Monitoring the tragic situation in the Middle East from the relative security of the United States (and I do mean relative, given the explosion of international antisemitism), I am struck by two major currents developing in opposite directions.
It’s clear that Israel has lost the support of much of the Western world, especially the intellectual left and the young. This bodes ill for the future. At the same time almost instantly Israel has closed ranks and discovered a unity of purpose and a kinship almost unheard of in the 75 year history of the Jewish state. This of course comes after a year of the most bitter internal acrimony the country may ever have seen, including reserve units pledging not to report for duty and to skip training. When the Hun struck on October 7, all that disunity vaporized.
There is no telling which current will prove stronger in the long run. Israel’s best hope regarding the outside world, and especially the West, is that the intellectual left has proven itself so vacuous and depraved that following the heat of the moment the sheer magnitude of the horror to which it has been willing to associate itself will cause a backlash.
The moral — or really immoral — leaps the left has been willing to take seemingly effortlessly are staggering, especially for someone from North America. Under the nonsensical heading of “decolonization” the intellectual left now condones, and even applauds mass murder of civilians. Watching Professor Russell Rickford of Cornell exult the October 7 slaughter and exclaim how “energized” he was by the murders and rapes, and other American professors fail to criticize Hamas for its “decolonization,” one can’t help but be struck by the fact that they too are colonizers here in North America. Should a radical Native American group break into the house of University of Massachusetts Professor Rachel Weber, who is promising pro-Hamas legal support, and slaughter her family, to her stated morality that would be justified, if not applauded. I doubt that she would view her family’s massacre in that light.
The willingness of pro-Palestine marchers to disrupt the operations of Western nations, most noticeably in Britain during Remembrance Day, has shown they intend to stop at nothing to bully their way into power. This happened again last night in Washington, DC as pro-Palestine demonstrators tried to force their way into the headquarters of the Democratic Party demanding a cease fire in Middle East hostilities. For the first time, the police used whatever force necessary to prevent the takeover, resulting in scenes reminiscent of the Vietnam War era. How long will the body politic of Western nations allow their institutions to be trampled on by a violent minority seeking to abuse Western freedoms to intimidate Western institutions? Hopefully not much longer.
Internally, Israel seems to be having its “Pearl Harbor” moment. During the run up to the Japanese attack of the American Pacific naval fleet on December 7, 1941, American society was bitterly divided over entering World War II. The chasm was so deep that in April, 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt had to remain in bed for three days, unable to bridge the gap yet knowing the mortal danger. Instantly after December 7 the isolationist movement ended. As Japanese Admiral Yomamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor famously said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill him with terrible resolve.” Japan came face to face with that resolve about the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September, 1945, as its officials signed the instrument of surrender.
What will be the result of this newfound singularity of purpose and love of country among Israelis? First, it seems to have had one hugely positive affect as the unity, willingness to be tough to the point of brutal against Gaza, and American firepower wiring offshore, have deterred Hezbollah and Iran to this point. The North is hot, but not nearly what it could be should Hezbollah enter the war in full.
Second, the power of the extremes in Israel is likely to be clipped, to the benefit of nearly all. It’s hard to imagine Supreme Court reform along political lines to resonate as an important national issue post Hamas War as it did pre War. One also imagines the nation not being as willing to be led by the radical right, especially with regard to Judea and Samaria, as it was earlier this year.
Conversely, the sheer brutality of the Hamas massacre likely will be devastating to the radical left. Most of the people killed and taken hostage by Hamas were “peacenicks.” Detained maps captured from Hamas terrorists contained information that only could have come from the Gazans whom the leftist Israelis at Kibbutz Be’eri, Kfar Azza and other places overrun by terrorists invited into their homes to work and to show how two peoples can live together. That dream ended literally in the ovens of the kibbutzim, where Hamas terrorists burned Jewish babies alive.
What’s left hopefully will be a united yet more realistic Israeli nation that decides to finally confront the internal contradictions of ruling over 5 million Arabs who don’t want that, yet who refuse to make peace with Israel. Perhaps President Joe Biden is right in that the two-state solution remains the only viable option, but if the Arabs continue to refuse that, where do you go from here?
The best hope is that the incredible resiliency and toughness of Israel will finally convince the Arabs that their way of eternally refusing an independent state living in peace with Israel is a dead end street. It will be months before the true impact on the Gazan psyche will be known, but clearly Israelis no longer will be welcoming Gazans to come and work in Southern Israel. If any Gazans thought the housing of terror locations in schools, nurseries and hospitals would insulate those spaces from Israeli retaliation, they no longer think that way. On the other side Mahmoud Abbas had been ineffectual at best, but behind the scenes there has been much cooperation with Israel in trying to keep the lid on the West Bank lest it degenerate into something resembling Gaza. From this point on, the Americans have great moral authority to take to task publicly any Israelis government that tries to sabotage the Palestinian Authority.
`As for the outside world, except for the United States, Israelis will feel even less inclined to listen to its incessant, hypocritical moralizing than before. Whether this will lead to greater alienation with the West or with the West coming around to Israel’s view of the issues relating to internal security is a function of how acute the problem of immigration is for Western nations. The intellectual left may hate Israel, but the person on the street in Sweden, France or Germany has no love for the Arabs and North Africans. The future of Israeli-Western relations remains very much up in the air now. For its own good, as the military leaders plot the course of the war, Israel’s public relations experts must be proactive and aggressive about “Hasbarah.”
Finally, and perhaps most encouragingly, Israel’s relations with the Arab world, though badly bruised, remain intact. To date no Arab nation has broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. The open secret of course is that nearly all Arab states despise Hamas, and are rooting for Israel to destroy it. This also will help in the fight against Iran. A strong, unified Israel, secure in its ability to defend itself, heartened by the support of the United States, retaining relations with many of its Arab neighbors who understand the regional threat from Iran yet clear-eyed in its need to find some disengagement from the Palestinians that will do the least to harm Israeli security, would be the best of all possible outcomes.