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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And it’s not just words. The decision to build in E1 in retaliation for the Palestinian statehood bid is yet another nail in the two-state solution’s coffin. An Israeli E1 would cut the West Bank in two. That’s not a state; it’s a joke.

It’s also naive. Israelis love to brag about how tough they are and how they don’t need their American uncles to protect them. “Don’t worry, America — Israel is behind you!” But the reality is that Israel is a small state still dependent on American foreign aid and American protection. Is Israel really ready to be the next North Korea, a worldwide pariah that remains afloat thanks to its nuclear arsenal, but is reviled all around the world? Sure, some Israelis may think they’re already seen that way, and they may well vote based on that perception. But that’s paranoia, not reality. The reality of an ostracized Israel, an Israel like Libya or apartheid-era South Africa, with global economic sanctions that choke Israel’s economy, and with an end to Israel’s most important strategic alliances, can be considered seriously only if one has drunk the nationalistic Kool-Aid of Israel’s most jingoistic partisans.

Which, of course, many on the new Likud/Beiteinu list have done.

This is why there’s such heated agreement between the Israeli far right and the anti-Israel far left. Both believe in one, bi-national state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Both believe that time is on their side, and so both take steps to sabotage the two-state solution. The only difference is that the Israeli right believes the state should be an undemocratic Jewish one, while the anti-Zionist left thinks that it should be a democratic Arab one. In my opinion, both are leading us to hell.

If, as Americans, we cheer the re-election of this government, we are supporting 100 more years of occupation, and a perilous path for Israel on the world stage. In my view, such a position is not just anti-peace and anti-Jewish values but also anti-Israel, because it is so dangerous to Israel’s very survival — in the real world, if not the far right’s fantasyland. It is the path of madmen and mad men: leaders intoxicated with nationalistic rhetoric, and a population that is (understandably) enraged at the Palestinians.

Of course, this regime believes it is doing what’s best for Israel. And of course, it’s hard to argue for a Palestine in the West Bank when the Palestine in Gaza recently rained rockets on Israeli civilians across Israel. But pro-peace, pro-Israel people are not ignorant; we know the difficult road that lies ahead, and the many conditions that will be necessary for any solution to be implemented. Yet we also know that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has, once again, explicitly endorsed a two-state solution more or less on the 1967 lines (accompanied by unfortunate and belligerent rhetoric — but hardly more belligerent than what one hears from Israeli politicians), and that Israel’s moderate-left and centrist parties are ready to sign such a deal. And, thanks to Israel’s right, we now know the horrifying implications of the alternative.

The choice Israel faces is stark this year: between moderates and rejectionists, between a two-state solution and a one-state morass, between hope and fear. We in America may be passive, but we can no longer claim to be blind.

Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward.


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