“In a time of crisis, there is rational tendency to turn to the writer,” A. B. Yehoshua told his audience at London’s Jewish Book Week on February 24. It is rational, he proposed, because the novelist “deals in the writing with morality” and is constantly grappling with essential questions.
Politics was indeed an inescapable subject at Yehoshua’s talk. The recent election has given Yehoshua cause for optimism, since the chiding of Netanyahu by the franchise helps “stop the glide towards a binational state,” a solution Yehoshua believes to be implausible. Israelis and Palestinians are “two different nations” with separate “religions and history,” he said — they are “connected to different worlds.”
However, the road to a binational entity can only be blocked by a halt in settlement construction. Bringing this about, Yehoshua believes, is a “certain responsibility of the United States.” Israel and the United States have what Yehoshua called a “sentimental relationship,” which has manifested itself by the latter giving the former “carte blanche to do whatever it wants.” In particular, Yehoshua believes the settlements could be stopped if the United States used its financial leverage. “The settlements are a drug — America pays for the drug.”
Yehoshua’s bold proclamations came at the conclusion of the packed second day of Jewish Book Week, London’s nine-day literary festival that began February 23, celebrating the best of Jewish literature and ideas. Yehoshua was preceded on Sunday by Laurent Binet, discussing his debut novel “HHhH,” about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, and by David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary, talking about the legacy of the late historian and social democrat, Tony Judt. Later this week Simon Schama, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Shani Boianjiu, Sayed Kashua, and Deborah Levy will also be in attendance.