the world. Here is Horovitz on the subject:

They [consumers of news about the Gaza offensive] don’t know that the head of the pre-IDF academy who compiled the targeting-the-innocent allegations went to jail for refusing to serve in the West Bank, that key soldiers involved now say they were discussing “rumors” and have no direct evidence of any such crimes, and that the central terrible charges of “cold-blooded” killing have been refuted after investigation by the relevant unit’s brigade commander.

(As The Jerusalem Post was told by the IDF on Thursday, “In the [central] incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction… The marksman’s commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander’s question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread. We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children… We know with certainty that this incident never took place.”)

Important information which has now been published by the IDF itself and that will undoubtedly NOT make it into prominent headlines in the same papers that have reported this story. Just as nobody bothered to run headlines about the UN school that didn’t have 43 kids dead and actually wasn’t attacked.

The truth is supposed to prevail, isn’t it?

Only if you fight for it.

About the author

themiddle

43 Comments

  • I’m an Israeli Jew, not American, so my surprise at your attitude might be new to you, but to me it’s amazing that you’re turning such a blind eye to reality.

    Israel has already implemented a one-state regime, and it’s a state where Jews have all the rights, and the Palestinians only some.

    Read Noam Sheizaf’s column: http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=747

    Your writing is really scary. Is this really how American Jews see things? How can your view of reality in Eretz Israel be so distorted?

  • What is my “attitude” Ori?

    To what reality am I turning a “blind eye?”

    What is “scary” about my writing?

    Please expand on your thesis and I’ll be glad to respond.

    I will say, though, that my view of Israel isn’t distorted at all.

  • The CIA World Factbook says that there are 11.2 million people living in Eretz Israel, between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, all the land controlled by the Israeli government for the past 41 years.

    According to the CIA World Factbook, 4 million of those people don’t get a vote. They don’t have a say in who patrols the border, in how the justice system works, the immigration rules, land planning, etc..

    That’s the reality, and the Gaza war fits with that policy of the Israeli government.

    I mean, Israelis believe the IDF killed Palestinians indiscriminately, and they’re fine with it. Nobody in Israel believes all this talk about a moral military and so on. If Israelis aren’t shutting their eyes and are willing to see things as they are, why are you American Jews who love Israel so much not willing to accept the Israeli attitude?

    Or maybe I got this whole website wrong and Jewlicious is directed at the non-Jew audience?

  • There are about almost thirty percent of people under 15 in Israel, almost 45% in the Gaza strip and almost 40% in the Westbank. The percentage of people under 18 is not given. None of them can vote in Israeli general elections. Just checked the latest version of the World Factbook, and couldn’t find a mention of how many percent of Israelis are permitted to vote in general elections.
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/is.html#People
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gz.html
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/we.html
    Palestinians can and have voted in elections for the Palestinian government – if they do not recognize the political entity and statehood of Israel, what would be the point in voting there? And what would be the point in letting them elect their own leadership if this was not meant as a step towards statehood? Why can I not vote in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg?

    You speak with generalizing authority on behalf of Israelis yet you miss that a considerable share of Jewlicious’ bloggers and readers are Israelis. In non-totalitarian societies, people are entitled to differing opinions.

  • “The truth is supposed to prevail, isn’t it?”

    ummm….

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1180960622122&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    `We are being sent abroad, quite simply, to lie,` a senior Israeli diplomat serving in a foreign country said Wednesday morning, in response to a news report by Army Radio on continued building in West Bank settlements.

    The station said Wednesday morning that 100 new housing units were being built in the West Bank by the Amana settlement movement, and that most of the units had already been sold. According to the report, Amana was also negotiating the sale of more potential units, which would be built in the future.

    `We meet foreign ministers around the world, tell them that building in the settlements has stopped, and it seems we are just lying to them,` the diplomat said.

  • Jewlicious isn’t “directed” at anybody. Jewlicious is a place where a number of writers express their opinions. What you read above is mine. It is directed at nobody in particular, but rather expresses some thoughts that have been brewing around in my limited, distorting mind for some days. Horovitz’s article became a catalyst for writing these ideas down.

    Nowhere in my post do I mention what Israel should do regarding its presence among the Palestinians so I have no idea where you are coming up with your ideas.

    I appreciate your lecturing me about the number of people living between the Jordan River and the sea, as well as their rights. Also, it’s nice to know that all the Israelis you know believe that IDF killed Palestinians indiscriminately, but it appears we know different Israelis.

