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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

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.


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!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • 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
  • 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.