Israel's Dr. Dolittle Government Has Two Heads When It Comes to Peace

Centrists Want Two-State Progress and Far Right Wants None

Two-Headed Beast: Both sides of Israel’s government agree there is a need for quick action on the peace process. But they disagree profoundly on which direction to go.
getty images
Two-Headed Beast: Both sides of Israel’s government agree there is a need for quick action on the peace process. But they disagree profoundly on which direction to go.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published April 02, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but there does seem to be an awful lot of talk lately about the possible demise of the Jewish state. Indeed, it feels as though it’s heating up just as Israel approaches its 65th birthday. Should we be reading something into the fact that 65 is the age of retirement? Is Zionism headed out to pasture? Or am I just being paranoid?

Nobody is predicting demise as a near-term certainty. Well, nobody other than the mullahs in Iran. Even Hamas is talking about a 50-year cease-fire, which is their way of saying they know Israel isn’t going away any time soon. You hear lots of talk about the end of Zionism from one-staters and BDS types, but that’s basically just wishful thinking. The Berkeley student senate isn’t about to seize control of central Israel.

Actually, it’s mostly Israelis and their friends, not their enemies, who are talking about the prospect of extinction. Not as a sure thing, but as a genuine possibility. To be honest, it’s getting rather alarming.

It’s true, of course, that disaster has been batted about as a possible scenario for as long as there’s been a Jewish state. If the prospect of doom weren’t lurking somewhere nearby, the United Jewish Appeal would be reduced to holding rummage sales. What seems new these days is an element of urgency, a sense that unless Israelis wise up pretty fast, it’s curtains.

The other thing that’s new is the radical discordance in Israelis’ assessments of what’s wrong and how to fix it. In a word, half of Israel believes the country faces doom unless it separates itself from the West Bank and allows the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The other half believes the country faces doom unless it keeps the West Bank and prevents meaningful Palestinian statehood. Both sides think Israel’s problems are eminently manageable, but each believes the other side won’t allow it.

What’s more, each side believes it has the support of the majority of Israelis, but suspects the other side is winning by stealth — the right by expanding West Bank settlements until separation is impossible, the left by conspiring with foreign governments to force Israeli withdrawal. That’s why you hear so much talk about the end of Israel these days: Each side believes the other is on the verge of leading the country over a cliff.

That’s the subtext behind the forced smiles and wildly divergent responses to President Obama’s visit to Israel just before Passover. Obama shares the view of those who think that Israel needs to separate — that peace is “necessary,” “just” and “possible,” as he said in his Jerusalem speech — and that the Netanyahu government is dragging its feet. He went to Israel to try and rouse what he believes is the sleeping majority. This pleased many of his Israeli listeners but infuriated many others, including more than a few who agree with him about peace but resent a foreign leader pulling an end run on Israeli democracy.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.