    Most of the Israelis I know are very proud of this operation in Gaza because they believe it was professionally handled. They contrast this operation favorably from Lebanon 2006. The Israelis are also aware that the Palestinians in Gaza were in for some pain, but they don’t view this as anything other than a military operation to try to stem the rocket and mortat attacks. Nobody I know, including Sderot families, has expressed joy at the fighting in Gaza. For them this was a somber, long-overdue fight to attempt to change something, anything, that might stop the rockets and lead Hamas to act more responsibly.

    Much of this has to do with the reality that most Israelis know soldiers personally or have children who are soldiers. Being a conscription army, the IDF takes responsibility of the welfare of their soldiers and because Israel is a small society, the notion that the IDF would undermine the morality of these boys is unfathomable.

    I also know many Israelis who view a clear difference between what goes on within Israel and within the Territory. They also know to differentiate between the Territory that is still under its control and the Territory which is now owned by Hamas.

    So let me tell you my attitude, since it is nowhere to be found in the essay I wrote above.

    In my opinion, Israel can’t make up its mind regarding the Territory and hasn’t been able to for a long time. That is too bad, but it means neither that they have decided it is theirs nor that it is not theirs. But where you are wrong is that the consensus among Israelis is that the West Bank/Judea and Samaria will be given to the Palestinians. Most Israelis continue to believe in a two state solution, most believe that peace is feasible and most understand and admit that the Palestinian state will be situated in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Aside from the majority of Israelis who believe this, as evident in polls, the Judiciary also views Judea and Samaria as separate from Israel. Areas that have been annexed, such as Jerusalem, are viewed differently by the courts than areas which have not been annexed, such as all of the West Bank.

    Along with the people and the judiciary, you also have the government and their construction of the Security Barrier. If the government truly believed that Israel had a future in the West Bank, that fence would not have been built. It is going to be a de facto separator of the Israelis and the Palestinians. If it hasn’t been completed, the key reason is that the consequence of having defined a border becomes so clear and removes leverage that governments would otherwise have in negotiating with the Palestinians.

    As for the Gaza war falling in line with the policies of the Israeli government, you happen to be talking to somebody who is close with a Western Negev family that lost their home to a rocket. This family’s children are walking around like zombies because of the years of running to the safe room. If anything disproves your point about Israeli policy toward Gaza it is this story. You see, if Israel saw this land as part of Israel or as a place where people are treated differently just because they are Palestinians, then they would have attacked long ago. Israel wanted out of Gaza, out of the demographic issues surrounding Gaza and out of the idiocy of sending in battalions to defend 8000 settlers.

    Further, as more evidence that you are wrong about Israeli governments, I will point you to Barak’s offers in 2000 and 2001. They were offers intended to give most of the Territory and Former Territory to the Palestinians for the express purpose of their having a state there.

    So I’ll tell you what, instead of lecturing me, why don’t you get out of your cocoon where your friends all agree with you and seek out other Israelis who will give you a different answer to your concerns/

  • Xisnotx, you know I oppose most settlements and you know I oppose the continued construction anywhere to the east of the security barrier. It is a moronic waste of resources and endangers Israel’s future. If Israel is building outside of “natural growth” then it needs to stop. Very simple. If diplomats are placed in a position where they knowingly have to lie about any settlements, the government had better look carefully at why they have policies that would lead their representatives abroad to have to lie or cover up.

  • Ori, one of the many holes in your argument is that you are relying your “Israeliness” in order to lend credibility to your statement.

    “Nobody in Israel believes all this talk about a moral military and so on.” That is not representative of ‘being Israeli.’ That is utter BS. It might be true in your tiny Hadash enclave on Shenkin, but themiddle is correct when he says most Israelis ‘are very proud of this operation in Gaza because they believe it was professionally handled.’

    I didn’t know one’s background had anything to do with whether or not an army performed well, honorably, or not – but in case it does (at least for Ori) – I am Israeli, too.

  • I actually think there are some positive signs:

    1) The Israelis themselves have woken up – the consensus about Gaza, the lack of a real partner, and the disastrous results of “confidence building measures” was a long time coming.

    You can’t do good PR if you’re not convinced yourself.

    2) Better PR from the IDF and others than there was for a long time – the enemies and liars have had to lie low for several months. They didn’t do that because they wanted to – they had to wait until people stopped watching IDF youtube clips, or else they would have looked like morons.

    Their story is severely crippled by that – who is still interested, especially given the financial news?

    3) Mounting suspicion of the media in the West, which blunts the impact of their lie-mongering.

    I predict that the financial tough times – and the implosion of Nobama – will further damage the authority of far-left, politically correct voices.

