Confusing Israel's Doves and Hawks

People Who Could Best Defend Jewish State Are Kept Quiet

Gatekeepers: A scene from the Oscar-nominated documentary about former Shin Bet directors who think the occupation needs to end.
Gatekeepers: A scene from the Oscar-nominated documentary about former Shin Bet directors who think the occupation needs to end.

By Jay Michaelson

Published April 16, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
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Doves and hawks. Idealists and realists. We’re used to these dichotomies in politics, and eventually most of us choose one side or the other. Trouble is, when it comes to Israel, the dichotomy is not so straightforward. Israel’s security hawks — the defense establishment, former generals and the former heads of the Shin Bet — are almost all on the “dove” side, favoring real negotiations for a real two-state solution; an end to settlement activity, and a focus on both Palestine and Iran, rather than using the latter to distract from the former.

Israel’s so-called hawks, meanwhile, are pursuing an ideology-driven, religion-driven and illusion-driven strategy that favors annexation of Palestinian territory and an open-ended occupation that is projected to last 100 years. That’s not a hawk — that’s an ostrich.

Moreover, the ideology ostriches’ amen corner in the United States has repeatedly undermined the security-hawks’ (and doves’) ability to serve as advocates for the Jewish state. By ostracizing the pro-Israel, pro-peace camp, the ideological right has reduced intra-communal and on-campus debates to right and left, hawks and doves, nationalists and peaceniks. And then they wonder why college students choose the latter. How did we get to this place? The answers are different for Israel and America.

In Israel, films like “The Gatekeepers” serve as useful reminders that the mainstream of Israel’s defense and security apparatuses never favored an open-ended occupation, or settlement of the West Bank. The settlers and their supporters weren’t hawks; they were a wacky religious fringe, driven by messianic impulses to reclaim the biblical Land of Israel and to bring the redemption. Of course, there were outliers like Ariel Sharon: security men who favored settlements.

But the notion that the territories are “vital for Israel’s security” is spin, not fact. In fact, the opposite is the case; getting out of the territories is vital for Israel’s security.

The Israeli left shares the blame, in perception if not reality. Consider the political life of Shimon Peres, for example. This is a man who essentially created Israel’s nuclear program, and yet he is widely regarded — or depicted — as hopelessly naive and optimistic. Really? Peres may be part dove, but his policies have long been, well, Israel first.

Yet somehow the “peace camp” is seen as making peace only out of pity for the Palestinians rather than for the strategic best interests of Israel. As if justice for “them” and security for “us” were mutually exclusive — whereas in fact they are interdependent.

The ideological right is motivated not by security but by religious-nationalist zeal. Imagine if America’s foreign policy were dictated by evangelicals who believed the Rapture was imminent. The result would be pretty much like what the National Religious Party, and now Bayit Hayehudi, have long advocated for Israel: an ideologically-driven agenda that makes no sense as a security strategy. Because it isn’t one.

This is not some lefty American dove talking: This is what Israel’s security hawks say. If you haven’t seen “The Gatekeepers,” see it. Or read the hawks’ books. At least look at their résumés.


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