US President Trump promises/threatens again to release his plan for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict before the March 2 elections in Israel. I haven’t read anything that takes the plan seriously or spoken to anybody who believes in it. But I’ve heard much about the conflict being insoluble. That is the view of Micah Goodman, one of the brightest stars on Israel’s current intellectual firmament. In a long essay in the April 1 issue if The Atlantic he tells us why the conflict cannot be solved (but it can be shrunk: whereof more another time).
To control the whole Land of Israel, i.e., dismantling the Palestinian state and annexing it, which has been the avowed aim of the Israeli right, is likely turn the Jews into a minority and thus kill the Zionist dream. Goodman writes: “The desire to control the whole land of Israel, therefore, threatens the State of Israel’s self-definition. Paradoxically, permanent control of the biblical homeland would not deepen Israel’s Jewish identity, but likely annul it.”
Withdrawing from the West Bank and thus helping create a Palestinian state, which has been part of the program of the political left, is no less dangerous. Goodman again: “If the Middle East’s most radical forces poured into a weak Palestinian state, Israel would likely to find the Middle East’s carnage on its doorstep of Tel Aviv.”
Hence his observation: “The Israeli right and left are mirror images of each other. The right no longer believes that settling the territories will bring redemption; instead, it fears that withdrawing from the territories will bring disaster. The left no longer believes that withdrawing from the territories will bring redemption; instead, it fears that staying there will bring disaster. The Israeli left and right have undergone an identical change, moving from dreams to fears.”
Goodman continues: “So long as the left promised a utopia of peace and the right promised a utopia of messianic redemption, Israelis had to choose one path and rule out the other. But now that the right’s main idea is not the utopia of messianic redemption but the catastrophe if withdrawal, and the left’s main idea is not the utopia of peace but the catastrophe of occupation, there is no real clash between them, at least not a necessary one. While rival visions of utopia can only clash, fears can coincide.”
And again: “The belief in national freedom is the beating heart of Zionism, so controlling another nation is not a Zionist act. The belief in the Jewish people’s right to live in security is equally integral to Zionism, so endangering the Jewish people’s security would not be a Zionist act either.” Thus: an impasse.
That’s why there’s no discussion about this most vital issue for the future of Israel among the two sides in the current election debate or in the previous ones. Ominously, neither seems to have much to say on the subject. Nor do they seem to anticipate help from Trump.
Jerusalem 18.1.20 (Motzaei Shabbat) Dow Marmur