  • TheMiddle,

    You claim that most Israelis don’t see Judea and Samaria as part of Israel. This is a myth – at best – that our naive supporters in the US like to quote, so they can sleep better at night. In the last elections the split among Jews was something like 60-40, maybe even 61-39, against the two states solution.

  • It’s not so simple; many of these “60” were also for the disengagement. It’s not that all these people simply deny that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination. It’s that they see what happened since Israel left Gaza and aren’t prepared to support a Palestinian state that is determined to wipe Israel off the map. Netanyahu has said before that he supports the Palestinians right to a state, but not right now at any cost. Certainly not when rockets have been falling for years.

  • I don’t think the founders of Israel, in their quest to set up a self-sustaining Jewish state, were thinking about contracting their security out to another country! Has Israel become Saudi Arabia?

    I’m sorry but this constant insistence that Israel has to rely on the US for ever and ever negates the very essence of Israel. If this is the story then the Jews of Israel might as well set up shop in Nebraska.

    I don’t mean to be sentimental but does “never again” mean anything to Jews anymore? I thought the point of Israel was for Jews to rely on themselves, not some outside benevolent gentile nation. I am saying this as an American – cut the damn umbilical cord! The US has at times brought destruction and problems on Israel’s head and it can only happen again with Obama’s “new direction.” If Obama pressures Israel to release hundreds more terrorists as a concession to this pretend moderate PLO it is time to refuse. Otherwise, as I said pack up and move to Nebraska, b/c at this rate of concessions they will have to do that sooner or later anyway.

    * By the way, I am also saying this as someone who opposes settlements east of the security fence.

  • Noam, as WWZ tells you, the reading of the past election to mean that Israelis have decided to keep the Territory is a little simplistic. Three years ago, the same Israelis elected Olmert and Kadima on a platform of a West Bank “disengagement.” You think people are yo-yos and change meaningful opinions overnight? They elected a majority of right-wingers because the Left has not fared well in the past few years and the center, represented by Kadima, has become the de facto left wing party in Israel.

    This election revolved around punishing Olmert for his Lebanese failure, the unresolved Schalit situation which is also perceived as a failure, and because the rockets haven’t stopped landing on the Western Negev. Israelis are seeking change and an alternative approach. You can be certain that if Netanyahu produces little or nothing, that the right will lose the next election by a wide margin.

  • Tori – exactly! It’s time for Israel to grab hold of its own destiny – no more money from anyone, no more strings that come with that money. Israeli industry and economy will do better when they are no subject to American whims and what has become fake economic stimulation.

    Whatever Israeli policy is to be – it should be wholly ISRAELI.

  • 🙄

    Uh, folks, glad to hear all about the self-sufficient Israel. Can’t wait until the next time there’s a vote in the UN Security Council and the US isn’t there to protect Israel. Or the next time Israel needs to maintain technical advantages and has to rely on the latest, uh, Moldavian innovations!

    It’s one thing to forego that annual assistance that goes to Israel, which by the way Netanyahu proposed phasing out last time he was PM, but it’s another thing to think that Israel is in a position to “go it alone.”

    Personally, I’m very grateful for US support over these past decades. Surely, the relationship isn’t perfect, but it has been an important and good one. I only hope that behind the scenes, when it comes to things like intelligence gathering and technological innovations, the US feels it is getting a good return on its investment.

  • tm – that’s precisely the problem, that Israel is viewed as little more than an American investment. I’m all for an alliance, a fruitful relationship that includes cooperation. But if America will push Israel on any issue at all, saying that’s what friends do – then thanks, but no thanks.

    Technological advances? I really don’t think so. Israel will do very well on its own – the world relies on Israeli technological innovations much more than the other way around. If Israel weren’t hamstrung by this foreign “aid,” then a domestic industry could actually be developed. An economy based on the empty influx of cash is inherently less stable – and although that’s not quite what Israel is, that is how the government (especially the Ministry of Defense) insists on behaving.

  • LB, your second paragraph doesn’t jibe with reality. Israel cannot develop large weapons systems such as jets on its own. I think there is one Israeli-developed jet in use in the IAF and it’s not even close in capabilities to the F-15s or F-16s that Israel buys from the US. Right now the US is developing the F-35 or whatever it is called and if Israel doesn’t get that technology but, say, Saudi or Egypt do, you will then have Israel falling behind in the most important aspect of the balance (or imbalance in favor of Israel) of arms and technology.

    Where Israel is good and capable, it does fine, but ultimately it has to buy a good deal of technology from other countries and it’s fantasy to think a country with several million people can do everything themselves. They also can’t always buy technology from other countries because American technology is superior or because those countries aren’t friendly.

