Ben-Gurion and the early Israeli leadership were socialist, most of the Israeli left seeking justice for the Palestinians and peace for the Jews following so closely the Holocaust. Before judging Israel by some democratic-liberal standard that has little relevance to the Middle East (see what is happening in Iraq) what people, serially informed the only peace is exit would seventy years later, and by a previous right-wing rejectionist prime minister, still be willing to engage the rejectionists in seeking a just accommodation? Rather than judging Israel de novo, as if the issue of peace is just commencing, you might consider that Jews have been seeking that “accommodation” now for not just the past seventy, but one hundred years under the Mandatory. And at each turn were scorned. 

I believe the turning point from skepticism to apathy in Israel was the aftermath of the Six Day War when Israel, with no “settlements” in the West Bank or Gaza, offered virtually a full return of territory, Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank (the Golan might have represented a different problem since Syria had long used the heights as a firing position into kibbutzim in the valley below) in exchange for peace. And the Arab League response issued from Khartoum was the famous Three No’s! What today are referred to as “settlements” was not a pre-planned creeping annexation (still is not) of the Territories. More likely a response to a continuing threat from the east; as providing protection for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and, I suspect, an impetus that should have inspired a desire by the Palestinian leadership to discuss an accommodation before those “settlements” became that which they have become: home for a generation born and raise in them. Seen from this position and not by some abstract sense of “justice” reduced to slogan “apartheid,” Palestinian demand for all or nothing created what is commonly referred today as the “settlement” problem to start with.

As regards your faith in a “peaceful” solution to the Iranian nuclear program: it is precisely US policy under Bush and Obama that allowed “the problem” to reach weapons threshold. It is precisely the irresolute (in the eyes of the Arab states; I have always described it according to the single-minded effort at avoidance, ignoring the problem of the Iranian bomb as what it was then, and obviously so today: RETREAT. America and not just Obama but Bush also, wants to get out of the mess it created as quickly as possible, at as little cost as possible. And to hell with the natives having to pick up the mess the US created and is leaving behind!

It’s not whether or not Obama carries through Bush’s threat to use force to contain the Iranian Bomb; whether Obama, as Bush preferred, will give Israel the “green” light that Gates/Mullen feared: it is precisely Iran as a threshold nuclear state that is spooking the Saudis into acquiring their own bomb as deterrent. It is precisely American escapism into isolation which is most likely to bring on that nuclear war you, as well as the rest of us, fear.

For John Atkin: I had written this as a far shorter response to your 2/28 comment on my previous blog and doubted, four days later, you would have still expected a response. Expanded, this is my response.