On Sunday, the Israel Policy Forum, which is liberal Zionist, held a Middle East conference at Temple Emanu-El in New York (along with the Clintonite foreign-policy thinktank CNAS), and it is amazing what rightwing ideas were expressed there by two Israeli advocates for the two-state solution.
These Israelis are desperate. Desperate about Israel’s lurch toward a totalitarian Jewish society over there. And desperate about the loss of American Jewish support. And they express themselves in dire ways.
Amnon Reshef, a retired general who leads a group of former security officials trying to preserve the two-state solution, said there is no such thing as the status quo in Palestine; “things are getting worse and worse.” But the only way a Palestinian state can be marketed to Israelis is as “separation.”
Most of the Israelis, they support separation. They don’t want to be a part of one state. They want to be separated. It’s a Zionist dream. They don’t care about the Palestinians.
While Polly Bronstein, the leader of a liberal Israeli organization dedicated to the two state solution, expressed despair that American Jews are criticizing Israel too much and Israelis will hunker down and turn against them. She advised American Jews to tone down “the criticism and more of a hug, and then I think Israelis will be much more willing to hear your advocation for a two state solution as an advice that comes from family you know, from our side, not as an attack that comes from someone that doesn’t understand how Israelis feel in the midst of this conflict.”
Together the two statements demonstrate just how far-right Israel has become, how the two-state solution is a delusion at this point, and also how fearful Israelis are about the split with U.S. Jewry. And this at a liberal panel!
The only liberal statement I heard on the panel was when Khaled Elgindy of Brookings said that the political sign of the times in Palestine is that Mahmoud Abbas’s son wants one state with equal rights for everyone. How horrifying is that? American Jews ought to embrace such an idea, rather than continue to hold the bag for apartheid.
Here are the two Israelis’ statements.
Amnon Reshef founded an Israeli group called Commanders for Israel’s Security that is trying to maintain Israel’s international reputation by preserving the two state solution. But a Palestinian state is a pipe dream.
Right now I see some negative signs. When the government of Israel is planning to expand 3000 new homes– when a Knesset member from the coalition– and the government is going to discuss it– is going to abandon the disengagement law to enable settlers to move once again to northern Samaria, to settlements which were evacuated back in 2005…
I’m watching the atmosphere. And I get some negative trends. I think we should be practical. We can discuss and see the two state solution as a vision. It’s the ultimate goal that we want to be there. But it’s already years and years [away]. And to those who speak about the status quo, there is no status quo. Things are getting worse and worse.
Therefore instead of “dreaming on the two state solution,” Reshef said, he and others came up with an intermediate plan, called security first. It calls for Israel to declare borders and work with Arab states to preserve conditions that would allow a two-state solution some day years in the future. But there’s a hitch.
But it’s not a plan that can be marketed to the Israeli public… The message we approach the Israeli public is just one word, Separation. Most of the Israelis, they support separation. They don’t want to be a part of one state. They want to be separated. It’s a Zionist dream. They don’t care about the Palestinians. We have to think about Israel and the Israelis. What is good for the Israeli. From an Israeli point of view, And the only thing we are working now and focusing now with the Israeli public is separation, the best separation that can be achieved…
Just in case you missed the message, Reshef said it again later:
“Only one thing Israel can do by itself. Separation. Separation, separation, no annexation.”
Isn’t Reshef just marketing apartheid by another name?
He also called for American Jews to unify behind Israel because that is Israel’s greatest security measure. I.e., the Israel lobby.
In the meantime…. our main message to the Israeli public and our American brothers, is unification. We have to keep Israel and the Jewish world unified. It is the best security measure that can be reached.
Polly Bronstein of Darkenu (formerly One Voice and V15, which helped Labor in the last election) also gave a speech warning American Jews against turning against Israel.
We are less and less willing to get criticism, even from within, more than that from the outside. And criticism as a whole in Israel is not taken very well.
She related doing a focus group with rightwingers. They were shown a billboard, “Netanyahu is weak in front of terror.” The rightwingers said, Absolutely true. But they were against putting that idea on a billboard, “because then the Arabs will know he’s weak, and that will weaken Israel.”
That’s how mindsets in Israel work. You cannot criticize Israel outside, because it weakens Israel. So the way that the moderate Jewish community in the United States needs to be involved with Israel is to tone down the criticism– that’s my personal opinion– and more advising, more empathy, understanding that the Israelis will listen more and bring down their psychological barriers to criticism if it comes in other ways.
Bronstein told another story. She spoke at the J Street conference last March in Washington. But before her panel, there was a speech by Bernie Sanders (transcript here), “which was accepted there like a rock star.” Most of the audience was young, and there were several standing ovations. But she hated the speech.
They all loved it. They thought it was brilliant. I hated it. It was painful to me. The reason I hated it… is that everything he said was true. The criticism was all true. He talked about occupation and roadblocks and the responsibility of the Israeli government and I agree with all of that, but he didn’t say anything not even one word about the Palestinian responsibility for the conflict. About the incitement, about the terror, about the opportunities they missed every time! Nothing. It was like they didn’t even exist. For that matter, it was even a little condescending. There are two sides here. There’s not one victim and one oppressor… Show the complexity.
Here’s her line about hugs.
To you I say, I think it’s very important for the moderate majority of the Jewish community of America, to show that it sees both sides, that it understands and empathizes the side of Israel, that it… tones down the criticism and more of a hug, and then I think Israelis will be much more willing to hear your advocation for a two state solution as an advice that comes from family you know, from our side, not as an attack that comes from someone that doesn’t understand how Israelis feel in the midst of this conflict.
These statements demonstrate that there is no real lib/left in Israeli Jewish politics. The centrist Zionist calls for “separation, separation, separation” so that Jews have nothing to do with Palestinians, while the liberal tells American Jews to shut up about criticizing Israel because Israelis won’t listen. This is how the Zionist dream/nightmare of a “Jewish state” has turned out on the ground. The only way out of this stifling rightwing atmosphere, imho, is for some other political combinations inside Israel and Palestine, which would entail giving Palestinians the vote so that there might actually be a real center-liberal faction. Giving Palestinians the vote– how many American Jews even want to hear that. (I guess, more and more of the young.)