Israel’s Long-Term Security

Palestinian Nonviolent ProtestThe Israel-Palestine conflict is a difficult one for me and for most liberals. We want to support Israel because of, well, the Holocaust. But the country is currently behaving rather badly. And the Palestinians are clearly an oppressed people, but the terrorists acts are hard to support. But in general, I tend to side with the Palestinians because they are currently the weak party. What’s more, as Juan Cole has noted, not only were the Israelis active terrorists before they got to their current powerful position, “One of the arguments Israeli politicians give for allowing Israeli squatters to keep the Palestinian land in the West Bank that they have usurped is that attempting to move them back out would produce violence.”

One person I depend upon to shine a light on the conflict is Eric Alterman. He is certainly not anti-Israel, but he’s more than willing to look seriously at what’s going on. And in this regard, last week at The Nation, he wrote, Israel Celebrates a Return to the Status Quo in the Middle East. The perspective of the article is summed up in its subtitle, “Many Israelis, Netanyahu included, were never serious about seeking a two-state solution in the peace negotiations.” It’s very depressing.

Basically, he argues that the status quo is in the best short-term interests of Israel. No one in power is really interested in making any kind of a deal, so it is very easy to sabotage. And that’s exactly what Housing Minister Uri Ariel did when he approved over 700 new homes in the illegal Gilo settlement. All the talk of a two-state solution is just lip service. It is in the service of keeping American and European allies supporting the government.

I wonder how good a long-term strategy this is, however. Just in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a shift in American opinion about Israel. It isn’t that people have stopped supporting the country. But there is push back against what has become a kind of standard conservative belief that whatever is good for Israel is good for America. People are questioning that. And going along with it is the idea that Israel is a real pain. They are like the crazy brother who you try to keep out of trouble. And if I were Netanyahu, I would be worried about this growing realization.

It just isn’t much of a step from accepting that Israel isn’t good by definition to realizing that their treatment of the Palestinians really is quite awful. I don’t think that Israel is any worse in its position than any other government would be. Governments tend to push whatever power they have. And if it were a thousand years ago, this conflict would have ended long ago with a genocide. You can read all about it in the Old Testament. But what’s going on is the same kind of thing, just done at a very slow pace so as not to upset Israel’s allies. It isn’t a genocide, though; rather it is just a way to slowly displace the Palestinians from their land, one settlement (One house!) at a time.

Ultimately, Israel needs the goodwill of the rest of the world—most especially of the United States. I think they should bear that in mind, because their long-term security depends upon it. Giving in a bit to the Palestinians now might be a great deal ten or twenty years from now.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Israel’s Long-Term Security

  1. Alterman is unfortunately embroiled in the classic "liberals eat their own" quagmire. He’s virulently against the BDS movement, because he thinks it is counter-productive for getting decent treatment of Palestianians. Those who think it is a strong lever to change Israeli policy get mad at him and others who do not agree with the movement’s methods. So, once again, because liberals actually give a shit about results, people who are basically on the same side get cannibalistic. (For the record, I can’t say if BDS is a good or bad idea. They do have, on their side, the argument that little else has worked so far, but one can’t discount the fear that things could get worse.)

    I suspect this is a side effect of losing. When you’re getting what you want, as the right-wing is doing, you just aren’t as passionate about principles.

    It strikes me that there’s something a bit schizophrenic about the Israeli right-wing (and its American supporters.) On the one hand, they do not wish to be a minority in a state where Palestinians are given equal rights, because throughout history there are many instances of Jews being tolerated by the majority for a while then scapegoated and assaulted/murdered whenever the majority finds it politically convenient. (Europe was particularly awful in this regard, Muslim states far less so back in the day, as you know.)

    On the other hand, the pro-apartheid camp seems content to believe that American support will defend Israel forever. This feels to me like an unwise assumption. The US has virtually no history of sticking up for any ally if it perceives its power interests to be elsewhere.

    Currently the American right-wing ties support for Israel into its demonization of Islam and need to assure followers that the economic pain of "free-market" policies will soon be alleviated by incipient Armaggeddon, but this is a really, really recent development. When American Jews fought for the civil rights of American Blacks, Jews were loathed by our right-wingers eight ways from Sunday. It may be difficult to conceive of how future developments might make it convenient for our right-wing to ostracize Judiasm again, but there’s little doubt such a strategy would be used immediately the moment it became opportunistically useful.

  2. @JMF – Yeah, he discussed BDS at the end of the article. I didn’t bring it up because I’m with you: I can’t really make up my mind. It is definitely an issue on which good people can differ. But Alterman makes a good point: if Europe and America sour on the Israeli government’s behavior, things will change for the better fast. Just the same, his arguments against BDS are exactly what I recall from conservatives during the South Africa movement.

    I think it is safe to say that American conservatives are not that hot on Jews. It is Israel that they love. If you listen to conservative Christians, you will see that they love Israel because of its use in the End Times. The fact that all those Jews will then burn in hell doesn’t bother them at all. But it [i]does[/i] bother a lot of Israeli Jews.

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