Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

Embrace the Biden Plan

Israel today marks six months since the horror and the start of this war. Radio, tv programming. It’s an unending yom hazikaron since all this started. Somber, commemorative events unfold in kibbutz Yad Mordechai, where we have good friends, with no end in sight nor hope on any horizon.

We wake to the horrible news of four commando fighters, killed in Khan Yunis, the dreaded, “it is authorized to announce,” “their families have been notified.” They were 20 and 21 years old.

Tactical brilliance and achievements in the field by the IDF, incredible heroism and dedication, no question.

But the country has no strategy. That is and has always been Netanyahu’s way, except that no strategy itself is a strategy. Leading us, always, in the same circles, empty of point, while the radicals, the extremists whom he has empowered beyond their wildest dreams and our worst nightmares– the racists, fascists, misogynist theocrats, who definitely– now, those people know strategy!– relentlessly pursue theirs, taking us down, by degrees, inexorably into their pit of fanaticism, repression, and strategic– yes, absolutely, strategic, violence. However you feel about Ben Gvir, he and his definitely have a strategy. As do Smotrich and his people. And Levin and Rotman and theirs.

And, as if to mock us, a few days ago, Gantz proposes– to Netanyahu! — an “agreed early date for elections”– in September!– FIVE months from now! This, he says, to calm the streets, heating up with demands for elections this summer, as well as priority on getting back as many living hostages as still possible.

Who, in God’s name, did Gantz imagine he was “proposing” this to– Netanyahu? Scary, really, the incurable naivete coupled with the strange hubris that if he’s just– nice– niceness will be met by niceness. By the man who eats “friends” for lunch, and has digested Gantz many times. But Gantz just keeps going back for more.

And– FIVE months of open season, official “campaigning”? Who needs five, or even two, months of this, now? Are the lines not very clear, and can’t they be made very clear in a few weeks? Britain holds replacement elections for Prime Minister in a few weeks. Is this beyond us? Or are we so inured to dysfunction, certainly after 15 years of Netanyahu and company, so caught in his webs, that we can’t even see this?

Netanyahu’s new election campaign has been ongoing since Oct. 7, and ditto for his minister of raiding the national treasury (meaning, our tax shekels), for his base, Smotrich, and his minister of inciting violence, in charge of “national security,” Ben Gvir. While they preach to the rest of us to be silent and acquiesce, wartime after all. And the decent people buy it, as the manipulators knew we would. Until, no. No more.

Not one Israeli political leader I know of has posed any strategic plan, alternative, to the dysfunction of now. It is not enough to oppose. That is easy, cheap in all ways except the cost in human lives this monster of indecision and lack of strategy is exacting.

We need someone with the guts, the courage, to say and promote: ENGAGE THE BIDEN PLAN.

To “engage” does not mean to accept all as currently written but to behave like adult leaders of a country and have input. Because that plan is the only thing that offers us a horizon out of not just the current horror but out of the endless cycle we have been in for over a hundred years. A regional plan, with the biggest Arab states on board, seeking it in their own interest.

No plan is or will be perfect. To keep throwing up (in all meanings of that term), objections, perpetually saying no, is cheap and reckless. Indecision is Netanyahu’s way. See where it has gotten us. Take what opportunity exists and make the best of it.

No one, least of all I, should lie to us and sell us a vision of nirvana. That is not going to be. Neither will “total victory,” which the government has not even defined for us, proof that this is all more manipulation from them, the ones who brought us Oct. 7– and the Meron disaster, and the society-sundering judicial coup, and the flight of investment and brains, and the demotion of Israel’s credit rating, and chronically underserved hospitals and failing schools, and no government-subsidized shelters for people beyond 7 kilometers from Gaza, or even within that limit, not even false promise of it, even now, after the massacre in Ofakim, and–

But better– yes. Just– better. That is plenty.

How many more shall we sacrifice to this Molech of indecision and self-serving, parasitic politics and policies? Which more of our precious children, our heroic kibbutznikim and moshavnikim in the north and the south and the center, the farmers being ruined, the tens of thousands displaced because the borders are not secure– rockets, even now, from Gaza!– never mind, the never-ending volleys bombing the north. Which more of the heroic residents of Sderot, of Ofakim, of Metullah and Kiryat Shmoneh and Manara, shall we offer up on this altar of political vanity, of which Netanyahu is the unsurpassed master, the berobed High Priest?

And this, without going into the horror Israel has made in Gaza, if nothing else, playing perfectly into Hama’s hands, by not having a plan– a strategy– for providing for civilian needs in a war all the generals said was not going to be short. Even the association with World Central Kitchen– the preferred alternative to Hamas-riddled UNWRA– Israel has botched. Because the same government that has never defined the Israel Defense Forces as responsible for the defense of ALL civilians under Israeli control is the one that extended this wanton irresponsibility from Areas C and B on the west bank to a massive ground war in Gaza.

No, engaging the Biden plan is not “a victory for Hamas,” as Netanyahu and the rest that have brought us all this say, as is their wont, ever the clever negation with no alternative. It is Hamas’ worst nightmare, and Iran’s, reasons alone to engage it.

Recognize manipulation by fear tactics, Netanyahu’s signature game! He is a snake oil salesman, only the oil he perpetually sells is not just useless, it is endangering our existence here.

It is in our interest to engage this plan. To do something difficult and imperfect, but which offers the possibility of something different and better. We have done this– what we are doing– in one version or another, again and again. How is it working for us?

That is all we ask or should. Don’t let anyone negating the possible suggest “perfect” as some alternative. Perfect doesn’t exist.

The alternative to God-awful is Better.

There is another option to endless horror.

At this low, horrifically low point in our history, a major Israeli politician or someone seeking to become one, coming out in support of this, would be a game changer. Not least, in the war of world opinion, into whose darkest pit since the creation of the State the fools in charge and their colluders have brought us.

Anyone out there?

On this grim day, with no hope in sight, not for the hostages in Gaza nor the hostages to Netanyahu right here in Israel, can we hope for hope?

My ner zikaron burns silently this somber day.

Whence shall come some hope?

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.