  • themiddle, ever hear of the Lavi?

    Anyway, I didn’t say to cut off contact or cooperation but to cease being a client state of the US. Many countries buy technologies from other countries without becoming fully dependent. I don’t see why you seem to think it’s either all or nothing.

  • It’s all or nothing because the best arms manufacturers in the world are here in the US.

    One of the reasons the Lavi project was killed was the expense involved. It would have been extraordinarily challenging to manufacture it in Israel.

  • tm – Like Tori said, an alliance, a cooperative relationship is a good idea, and doesn’t create patron-client relationship, as exists today. And if that won’t work, there are other countries whose economic interests would benefit from working with Israel (India’s number one weapons supplier is now Israel, having recently surpassed Russia – I would love to see a stronger Israel-India relationship).

    And the other (arguably, primary) reason the Lavi was killed is that it presented a threat to American defense firms.

  • Fair enough, I didn’t say Israeli tech wasn’t exceptional, just that it isn’t enough. I still think it’s wishful thinking to hope that Israel won’t have a patron, but it’s not relevant right now because the situation is what it is and the last time Israel tried to develop relations with another power, namely China, they got a big slap on the wrist.

  • themiddle

    even the previous elections are split, at best, 52-48 among Jews. so there was never “a clear majority” for the two state solution. and since Israel has been building settlements all the time, the other side has the right to doubt our intentions – just as we doubt theirs because of the Hamas.

    WWZ – i’ll be happy to see this declaration by Bibi that he is willing to accept a Palestinians state. I saw him talk in a closed meeting with reporters just before the elections, and when asked about the matter over and over again, he wouldn’t commit himself to it.

    this is the deal – you are so happy to quote any Arab leader who wouldn’t recognize Israel, but when Israelis say, with a clear voice, that they will never leave the entire WB or accept a Palestinian state, you say something like “well, they don’t realy mean this… you know…”

  • Tamar Hermann who co-runs an ongoing series of polls called the Peace Index under the auspices of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evans Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University thinks you’re wrong.

    Here she very recently wrote:

    …With no exception, a constant majority of around two-thirds [Jewish Israelis] in each monthly survey since 2001 support the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Admittedly, usually only one-third of the interviewees believe that these negotiations will bear fruit in the foreseeable future. Yet the data suggests that the option of halting or terminating the negotiations has never enjoyed wide public support,

    Now what about the two-state-solution? Is this really totally passé in terms of Israeli public support? Exactly a year ago, in March 2008, a clear-cut question on this topic (“Do you support or oppose the ‘two states for two peoples’ solution?”) indicated a supportive majority of 67%. Not much has changed since then, as indicated by the above question on the negotiations (which are based on the two-state solution). The viability of the two-state solution in terms of public support is sustained even more strongly by the present extensive public support for a Likud-Kadima-Labor coalition, indicated by almost all public opinion polls since the February 10, 2009 elections. With the last two of these three parties openly committed to this solution, the argument that the public is no longer in favor of it does not hold water. Furthermore, a comparison of the two-state solution with other options sustains the above argument even more. Thus, according to the March 2008 Peace Index survey, as in all previous surveys, 75.5% of the respondents expressed highly negative attitudes toward the idea of a binational solution. As for the third feasible option, maintaining the status quo rather than making efforts to bring about peace, the public was split almost down the middle between those who called for such an effort and those who opted for the option of making do with the present situation.

    To sum up, obviously, the Israeli Jewish public is not highly hopeful regarding the possibility of achieving a peaceful solution with the Palestinians in the near future nor is it trustful of the other side’s intentions and ability to deliver an agreement. Still this does not mean that once an acceptable solution is put on the table, the Israeli Jewish public will not lend it its support. Furthermore, the strong support for a Likud-Kadima-Labor coalition strongly indicates that the public does not want a radical right-wing government that will function as a front rejecting peace, but that it wants to keep the door open to the option of peace.

    She was responding to a recent Angus Reid poll that showed 51% of Israelis opposing a two state solution and 32% wanting one with another 9% undecided and another 8% preferring neither choice.

    The majority of Israelis do not want to shut the door on two states, side by side. What they want is for Hamas to act differently and the public is frustrated, but the idea of peace remains strong and very few expect they will achieve this without giving up territory to the Palestinians.

  • themiddle,

    I know the data you mentioned and I don’t doubt it, but action speaks louder than polls. You probably know that the support in the Palestinians society for the two states solution is sometimes even higher, yet you hold them to different standard, i.e., you judge them by their actions, not their words.

