Marc Schulman

Why both Daniel Gordis and Jeremy Ben Ami are wrong

This morning as I had the pleasure of reading a new column by Daniel Gordis, entitled: “It’s Ok to be depressed”. Almost all of what Gordis writes in this column is accurate ­– except for the most important point – his conclusion and what he suggests we are to do. In the article Gordis posits, after a recent debate with Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street, that Ben Ami’s positions are based primarily on the fact Ben Ami cannot live with the reality of our situation. In other words, since Ben Ami is not willing to be depressed, he chooses to live in a world of alternative reality, in which the Palestinians are willing to make peace.

I have also tried to live in that alternative reality, as I believe that that is part of the secret of living here. My alternative reality began almost 38 years ago (boy, that is hard to write) during my regular army service, when I met a fellow soldier whose father had fought in the War of Independence. I said to myself then, despite the fact I doubted the Arabs (we did not think so much of Palestinians then) were unlikely to ever accept our presence here in the Middle East, we need to make sure we are always doing whatever we can to bring about peace. I did not want to have to look into the eyes of my future children – when they were ready to go into the army– and be unable to tell them that we did whatever we could for peace. Well, now, 38 years later, two of my children have already completed their army service, and I turn those same thoughts to my future grandchildren.

My problem is that although I have not changed my fundamental view that the Arabs (actually it’s clear now that it’s the Palestinians) have not changed their most basic view (i.e. failure to accept our existence in this land), we have not always done enough to show that we are willing to compromise. The overwhelming majority of the time since my enlisted army service the Likud has been in power in Israel. They have been repeatedly elected, primarily because most Israeli voters share my skepticism as to the Palestinians being willing to reach a final accord on the partition of this land. The few times we have allowed our optimism to overcome our natural Jewish state of pessimism, we have been returned to reality by showers of bombs and rockets. Over the years, the Likud has not disappointed those voters who prefer to live with the reality of our situation – or as Gordis might say, accept the fundamentally depressing nature of our existence here. Unfortunately their actions over the years have not been tied to their reading of the security situation. Rather, their actions have been closely connected to the ideology of their traditional coalition partner – the Religious Zionists – i.e. that Jews should settle all of the Land of Israel (many of whom have believed that acceptance of the original Partition Plan by the Jews was a mistake that needs to be rectified.) As a result, those believers have done all they can over the past 40 years to make sure that it will be difficult to repartition the land.

The Peel Commission (1936) and the UN Commission on Palestine (1947) were both correct. The only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is partition. Unfortunately, what Ben-Gurion knew in 1947 has not changed – the Palestinians do not accept this partition plan. So what are we supposed to do? On one hand, I cannot live in the world of denial Gordis claims Ben Ami lives in. On the other hand, I cannot accept as a given that we must live in the “depressing world” that Gordis suggests. I am also not willing to accept as a given, that by the time my grandchildren (who are yet to be born) reach the age of service that our conflict will still be going on. Though, sadly, I know that that is most likely to be the case. Despite that fact, I still want to know that we have done our part ­– every single year – to try to bring about peace.

What does that mean in reality? It means: 1) We never build another shed beyond our security wall and we encourage our citizens beyond those walls to return home; 2) Our government now, and in the future, makes every decision based solely on security considerations, and never based on ideology; 3) Every year, we state at the U.N. that we are willing to return to some version of the Six-Day war borders (with appropriate land swaps etc.). If the Arabs agree to no return of refugees, and accept the original terms of Partition Plan – (An Arab State and a Jewish State in Palestine) then we may have peace. However, even if they do not, (if I have the privilege of being alive and healthy) when my grandchildren have to go to “Bakum” I will be able to say we did all we could.

About the Author
Marc Schulman is the editor of -- the largest history web site. He is the author a series of Multimedia History Apps as well as a recent biography of JFK. He holds a BA and MA from Columbia University, and currently lives in Tel Aviv. He is also a regular contributor to Newsweek authoring the Tel Aviv Diary. He is the publisher of an economic news App about Israel called DigitOne and has a weekly newsletter on substack called Israel Update
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