The Book “Catch 67” (מלכוד 67, הוצאת דביר) by Dr. Micah Goodman has caught on like wild-fire. It has been atop the various Israeli best-seller lists ever since it was first published a few months ago. The success of the book can be attributed to the fact that, rather than deciding in favor of the views espoused by the “Right or the “Left” which have come to dominate the political discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but which no longer reflect the Israeli mainstream, Goodman listens attentively to the arguments on both sides. After presenting both views in a clear and concise fashion he acknowledges that, in many respects, they are both right. However, since the two views are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive, they can’t both be right. Thus, Goodman concludes we are caught in a trap from which there is no apparent escape.
In order to move forward, Goodman proposes that rather than identifying a “solution” to the “problem” we would be better off seeking an “escape route” from the “trap” within which we find ourselves. Seeking such an escape will not eliminate the problem altogether but will reduce its severity so that it doesn’t pose an existential threat. Just as there are tumors that can only be treated rather than cured, and such treatments often lead to long and productive lives, so too Israel can continue to live and even thrive if we relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a chronic condition than can be “treated” but not cured. Goodman then proceeds to outline the details of such “treatment” which would involve a partial withdrawal in exchange for a partial peace.
The impact of the book has extended beyond the Israeli public and has reached the upper-echelons of Israel’s political leadership. In an op-ed piece that appeared in Haaretz (May 11), Ehud Barak – the former Prime Minister and former Minister of Defense – in what he declared was his first book review, wrote a long and detailed critique of the book which he followed up with a YouTube video version of the same (Goodman’s response to Barak appeared in Haaretz the following week). Apparently, Barak figured that the best way to launch his political comeback was to critique a book that has become the subject of so much interest and conversation around the country.
But what occurred in the Knesset this past Tuesday around “Catch 67” was positively mind-blowing. MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (The Zionist Union) along with MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) organized a conference in the Knesset to discuss the book and its implications. Yes, a conference in the Knesset organized to discuss the virtues of the ideas presented in a book! In the spirit of the book, the conference called for listening, respect for others and dialogue in an effort to find creative approaches to dealing with the conflict.
Among the panelists were Isaac Herzog (former chairman of the Labor Party and current leader of the opposition), Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and other MK’s and dignitaries. Having personally attended this conference I can attest to the fact that it, indeed, achieved its goals and that, while no agreements were reached, it was refreshing to see the Knesset used as a forum for listening and learning rather than for shouting and name-calling.
Whether or not “Catch 67” provides the key to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains to be seen. In the meantime, the fact that it is helping change the nature and the tone of the political discourse in the Knesset and within Israeli society is enough of a reason to express appreciation and gratitude to its author.