    I read you oppose the settlements. Did you ever stop and ask yourself why is it that every Israeli government went on building them, even during the peace process? Do you know that if I chose to move – today – to a settlement I get tax benefits and subsidized housing? Do you understand the meaning of this, and why Palestinians see the settlements the way we see terrorism? Remember how hard it was to move 7000 people from Gaza, so think about the quarter of a million in the WB!

    I do believe you are motivated by real love and support for Israel, but I think you are not considering the full meaning of Israel’s actions. Why do you think Israel has never simply declared it doesn’t have a claim in the WB and will leave the area once all security issues are settled? Could you consider the possibility that all of Israel’s talk of peace were just that – talks?

  • I don’t hold the Palestinians to a higher or different standard. It’s just that I know what they mean by a “two state” solution and it involves all of east Jerusalem. It also means, if I just consider it from their leadership’s point of view, at least on the basis of the negotiations at Camp David, Taba and recently, that Israel will not identified as a Jewish country. In other words, they want Jordan, they want a Palestine in the WB and Gaza and they want Israel to be Palestinian Arab too. Just their inability to share the Temple Mount or even the Western Wall is beyond the pale, so how much more so when they don’t accept that there is no right of return and that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people?

    Next, of course I ask myself and have asked myself many times why Israel continues with the support for settlements. I reject your premise entirely about Israel’s talk of peace being just talks. If you need evidence, consider the peace with Jordan and especially Egypt where Israel gave up a lot to have peace and has not looked back since despite the upsetting rhetoric that comes from the public sphere in Egypt.

    Barak and Ben Ami were genuine in their presentation at Camp David. They increased their offers so that the concluding items on the table by the end of Camp David were way more advanced than at the beginning. They included division of Jerusalem AND almost all of both Territories. Ben Ami and Barak were shell-shocked that what they believed to have been an extraordinary offer was received with a war, with public attacks on them and by Palestinian unwillingness to cut a deal.

    If that’s not evidence enough, consider that Barak then took on the Clinton parameters into Taba.

    According to Olmert, he too presented some offers to the Palestinians and was rebuffed every time. To remind you again, he was elected on a platform of leaving the West Bank and he was desperate for some legacy or some achievement that could erase Lebanon II.

    As for why Israel has never relinquished its claim to the WB and continues to build homes for settlers, I will suggest my theory although I admit it could be wrong.

    First the houses and communities.

    I believe this support may once have been driven by a desire to annex or to keep Judea and Samaria. That may have become less palatable, especially after 1987 intifada, so after that it becomes driven by political expediency so as to avoid the wrath of those minority parties (often in the coalition) which can make or break a government.

    Next, the houses and communities serve as leverage in any negotiations. This is critical. It is a good reason to keep them going and even to invest in infrastructure there. It’s like poker where you sometimes have to bet a lot to make the other believe you have something real in your hands.

    Finally, there is the legal aspect which is that I do believe most Israelis and their governments view this land as disputed and not as automatically Palestinian.

    As to why I don’t believe this is some cynical ploy where all governments just kept some secret plan to ensure Israel keeps Gaza and the West Bank, I’ll just point to the makeup of the past 40 years of governments and remind you that some of them were extremely hostile to each other. This means that they weren’t going to play along when they came into office.

    Next, with respect to removing settlers, the vast majority of them are not settlers. They live in the suburbs surrounding Jerusalem or close to the Green Line. They are considered settlers by the UN and others, but most don’t view themselves that way and are not viewed that way by Israeli law since these areas have been annexed.

    Israel has, since Camp David, made it clear that their goal is to keep these border neighborhood intact and ensured the security barrier took this into account by making it reach further into the WB than was offered at Camp David and Taba. This leaves room for negotiations.

    Of the remaining 50,000 or so settlers who do live in areas beyond what most Israelis would consider the future demarcation of Israel, there have been surveys that show most will come back into Israel if asked and some would even come back now if they could get compensation. There will be a core group of about 5-15,000 in my opinion, who will make trouble and some might well resort to violence but Israel’s intelligence services are presumably on top of who is who and in the end most will protest mightily but leave quietly.

    The entire idea behind the opposition to the Gaza disengagement was to scare Israel into fearing what would happen if they were to try the same thing in Judea and Samaria. It’ll be more difficult than Gaza, for sure, but also manageable if Israel can find the money to offer these people compensation for their lost homes.

  • This is exactly the double standards issue: when talking about the settlements, you take the problem into pieces, explain why it’s not really a problem, what’s the political rational in terms of Israeli politics and the political system, etc. I don’t agree with some of the things you say, and I think you underestimate the impact of the settlements, but it is a legitimate reasoning.

