Yossi Klein Halevi made aliyah from the U.S. at the start of the Lebanon war in August 1982. That was a time when the country was defined by a right-wing narrative and left-wing narrative.
He found people from Peace Now and Gush Emunim fighting together in the war and fighting each other in the street.
“After the Six Day War of 1967,” he said, “We were still a family but a dysfunctional family. The schism between left and right could be very bitter but it cannot lead to annihilation because we share the same tent.”
Never mind peace, Halevi said. Peace comes and goes. What Israel basically wants is legitimacy, recognition as a Jewish state, which is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position in current negotiations with the Palestinians.
In Israel today there is no longer conflict between left and right. It’s been supplanted by the new divide between haredi and everybody else.
The left won the argument about the dangers of occupying another people. Most Israelis today are centrists who believe in the need of a Palestinian state — but they dare not create one. They know a Palestinian state is an existential threat to Israel.
Halevi spoke last year (okay, last week) at Young Israel of Hillcrest, in Queens, New York, where he signed copies of his latest book, “The Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation (HarperCollins).” His appearance was sponsored by synagogue member Esther Wertenteil in memory of her husband, Louis Wertenteil.
“No Europeans will translate this book,” Halevi mentioned. “My agent said they are not interested in a book that doesn’t condemn the Israeli position.”