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Praying for Failure

A reason often given for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s current pursuit of the annexation (“Israeli sovereignty”) of parts of the West Bank is to fix Israel’s Eastern border that would incorporate most or all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank yet take up a relatively small part of the area currently under Palestinian control as potential Palestinian state. The time is now, so the argument goes, while Donald Trump, “the great friend of Israel,” is still in power.

It is difficult to justify these effort on their merits, which seem minimal. The project will not bring about any real change other than further despondency on the part of the Palestinians. Irrational forces seem to be at play pointing more to the ambitions of Prime Minister Netanyahu than the advantages for the Jewish state. These ambitions include gaining right-wing votes and convincing us that Netanyahu and only he can lead this country. This has brought even some former supporters to the painful conclusion that the prime minister does not seem to act in the interest of the country but is pursuing his own agenda.

That agenda has probably much to do with his trial due to start next month which may end up in conviction and jail. Netanyahu seems to be fighting for his life at the expense of the lives of countless citizens of the country he is supposed to lead as well as lives our its neighbors.

Many of us have hoped that Benny Gantz joining the government would prevent this, but that is no longer obvious. Though, despite their assurances of not sitting in a Netanyahu government, two former Chiefs of Staff (Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi) are now senior members of his cabinet, ostensibly in their hope of thus averting an existential crisis caused by the impasse of successive inconclusive election results. Despite their seemingly noble intentions, they have proven quite ineffective as correctives to the prime minister’s excesses. The crisis may emerge again, and they may now be among the accomplices.

In addition, the reactions of much of the international community – including influential parts of the Diaspora, i.e., American Jewry – and the likelihood that Trump is not much of a friend of Israel  (as Bolton’s forthcoming book may show)- are bound to harm Israel in many ways. The annexation project may turn out to be a (we hope botched) suicide attempt instigated by the man who sees himself as the savior of the Jewish state.

All we can hope for is that the annexation will not happen; that it is just an empty gesture by a desperate prime minister which progressive forces in the world, perhaps even within the US Administration, will thwart.

That is the most optimistic note on which to conclude this piece. We must refuse to believe that the folly of misguided patriotism will come to rule us. There are enough sensible women and men in this country, helped by friends abroad, to make sure that the ambitions of one man and his supporters are not allowed to destroy us.

Jerusalem 19.6.20                                                                                                             Dow Marmur

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