    Now take your view of the Palestinians. There is no internal political dynamic. They are one monolith. “We offered peace, they answered with terror”. Maybe – like many observers in Camp David and Taba wrote later on – Arafat couldn’t say “yes” to Barak’s “take it or leave it” offer? Maybe he was pushed to a corner? Maybe Hamas can be reasoned with, just like you say the Likud – I am still waiting for that quote of Netanyahu in favore of a two states solution someone mentioned here – can be reasoned with?

    So far for the “who is to blame in the situation” question. Now I have to tell you my problem with your unlimited support of Israel’s rightist policies. Did you consider the possibility that the settlements project and the rejection of the two state solution by Likud will actually work? It might, you know. And than what? We will be left with an Apartheid state, with the only reasonable working plan being the one state solution. some say we are there now. And that, as you know, will be the end of Israel.

    That’s why I think it is the Right – with the help of the Jewish Lobby – that’s pushing Israel to the cliff’s edge.

  • Noam, with all due respect, I realize you believe certain things and would like to express them here, but please don’t do it on my back. I doubt there are many members of the Right who wouldn’t blanch upon reading what I wrote on this blog a couple of days ago, that Israel needs to leave Judea and Samaria to the west of the Security Barrier immediately and in full. I also assume that some on the Left will blanch when they hear me support certain Israeli actions or my lack of sympathy for the Palestinian narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I chose the name The Middle because I view myself as a centrist.

    Having said that, your previous comment was about Israel and Israeli settlements, not about the Palestinians. I answered with detail about Israel and less so about the Palestinians. That does not mean I view them as a monolith, although I admit to being skeptical that when it comes to Israel they somehow have diverging views. I’m sure Saeb Erakat would be an interesting fellow to meet and we probably could share some fine time together, but when it came time to vilify Israel by misrepresenting the casualty figures in Jenin, he was one of the primary spokespersons for the Palestinians to do so. And he’s a so-called moderate. We could also compare the PLO and Hamas charters, if you like and learn that while one is a nationalistic movement and the other a religious movement, they both reject any (historic, religious or future) Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.

    So if you’d like an essay about the Palestinians with more detail, just ask. But please don’t lecture me about double standards.

    I also didn’t indicate the settlements weren’t a problem as perceived from the Palestinian side, which they are, because that wasn’t the topic of your comment. I will say, however, that while I understand how the Settlement Movement deeply disturbs the Palestinians on many levels, and causes them to view Israel and its intentions with suspicion, it should also be clear to you and to anybody who wants the entire settlement enterprise dismantled that the settlers make a couple of strong points. The first is that Judea and Samaria are the cradle of Jewish civilization in many respects, especially if you include east Jerusalem as do the Palestinians. Second, there are now what we call settlements in areas where Jews had lived in the past but were evicted. It is fair to say that if the Palestinians cannot “return” into today’s Israel to build communities, then Jews shouldn’t go into Palestinian areas to do the same. Except that 20% of Israel is Arab and the Palestinians would like 0% of Judea and Samaria to be Jewish just as Gaza has no Jews in it (unless you count good old Amira Hass).

    If you would like to discuss what happened at Camp David with the Palestinians, we can discuss that as well in detail. Just ask and you’ll be answered. But please don’t call it a double standard when I was merely answering your questions about Israeli settlements and Israeli governments’ attitudes about peace and these settlements.

    By the way, I haven’t looked to see where Netanyahu said anything favorable about a two-state solution and doubt he said such a thing, but you should remember that it was Begin who made peace with Egypt and Netanyahu who put the Hebron Accords into effect.

    As for the fear that the Settlement Movement will succeed and thereby undermine a two state solution, I share it with you. It is the worst thing that would and could happen to Israel. The settlers I know are some pretty sharp fellows who understand Israel’s politics extremely well and were prepared decades ago to tackle many of the issues that have arisen over the years. They had strategies in place and were and are very savvy. In fact, my excitement about the Security Barrier involved the fact that Sharon, of all people, was going to push this new de facto border down the Settlers’ throats. His subsequent coma is not only a personal tragedy for him, but may be a tragedy for all of Israel.

    I will also tell you that my support of Israel will end on the day that I perceive that it has become an apartheid or undemocratic state. The entire point of Israel, as the Jewish state, is that it must remain a democracy and a secular one at that. I understand that in civic matters, the government has permitted Orthodox Jews to control, but as far as running the country, there is no room for a theocracy in Israel.

