Thomas Friedman is always good for a giggle and his latest opinion piece, entitled “This Israeli Election Matters” is so laced with irony that if you didn’t know his form for one-sided codswallop, you might mistake it for satire. Well a humourless attempt at satire perhaps.
In one respect Friedman is correct that the upcoming election is a battle for the soul of the nation but his understanding of the real question is as deeply misguided as it is historically illiterate.
Squaring the national debate as question of which parties will follow in the hallowed footsteps of israel’s founding Prime Minister, we see an entirely false characterisation of David Ben-Gurion as a kind of Zionist Mahatma Ghandi.,And just as Gandhi himself advised Europe’s Jews to smile as they embraced death at the hands of the Nazis- content in their moral superiority of course- Friedman now suggests that in order to avoid the “South African future that the Israeli far right is offering them“, Israel’s Jews should adopt national suicide in order to demonstrate our superior ethics. A choice by the way which has no personal repercussions for Friedman.
The far-right to which Friedman refers is no less than Naftali Bennett, who is presented as a religious extremist. This is palpable nonsense. In reality Bennett’s record on religious issues shows his Jewish Home party to be a reasonably liberal force within Jewish orthodoxy, well within the mainstream of Jewish opinion. The Jewish Home has been the driving force on the drafting of the Haredim into both the IDF and the workforce and the dilution of the Chief Rabbinate’s political power on issues of marriage and conversion. But if that doesn’t seem like religious extremism to you then you’re missing the point. Domestic policy is not the real objection.
The central issue is Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Arabs who reside in Judea and Samaria. Friedman believes the Palestinian Arabs have a right to a state in Judea and Samaria.Bennett does not share this assessment, either on moral or security grounds and so he naturally is caricatured as an extremist nutjob, regardless of what he actually says or believes.
Should Bennett end up as kingmaker in the next knesset, we are warned of plummeting global stature, boycotts and other horrors. The only way to avoid this forecast dystopia is by electing a leftist government that accepts the dictates of the international community.
But doing this would not be some Ben Gurionesque manoeuvre. The founding generation led by David Ben Gurion were not fools but hard-nosed realists who understood exactly what was at stake for the Jewish nation. Indeed, were it not for Ben Gurion’s refusal to bow to the will of more powerful nations there would have been no declaration of independence and no State of Israel to be vilified or boycotted..
In order to support his analysis- that only territorial withdrawal can avoid international isolation, Friedman wheels out Amos Yadlin, the former head of military Intelligence, providing us with a stellar example of the foolishness of relying on the opinion of one individual, however well informed he or she may be.
Yadlin we are told- with no sense of irony- “wants the next Israeli government to take “all of Israel’s innovative spirit and brains” and apply them to “out-of-the-box thinking” to find a secure way forward.” before he treats us by trotting out the same stale, ideologically-driven options put forward by the left for the last 20 years. All of which have repeatedly been shown by reality to be both false and dangerous.
Are re-packaged versions of the same tried and true failures really the best of Israeli creative thinking? No, This is what I call the Einstein Solution: repeating the exact same things and expecting a different result. The left- who claim to care about human rights- continue to offer solutions which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians It is literally madness,
Since Israel began the path of negotiations and evacuation of territory we have seen war rather than peace. These bold moves coupled with settlement freezes and the release of convicted murderers have seen Israel’s international standing decline to such an extent that when we are forced to defend ourselves from the territory we have given up- in line with the demands of the international community-,our soldiers are called war-criminals and murderers.
And yet Friedman devotes no more than two sentences to the entirely reasonable Israeli concern that a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will leave Israel effectively defenceless in the event of a Hamas takeover of the territory, or the putative Palestinian-Arab state abrogating its commitments under a peace treaty. A brevity reminiscent of Nietzsche but sadly lacking the philosopher’s insight.
The right which is cognizant of these security issues has begun to offer new approaches to the longstanding conflict between Jews and Arabs in the land of Israel and those who want a genuine peace should be open to a discussion of these. Instead the left clings to ideological constructs which are far from the continuation of classical zionism.
The path proposed by the left and centre is one of craven cowardice which accepts the weakness of the Jewish people as a fait accompli. However, the founding generation made no such concession to our lowly numbers, for had they done so the nation of Israel would not have reclaimed the land of Israel.
The real choice facing Israel is whether we will adopt the galut mentality of a small persecuted minority and opt for suicidal concessions out of fear of political confrontations, or whether the Jewish people choose to stand up for our rights in our homeland despite the nations continued efforts to deny Jews all that is granted to other peoples without question?
Friedman ends with an exhortation to the spirit of Hatikva (the hope) forgetting that the 2,000 year hope of the zionist dream was not to be popular or morally superior but rather to be “a free people in our land”.