Benny, just say no!

There was another Donald in Washington once, and although his legacy was as destructive as the present Donald’s is shaping up to be, one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s notorious witticisms is often useful. It can be well applied to the looming annexation by Israel of some of the West Bank, which — according to PM Binyamin Netanyahu  — the present Donald has sanctioned with his “deal of the century.”

We know that we don’t know whether the annexation will really trigger the threatened violent backlash from the Palestinians, or whether the Arab/Moslem world is weakened and divided enough to abandon them. The Israeli military brass seems to consider such developments a definite possibility, but who knows? It might be a false alarm. We might get lucky.

We know that we don’t know whether the Palestinian Authority, which has already announced it would repudiate the Oslo Accords that created it, will really throw in the towel. Likewise, we don’t know whether that would saddle the Israeli military with the full policing burden throughout the Bank’s cities and towns, and whether that would return the IDF’s casualty rate to bloody pre-Oslo levels as well as disrupting its training routine and corrupting its ethics even further than the status quo has.  Who knows? We might get lucky and the Palestinians might agree to keep on doing our dirty work (just as Trump promised that the Taleban would kill the terrorists in Afghanistan once he agreed to pull US troops out; good luck with that, too).

We know that we don’t know whether the annexation might be the last straw for much, if not most, of diaspora Jewry — especially in America. Who knows? They might at last understand that they need us more than we need them, that we are their safeguard against local resentment rather than part of its cause, and rally to our unquestioning support. We might get lucky (just in case, let me mark this remark and some others here as sarcastic).

We know that we don’t know whether the annexation will land Israel in really hot water with the European Union and members thereof (e.g., Germany whose foreign Minister arrives today to plead against annexation), the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, or a host of other bodies that cumulatively make up “the international community.” Who knows? They might all chicken out as usual, or settle for an ineffectual slap on the wrist that we can dismiss as anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. We might get lucky.

We know that we don’t know  whether Trump’s so-called administration, if it ever meant to implement that “deal” beyond election spin for BFF Bibi, is now in such a double pickle (Covid-19 disaster and George Floyd protests) that it will put up with any cherry-picking among the “deal’s” provisions. US plenipotentiary David Friedman was reportedly called in for the extraordinary task of cobbling together a deal of the millennium between Bibi and that knight of the ludicrous appellation, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. Who knows? We might get lucky. This push me-pull you coalition might agree upon, and Jared & Co. might accept, such a formula as Bibi floated: “the American can call it a Palestinian state, but we’ll know what it really is.” That reminded me of a suddenly timely crack about political correctness on the 1970s sitcom Mary Hartman: “Sure, we’ll call them  African-Americans, but we’ll know that they’re N….s.” But I digress.

Mr. Gantz, as IDF chief of staff would you have launched an operation on the strength of assessments that we just might get lucky on so many counts?

Now, we do know that the annexation will irreversibly contaminate Israel’s character and reputation, but although this warning has been endlessly reiterated it hardly seems to bother any of our myriad ministers. So, more to the point: we know that your political career is washed up almost before it began, thanks to your spectacular cave-in on the virtually single plank of your patchwork vehicle: “We’ll never accept a prime minister under criminal charges.” On everything else, there was little daylight between the two of you. Heck, you even flew to match Bibi for a photo-op with Trump, and proposed that the Knesset legislate his “deal.”

But you did add a proviso that the putative annexation should be implemented “by agreement and with the support of the international community.” We do know that we know that the odds for this to materialize make the chances of a snowball in hell look promising.

So although your prospects are deservedly dim in a fourth election, if you bring the coalition down by refusing to cave on that proviso, you would at least salvage something of your integrity. And, oh yes, maybe you might save the country too. There are only five months to go till the US election, so if you play smartly for time we might get lucky. You might, for starters, gain a few weeks by demanding disclosure of who’s on that phantom “joint annexation-mapping committee” with the Americans, and what it has been doing.

So Benny,  do what Nancy Reagan advised young Americans to do when offered drugs: Just Say No.

About the Author
Gideon Remez, formerly head of foreign news at Voice of Israel Radio, is an associate fellow of the Truman Institute, Hebrew University. The views expressed here are his own and not the Institute's.