    So we agree that this is a danger and that the settlers – not all of them – but the hardcore settlers and their movement are pushing Israel to a cliff’s edge. They need to be stopped and an Israeli government needs to have the courage to stop them now before it becomes too late to separate from the Palestinians.

    However, where we disagree, Noam, is that you blame the Right and then you blame the so-called “Israeli Lobby.”

    You can’t just blame the Right for the settlements. You have to also blame the Left who were in power for a lot of years. You also can’t blame the “Israel Lobby” because it doesn’t exist, unless you are referring to AIPAC. I’m not sure that AIPAC has ever taken a position about the settlements. But there is no such animal as the “Israel Lobby” and while I realize that Jewish leftists get a rush every time they accuse the “Israel Lobby” of undermining their weakly accepted propositions which haven’t gained much traction in American political life, they should really take a step back and consider carefully whether they want to stand together with those who proclaim there is such a thing as an “Israel Lobby.” To be frank with you, the accusation is sickening and false, but it is to be expected from some people. When it comes from people who should know better, I find that even more disturbing. So perhaps you should consider carefully whether you want to use that kind of language.

    Our second disagreement about whether the settlers will succeed and why, is that you have removed the Palestinians from the equation. I would argue that they are the biggest obstacle to peace, not the settlers. They smell blood right now precisely because they believe time is on their side. They want to delay, delay, delay until, they believe, they have the demographic advantage. At that point they will unleash the “apartheid” attack on Israel. It is they who are seeking a one state solution or a three Palestinian Arab, non-Jewish states solution – you pick which. And in this respect, there isn’t much real difference between Hamas and Fatah, except that right now it’s prudent for Fatah to play nice so the Americans can train them and give them weapons they will one day undoubtedly use on Israelis.

  • Nice analysis, Middle– though the reset button is being pushed as the new government emerges. We’ll see just how hard Obama is prepared to push Israel. Given that he’s rather unwisely decided to press ahead on all of his domestic initiatives at once, I suspect he’ll turn up the heat pretty quickly, perhaps with more rhetorical shots across Bibi’s bow.

    Obama said last week that the Middle Eastern “status quo was unsustainable”. Yet, isn’t that what Bibi-as-PM wants– to freeze the status quo with the Palestinians for as long as possible?

  • I don’t know what Bibi wants. Truly. Bibi learned a lesson about whose in charge back in 1998 at Wye. I suspect right now he’s facing such a complex situation with creating a coalition that he’s probably wondering whether he’ll have room to maneuver. He needs Kadima aboard to accomplish anything, in my opinion, because he’ll be shut down on the Right otherwise.

    Also, as Sharon found out and as Bibi knows, when you’re in power, you have to think and act differently than when you’re criticizing from the Opposition. The same issues that struck Sharon as problematic, namely, demographics and Israel’s waning international position, will hit Bibi even harder and much faster. He’ll have to deal with them quickly. Also, he’s not the only player here. Yesterday, the Arab League basically threatened to kill the Arab Initiative of 2002 if Israel doesn’t make a move to accept it. While that’s a very flawed offer, it has never been negotiated and it remains the only deal on the table where a consensus vote of the Arab world states they would be willing to accept Israel. That’s no small matter, and I say this as someone who is deeply troubled by this plan because it seeks to turn UNGA 194 (“Right of Return”) as the basis for the agreement.

  • themiddle,

    Why are you so upset that I talk about “Israel Lobby”? the term is widely used here in Israel – not just by leftists. In fact, when I studied international relations in TAU it was considered one of Israel’s sources of strength, in a positive way.

  • Because it’s a source of anti-Semitism. Because Israeli hubris about the supposed strength of AIPAC is misguided and when you say “Israel Lobby,” people don’t hear AIPAC anymore, they hear Joooooos!

    Here are a couple of pieces of mine that may help clarify this issue for you:

    https://jewlicious.com/2006/05/a-comment-juan-cole-wont-publish-about-walt-and-mearsheimer-1/

    https://jewlicious.com/2006/05/a-comment-juan-cole-wont-publish-about-walt-and-mearsheimer/

    https://jewlicious.com/2006/10/the-mother-of-all-hatchet-jobs-farrar-straus-and-giroux-to-publish-21st-century-protocols-of-the-elders-of-zion/

    https://jewlicious.com/2009/03/more-information-about-chas-freeman/

    It would be wise to stop feeding the conspiracy because this has all become mainstream.

  • TM, what makes you think the same bureaucratic problems that happened with the post-disengagement from Gaza won’t happen again with the post-disengagement from Yehuda and Shomron? I seem to recall many of those families still living in caravellas, waiting for the government compensation that never came. It’s a source of continuing anger, and one I’m sure activists in Yehuda and Shomron are definitely seizing.

