From Right and Left, Forecasts of Israeli Doom

You know what they say: One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, three is a trend. What about four? That’s how many leading commentators have weighed in over the past week with astonishingly gloomy prognoses about Israel’s future. They come from both left and right. The consensus is that the Jewish state is on the brink of a precipice.

The rightists seem to think there’s nothing Israel could do about it. The leftists say Israel could adjust its policies to respond to the changing realities in its region, but they don’t think Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to do it and they don’t see a more flexible, pragmatic government getting elected any time soon.

The titles include “Can Israel Survive?,” by neoconservative strategic affairs analyst Victor Davis Hanson, in the September 22 National Review Online; “Is Israel Over?” by Israeli dove-turned-hawk historian Benny Morris, in the September 11 Daily Beast; “Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone” by Thomas Friedman in the September 17 New York Times, and “Digging in, the essence of Netanyahu’s foreign policy” by Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, which was published in his paper’s September 16 weekend edition and has since been quoted, analyzed, dissected and massaged in dozens of journals around the globe.

The make a variety of arguments, but Benn’s opening paragraph tells you most of what they’re all getting at:

Unlike the liberal Benn, the conservative Hanson doesn’t blame action or inaction by Israel’s leadership for the turmoil — “to do so is simply to forget history,” he writes — but he expands the list of woes Israel faces in a rather eye-popping manner. In 1967, the last time Israel’s survival seemed threatened,

In fact, several commentators have noted lately that Israel spent most of its first 60 years in a firm alliance with one or both of the other two non-Arab powers in its region, Turkey and Iran. But, as Hanson continues,

And, we need hardly add,

Morris adds a third dimension: the Israeli domestic scene.

After running through the regional threats that the others delineate, Morris concludes:

What could Israel do to turn things around? Well, you’ve heard me say this before, but it’s still true: Israel’s military and intelligence establishment — the folks who are paid to know what the Arabs are up to and how Israel can defend itself—are becoming more and more vocal about the one thing they unanimously believe could take the steam out of the Arab drive, or at least put the blame for the deadlock on the other side: Find a formula that brings the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

According to a September 11 news report in Haaretz, all four of Israel’s main intelligence agencies — Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry intelligence bureau — have been distributing documents to the cabinet “stating that a return to negotiations would tone down tensions and anger against Israel.”

And, in contrast to the gloomy assessments of the outside pundits drawing their inferences from press clippings and their own preconceptions, the intelligence assessments

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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From Right and Left, Forecasts of Israeli Doom

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