Despair, Israeli Style

When it’s not preoccupied with Gilad Schalit’s release-not-release, the settlement freeze-not-freeze, the never-ending Iran nightmare or Bibi Netanyahu’s offer/threat to bring Tsipi Livni’s Kadima into his coalition, in whole or in pieces, the Israeli press has lately been publishing a good deal of what can only be described as existential despair.

Nobody has captured the angst more exquisitely than Yair Lapid of Yediot Ahronot, one of the country’s best-known and most firmly centrist journalists, in a December 20 column titled “So what now?

In a slightly more dispassionate tone, the underlying tension is described in a December 24 op-ed titled “Two Types of Zionism. It’s by Gadi Taub, an essayist, Hebrew University professor of communications and public policy (and occasional Forward contributor):

Taub ends on confident note: the “Zionism of the state” will outlast the “Zionism of the land.” “There’s “no need to panic.”

Maybe not, but they’re making a pretty good show of it. Consider:

Two hundred 12th-graders wrote an open letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak December 24 declaring that they will “fight the enemy” but they’ll refuse to evacuate settlers.

A battalion of reservists hung a sign on the gate of their base December 21 at the end of a month of training, declaring their solidarity with a military yeshiva that was expelled from the army’s Hesder training-and-Torah program because its head rabbi refused to stop teaching recruits to disobey orders. Dozens of rabbis and teachers in other Hesder yeshivas wrote a December 18 open letter to their students — all of whom are soldiers in uniform—that “Torah law” takes precedence over army commands and they must disobey any orders to evacuate or dismantle settlements.

Yisrael Harel, one of the founders of the settler movement and former chairman of the Judea-Samaria Settlement Council, warned in a defiant essay in the Jerusalem Post December 20 that the settlers won’t go down without a fight. But there’s more than a hint of anxiety in his defiance.

Moreover, Harel writes,

Working for the settlers, Harel writes, is the fact that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is perceived by settlers and others as a weak figure who succumbs to whoever pressures hardest.” But there’s a flip side:

One of the most surprising notes of fatigue came from the editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, in a December 24 signed column titled “A Nation Held Hostage.” It’s a long, agonized one-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand parsing Israel’s dilemma over freeing Palestinian prisoners to win back Gilad Schalit, the soldier kidnapped in June 2006 and held ever since by Hamas in Gaza.

On one hand, Horovitz writes,

On the other hand,

But should Israel free hundreds of committed terrorists to win back one soldier? The answer from the veteran editor of the Jerusalem Post is: I don’t know.

Or, to paraphrase: I’m stuck, and I don’t know how to get out. You get a sense that he’s speaking for all Israel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg is editor emeritus of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

Despair, Israeli Style

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