  • You know what, Israel’s continued existence as a democratic Jewish homeland is more important. My bigger worry is that the West Bank will become another Gaza. I don’t see how that can be stopped, exactly, since the other side doesn’t seem to want to negotiate in good faith. However, even if the settlers move west of the Fence and the IDF stays behind for now, part of Israel’s problems will be solved, and an orderly exit for the army can be negotiated as benchmarks are met on the other side.

    I should also add that there is no way peace is happening without Palestinian access to east Jerusalem. I don’t mean that they get it all, I just mean that they have to have access for both physical and spiritual/symbolic reasons.

  • Then Israel better prepare for internecine violence, because I see it coming if unilateral actions leave people in Kadimavilles indefinitely (much like Nitzan is now a Sharonville). Ever heard of the saying, “Once bitten, twice shy”?

  • I know lots of people who chose not to live in the Territories or who chose to live very close to the Green Line where the government really put the bulk of its resources.

    I think it will be handled better this time anywsy…if the settlers play ball. Last time, to remind you, many settlers didn’t register or didn’t register until it was very late.

  • tm – regardless of my political views (not that they’re a secret) – in 2005, in your word the settlers did play ball. there is a lot of anger in the community at most of the leadership (including yesha council), for stopping the fight towards the end (the shul in neve dekalim). Next time will be far more difficult, Amona was only a precursor (as far as I know, Kahanists, mostly, did not show up there because they thought the agreement with the gov’t was a done deal).

    Regardless, registering or not has nothing to do with the fact that to this day, 3.5 years later, people are still living in drywall structures (paying rent, mind you), are mostly unemployed, and have had to push mountains in order to get an inkling of what was promised to them under the law. (contact me personally if you want more on that, from firsthand knowledge, I’d rather not expand on that in this forum).

  • Some settlers are using these circumstances and what they did in Gaza to attempt to hold the rest of Israel hostage to their needs and desires (or should I say “fantasy” since I suspect many believe this situation can continue without repercussions to Israel). It should be made clear to them that only those who comply will receive compensation for their property.

    Israel is so out of time when it comes to getting out of the West Bank, that I fail to see how they don’t see it. The entire point of running a war since 2000, as the Palestinians have done, is to achieve the earning of sympathy from others including Israelis and also to force Israel to continue delaying any sort of compromise or end to the presence of Israeli soldiers in their midst. Israel is walking with eyes open into a trap the outlines of which have been clear for a number of years. Just wait until the PA comes out with their next census and they lie about their numbers again.

  • “only those who comply will receive compensation for their property.” People have complied. People have put with the most ridiculous demands (electric bills from the 70s in order to prove residence back then – from someone who was 3 months old!), and instead of putting some effort and money into compensation and resettlement, and inordinate amount of money was put into brainwashing soldiers, money is spent on every other unimportant whim of the government – and we now have 30! new ministers. A wholly undemocratic regime was put into place in order to carry out “Operation Shuvu Banim” – unlawful arrest of minors, stifling speech and expression – all for… rockets. So in the future, fewer people will comply, namely because whatever support the ‘disengagement’ had in 2005 – has dwindled to but a fraction of that support. Yet Olmert called for more of the same only a few short months ago. I can only hope this gov’t will be more responsible – but I’m not holding my breath.

    I might have misunderstood – but you did you say the point of war since 2000 was to DELAY “end[ing] the presence of soldiers in their midst”?

  • Yes. The Palestinian strategy for many years has been to delay any compromise, peace deal or even exit of Israel from any areas where there are Palestinians living. Why do you think they bombard from Gaza? They could have been building a state there but instead they bomb and taunt the Israelis. The strategy is to keep the Israelis engaged for as long as possible with there being a number of benefits:

    – it keeps the conflict alive

    – it keeps hope alive for their dream

    – helps to keep average people engaged in the “struggle and therefore willing to “sacrifice” while the leadership scores lots of benefits such as preferred housing, extra income, etc.

    – it keeps the demographic bomb alive

    – it enables the propaganda machine to thrive, putting Israel on the defensive on most diplomatic fronts

    – it makes it more difficult for Israel to grow economically and truly thrive, because it is busy and distracted with the conflict.

    Consider that in 1996, the Palestinians could have had Peres in office but launched three terrorist attacks (suicide bombings) in the weeks leading up to the elections thereby undermining the Oslo peace plan architect and bringing Netanyahu, an avowed opponent of Oslo to power.

Leave a Comment