Sunday, March 22, 2015

All Eyes On Israel

We're going to need our mucking boots today because we're going to wade into the Middle East. Until now, I have assiduously avoided all mention of the region because it's messy and confusing and controversial and, quite frankly, my ideas have, shall we say, evolved over time. But the events of the day are far too important and compelling for me to stay away from the issues, so I am now going to opine. With FEEling.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a first- and world-class jerk who has no business actually running a government. His comments last week on the eve of the Israeli elections regarding a two state solution with the Palestinians and his warnings about Israeli Arabs voting in droves have only widened the differences between Israel and both the US government and many American Jews. His speech in front of Congress, orchestrated by the House Republican leadership and done without consulting or notifying the Obama Administration, was a new low in political gaming and rogue foreign policy. That the speech almost ended up actually costing Netanyahu his election, and thus his need to play the racist, far-right card, told us that he would do anything to win votes (not a bad thing in and of itself, mind you). His persistent warnings about Iran's intentions to build a bomb and use it on Israel are complicating the nuclear talks between the US and Iran, and his approval of new Israeli settlements is angering our allies around the world.

And yet...

Netanyahu and his right wing government, is the only institution that is standing between Israel's future existence and radical, terrorist, anti-Semitic entities that want to destroy it. His focus on Israel's security is a prerequisite for winning and holding national office and, along with the economy, is the main issue for both domestic and foreign consumption. He's a strong leader and has been able to navigate his way through the thickets of his country's political system en route to 4 national election victories.

I support Israel and believe that it must survive and thrive as a testament to its Jewish roots, its democracy, its vibrant culture and its place as an island of hope in a hostile world. I also believe that there should be a state for the Palestinians because the present political and social arrangement is unsustainable and in some cases, inhuman. But now we are stuck because the current state of world affairs is so polarized and unforgiving, that any compromise seems to be impossible. Radical Islamic groups would like nothing more than to see Israel destroyed. Israel needs to confront its adversaries and deserves the right to defend itself against attacks from both rockets and words.

What to do? The easy thing is to say that the Arab and Islamic states need to formally recognize that Israel exists and will continue to exist, and that the Israelis need to recognize that they will have to give up some land that they won in the six day war of 1967. Militant groups will need to give up their weapons and stop using them against Israel, and Israel will need to loosen some of the border restrictions so that the Palestinians can freely conduct commerce and make their economy grow. Sounds easy, right?

Of course it isn't and Netanyahu isn't going to help. He's going to hold a hard line now and wait to see who the next US president is going to be, hoping it's someone he can work with, since his relationship with Obama is probably irreparable. I'm sure he'd love to see a more aggressive neo-conservative Republican, but I think Hillary Clinton would fit the bill too.

In the meantime, he'll continue to oppose anything that might threaten Israel and will oppose any agreement with the Iranians. And there will be an agreement with the Iranians because deep down I think the Iranians want an agreement on their nuclear program. The Iranian economy is in a shambles because of sanctions and the middle class (yes, there is a middle class) is demanding a place in the larger world. A nuclear agreement would also hold the Iranians to specific actions and inspections that, while there are many who say they will ultimately ignore any limits, will require Iran to play by the world's rules if it wants to be taken seriously. I could be utterly misreading the politics, but I don't think so. Attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon will only invite Iran's destruction. They clearly don't want that.

The prospects for genuine peace in the region look about as bleak as they ever have, and it will probably take a new generation of leadership to improve them. Of course, weren't we saying the same thing in the 1970s?

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1 comment:

  1. Your statement that Netanyahu has no business running a government is ignorant at best and boarders on the line of an naive and frankly arrogant statement. While his first priority is clearly the protection of his country, your neoconservative argument that he will refuse any opportunity for peace settlement with the Iranians is false at best. Through he is cautious in his actions and resists to take many opportunities presented to him, he falls in the category of being a realist as opposed to an idealist in many cases. The essence of realism that so bluntly dictates his thoughts and consequently his decisions in government, places him in a good position for defending the one thing that matters most in his government, the protection from harsh and severe terrorist attacks lead by radical ideologies of anti-semitism and hatred. These terror attacks are blatantly an act of full fledged war and in my opinion should have resulted in a full fledged attack on the causes of these years ago. However he is cornered by the worlds ill informed attitude towards Israel as a harsh and worthy of punishment government.
    While I agree with some of you points I also believe that some others are against my own opinions. I would love to say more but I have a class on 19th century political ideals that won't teach itself. I would enjoy communicating with you by email and discuss your fascinating thoughs more in depth, feel free to shoot me an email at and I will get back to you as soon as possible.