Ron Radosh

Israel's Predicament and the World's Response

As Benjamin Netanyahu tries to form a government in Israel, the obstructionist tactics of Kadima’s Tsipi Livni, who refuses to enter any coalition government with Netanyahu, has forced him to seek a governing coalition by turning to the ultra-rightist racist, Avigdor  Lieberman, who will be his foreign minister. The choice could prove to be a disaster for Israel, giving those who seek any excuse to urge a break with Israel a perfect reason. Lieberman, as Martin Peretz writes, is “a thug in personal demeanor and a thug in political belief,” nothing less than a “Jewish neo-fascist.”

Livni argues that she will not join a Netanyahu government because Bibi does not favor a two-state solution, which she and the Kadima party does. As the Jerusalem Post explained in an editorial, that argument is simply not credible. “The truth is ,” the paper editorialized, “that Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have been energetically negotiating with Palestinian leaders to achieve just such an outcome. They offered significant and far-reaching concessions – to no avail. Netanyahu is not keen on a Palestinian state (though it’s a stretch to claim he opposes it) for precisely the reasons Olmert and Livni have failed to achieve one: The Palestinians won’t compromise on borders; they insist on flooding Israel with millions of “refugees,” and the nature of the sovereignty they seek poses an existential danger to Israel’s survivability.”

Yet, Israel’s governing problems is causing a flood of worldwide growing condemnation and isolation of Israel. Ethan Bronner reported in The New York Times growing evidence of this. He quoted the American Jewish author Anne Roiphe, who wrote that Lieberman ‘s growing popularity within Israel made her feel “as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini.” Roiphe is rather typical of those self-proclaimed American leftist peacenik Jews who demand the kind of Israeli government they would be proud to support; i.e., one committed to a two-state solution that is committed to the peace process and wants justice for the Palestinians. Her assumption, unstated, is that the current and past Israeli governments never were. Undoubtedly, were she an Israeli, she would be one more vote for the almost defunct left-wing Meretz Party.

Answering Roiphe is the Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston, who has written an extremely powerful and essential answer, which he sarcastically titles “The racist Israeli fascist in me.” Burston is writing for the daily left of center newspaper, not the rather conservative Jerusalem Post. Yet Burston tries to explain to American Jews like Roiphe why so many in Israel find Lieberman’s racist rantings so appealing. He understands that people like Roiphe find Israel’s current policies an “embarrassment” to so-called “progressive” American Jews. She claims to understand Israel’s predicament, but in fact, Burston notes, she and others do not.

It all comes down to one word, he writes, “rockets.” Israelis have voted overwhelmingly for parties and leaders who want peace, and a stable Palestinian state. But whatever they have done, such as give up Gaza, “Palestinians set up rocket launchers on the ruins of settlements that had been just evacuated. They took aim not only at Sderot, but at some of the very kibbutzim who had most strongly championed the cause of an independent Palestine alongside Israel.”

It is rockets, he writes, not racism, that gave Avigdor Lieberman his political strength. These same rockets are also responsible for the collapse of Meretz, the Labor Party, and the once strong Peace Now movement. It meant, Burston points out, that “it put a sudden end to the idea of land for peace, because no one, even some of the most ardent advocates of a Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, was about to agree to leave Ben-Gurion airport, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem within range of the rockets.” The consensus of opinion within Israel is rightfully skeptical of a phony peace that leaves them open to danger.

And that raises the old cry of Israel’s “disproportionate” response to the rockets from Gaza. Hamas knows that they can keep sending rockets at a level the rest of the world comfortably ignores,  while for Israelis subject to the constant attacks, it is simply unbearable. And when Israel responds, the rest of the world attacks it for their necessary response. The world does not realize, Burston writes, “that when a rocket up to nine feet long flies up to 25 miles traveling at a half a mile per second and lands with up to 44 pounds of explosives packed into its warhead-the human consequences could easily be carnage.”

Would we, one must ask, accept such a situation if rockets from Mexico came at this rate to Texas cities and towns near our border? Would not the entire country demand quickly that the White House act promptly to stop this major attack on our nation? Would it really say it’s not so bad, and why don’t those Texas residents just put up with it? So the situation is this. And again, let me close with Burston’s words:

“The world should know this: No matter how progressive the government in Israel, no matter how grave the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, without an end to the rockets, there will be no peace process and certainly no peace.”

The world’s pressure, and ours, should be put on Hamas- not on any Israeli government. If we keep pointing this out, perhaps even the likes of Anne Roiphe will eventually understand Israel’s predicament.