By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
What many feared and others hoped for may be about to happen: the Obama administration in its second term will be much tougher on the Netanyahu government than it was in the first four years. The appointment of John Kerry as the nextUSSecretary of State and the anticipated appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense point in that direction. And the predicted American self-sufficiency in oil is likely to progressively diminish theUnited States’ interest in theMiddle East.
The fear is particularly palpable inIsraelbecause its Jewish population is at present veering very much to the right. Many Israelis seem to espouse the doctrine that a two-state solution is likely to jeopardizeIsrael’s security, especially as Hamas may end up ruling not onlyGazabut also theWest Bank. Though Israel’s perceived intransigence is often condemned by the free world, the received wisdom here is that defense is a much higher priority than diplomatic approval and therefore – to quote once again the saying attributed to Ben Gurion – what matters is what Jews do, not what Gentiles say.
Though I don’t disagree with this dictum, I’m among those who believe that Jews doing peace, not just talking peace, even if the price may seem very steep, is essential for the survival of the Jewish state. The current hawkishness inIsrael, reflected in the election campaign, seriously endangers its future.
My concern isn’t to make a good impression on the Gentiles, though being deliberately provocative as manifest in the demeanor of the (temporarily absent) Foreign Minister or in the in-your-face repeated announcements about building plans in the West Bank and in Jerusalem by the Prime Minister, isn’t the best way of gaining friends and influencing people. But the real concern is, of course, with the very future ofIsrael.
I subscribe to the view that the present situation is untenable diplomatically (becauseIsraeldepends on international approval; blaming all critics, be they Jews or Gentiles, as anti-Semites is cheap and false); demographically (because soon there may not be enough Jews in the Jewish state); and morally (because occupation tramples on Jewish values). The arguments are well known and need not be repeated here.
The second Obama administration may help us to save ourselves from ourselves by putting pressure on Israelto make concessions, nay sacrifices, in order to bring about a Palestinian state. Neither the United Nations nor the Palestinians (with their duplicitous games) alone can bring that about. For that, a negotiated settlement is sine qua non.
Nobody believes that this will by itself solve Israel’s security problems, but it’s reasonable to assume that a settlement brokered – perhaps even imposed – by the United States would include its unequivocal commitment to protect Israel should that be necessary. (And it may be less necessary then than it is under present conditions.)
A cartoon in today’s Yisrael Hayom (the free newspaper paid for by Sheldon Adelson that acts as the mouthpiece of the Prime Minister) shows Obama handing John Kerry the insignia of his new office: a carrot and a stick.
It seems to me that Israelneeds both. Though it may take time before the majority of its citizens will realize it, there’s reason to hope that in the next few years enough Israelis will accept that concession and compromise are no less important for our survival than the IDF.