Watching as Israel's Election Approaches

How Netanyahu's Reelection Contest Will Affect American Jews

Lunging Right: What should American Jews think about Israel’s new direction?
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Lunging Right: What should American Jews think about Israel’s new direction?

By Jay Michaelson

Published January 04, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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First, there’s the Likud’s new list of parliamentary candidates. This list has purged everyone in Likud who had been interested in some form of negotiated peace, as well as its more moderate intellectual leadership — Dan Meridor, Benny Begin, Micky Eitan and so on. In its place, it includes not only the followers of the rejectionist Avigdor Lieberman (now off the list himself due to a corruption inquiry), but also the know-nothing Moshe Feiglin, the anti-democratic Danny Danon and the xenophobic Miri Regev.

These may not be household names in America, but those of us who have lived in Israel and paid attention to politics know them well. Indeed, my centrist Israeli friends — some of whom have voted for Likud in the past — are gnashing their teeth. It’s as if the Republican Party nominated Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to its presidential ticket.

Any American supporting the Likud now has to face the facts. This is not a list taking a somewhat harder negotiating line, or being a bit tougher on Iran. This is a list of nationalist thugs who pander to the absolute worst in all of us: fears, prejudices and most of all, anger. This tactic works; after all, what supporter of Israel isn’t furious with Hamas? Who didn’t entertain a thought of “turning Gaza into a parking lot,” as one conservative friend of mine proposed? It’s natural to feel these emotions — but ill-advised to act on them, and cynical to exploit them.

Second, among Israeli conservative pundits, a new — or at least newly discussed — narrative has taken hold. The story is that the Palestinian people are not ready for peace, and that this conflict will continue for 100 years. This past November, the writer Daniel Gordis made this point — as a statement of fact — on a panel I shared with him at the General Assembly. Danny Danon, a member of Knesset, made the same argument in an op-ed published in The New York Times.

Strictly speaking, this argument is not new. Netanyahu’s late father made it decades ago, and arguably it goes back to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s claim that the Arabs are too proud to ever make peace.

But think about it: The intellectual leaders of the Israeli right, the brains behind the power today, are telling us that there will be no peace for 100 years: 100 years of occupation (within a few decades, of 5 million people); 100 years of Israeli 18-year-olds risking their lives at checkpoints; 100 years of two-faced Israeli policies, of expanding settlements while maintaining the propaganda of peace. This is appalling to consider — and yet it is what’s being offered in this election.

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