Hillel Damron
Writer, filmmaker and blogger

Bleeding the beast

If Israel is facing an existential threat, it is not – as the narrow-minded traditionalists would have you believe – coming from the Arab and Muslim world. And not, more specifically, from the Palestinian people or from the Iranian people. Not even from the terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, though of course, they do want Israel to disappear from the map and the Israelis to be killed or be drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s military might, and its superiority – air, land and sea; including its super power nuclear capability – is decisive and will handle all these threats with strength, with speed and with elegance, to borrow General Bar-Lev old saying. A war is a war, and if it is to occur again, there will be blood and casualties. But I have no doubt in my mind that Israel will triumph again.

The real existential threat to Israel stems, therefore, not from war but from the refusal of its leaders to make hard choices, necessary compromises and ultimately peace. This refusal poses a much greater danger to the Jewish state and its people, and manifests itself in three fronts: internal, internal-external, and external. In that order of importance. And to be more precise: First, from within Israel itself; second, from Jews around the world, mainly American Jews; and third, Israel’s non-Jewish friends in the world, mainly America – without whom, Israel’s economic and military superiority would be much more difficult to attain, if at all possible. These three fronts, to be discussed and analyzed here shortly, pose an existential threat; and all of them – to various degrees – are a work in progress, and can be exemplified in what had transpired earlier this month.

Case in point: The Israel Defense (Security) Minister Moshe Ya’alon, as was reported by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, expressed skepticism over U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revitalize peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and said Kerry was “acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor,” (and the wish to win the Nobel peace prize, to boot). Mr. Ya’alon did not deny saying this, though it supposedly was said off-the-record. After strong rebuff from the White House, and a long, into-the-night meeting with Netanyahu, he was forced to apologize. However, the writer of this post don’t see the problem so much with what Ya’alon had said, as with the fact that this is what he truly thinks and believes. And the further fact that he gave voice to a large segment of the Israeli political establishment, as well as its people. And even more so, that this represents, in but a few words, all the three fronts that threaten most the existence of the state of Israel.

How come, you may ask? Well, let me tell you. Internally, this way of thinking represents the attitude of the Israeli side – stronger, and much more determined I believe than the opposite side – that opposes not only America’s peace efforts, as represented by John Kerry, but peace with the Palestinians. Period. Even within Netanyahu’s own government, and his party the Likud, these forces are stronger. As is evident by Netanyahu’s right hand, a previous Israeli army chief of staff, and a possible future leader: his Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. (The Palestinians should be treated like “shrapnel in your butt,” said recently the Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, to quote an article by Etgar Keret in The NY Times.) And should Kerry’s peace efforts come to fruition – and I will not bet on it and don’t see it coming – then these forces really will go to battle. And if I were to bet on that outcome, my bet would be that they will win the battle, the forces that oppose peace. Or will lose it altogether with the other side; hence the existential threat to Israel.

The second front to be threatened is the world’s Jewish front. Remark such as that of Ya’alon, is an affront to Jewish Americans. (Note here: Kerry’s brother, Cameron, the General Counsel of the US Department of Commerce, is Jewish, and so were their fraternal grandparents.) Israel‘s treatment of the Palestinian land and people, its moral failure and ambiguity as an occupier force, and its adversity to the peace efforts, are beginning to affect Jewish people in America. The older generations, who – though historically and emotionally understandable – preferred not to think, and to close their eyes to any wrongs the Israelis might have been doing, are being marginalized now by a younger, more open-minded and questioning generation. The Jewish people at large, champions of human rights everywhere, are beginning to doubt Israel’s intentions and policies, and lose faith with it therefore. Be quiet and give us your money and political support – i.e. bleeding the beast – used to be the maxim of the Israelis. But it may not work anymore so easily.

And this holds truth in regard to the third front: our strongest, almost sole supporter in this world: America. Refusal to compromise and make peace; not to mention disrespectful attitude and remarks, evident by Ya’alon’s words, help in deteriorating this front and its traditional support to Israel. How long this golden cow can keep giving? You have to feed it once in a while—not bleed it endlessly. In a television skit aired the Friday of the week that the Defense Minister’s remark came to light, a comedian playing Moshe Ya’alon on the popular program “Beautiful Country” keeps calling Kerry, leaving him phone messages. He alternately offering low voltage apologies and hurling higher abusive remarks. And after one such disparaging remark, he hurriedly call back again, telling Kerry sheepishly not to forget to send Israel the fifteen billion dollars America had promised. And that is how the skit ends. How long would it last before that golden cow bleeds to death? That is, indeed, an existential question.

About the Author
Hillel Damron is the author of novels, essays, and short stories—one which won the 2011 ‘Moment Magazine Memoire Contest.’ He studied films at the ‘London Film School’ and became the film director of TV documentaries, a feature film, and video shorts. He was the Executive Director of the ‘Hillel House at UC Davis'. He was an elite IDF paratroops unit officer who was wounded in battle; he was born in kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust.