Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Same old, same old


Every once in a while someone new starts reading my notes, and responds with an expression of frustration. Usually it’s something like, “Dammit, what’s your solution?”

Read my lips.

There ain’t any.

In politics one should never say never, but in this case there is close to a century of efforts circling back on similar ideas, with the same failure to bring the sides closer together.

Is it time to plant a tombstone for the Two-State Solution?

Who’s to blame?

That’s a question too complex to answer. It resembles the question, “Do you believe in God?” which is an issue I put on the shelf at about the age of 20.

One can find reasons to blame both Palestinians and Israelis for the lack of solution, as well as Americans and others for their clumsy handling of our issues.

No doubt Israeli and Palestinian actions or inactions are at the center of what can be discussed about blame, but it’s like the issue of God’s existence. Fun for those who enjoy the sport to discuss back and forth, but not likely to advance the condition of either side.

Mahmoud Abbas’ reiteration of his views on the Holocaust does not endear him to us or advance his dream of Palestine. His line is not a Holocaust denial, but minimization with an anti-Zionist twist; i.e., only a million Jews killed, and Jewish cooperation with the Nazis to have Jews killed in order to advance the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Don’t expect the realization of the leftist threat, i.e., a one-state solution, including Israel, Gaza and the West Bank with an immediate or eventual Palestinian majority.

Israel will say “No,” and the international community has not shown itself capable of imposing such a thing against the will of a strong state.

Best for Israelis to ignore the noise and get on with our lives, enjoying the weather, scenery, family stories and the latest gadgets, alongside the skills of those employed to defend us from those who would harm us.

The harm can come from rocks, fire bombs, more sophisticated weapons, or campaigns to boycott and impose sanctions.

For each threat we have our means of defense.

Israelis’ dealing with the ups and downs of Palestinian threats are not all that different from the ways that decent residents of other Western societies deal with those who would harm them. The police are meant to assure more or less safety from domestic unrest, the military for the more serious stuff coming from over the borders, and the diplomatic corps from hostile politics.

None of those cadres are perfect. Despite efforts at training, individuals in the security forces occasionally do what they should not. 

Individuals do not rely entirely on the government, and seek to counter political hostility in academia, commerce, and the media.

Civilized societies use the carrot as well as the stick to deal with those who are restive. Social services and opportunities, including one or another variety of affirmative action, are meant to satisfy the just demands of those who might otherwise be restive.

In various countries one can point to spokespeople of those feeling themselves deprived who have threatened the majority and ended up hurting the minority they claim to be serving. One can quarrel who deserves such a designation among African Americans, North American and European Muslims, or Palestinians.

Currently the Palestinians seem to be gearing up for another effort at violence. Neighborhood gangs, mostly of boys between the ages of 8 and 25 are throwing stones and fire bombs, being encouraged by national and religious leaders. The young man who drove his car into a crowd at a train stop and managed to kill a 3-month-old child has received blessings from the leadership of Hamas, while the more moderate leadership of Fatah is failing to condemn his action, and accusing Israelis of provoking the incident by allowing Jews to buy flats in Arab neighborhoods.

With enemies like that, we don’t need too many friends.

The family of the driver claims he was a good boy, who lost control of his car, and should not have been killed by the police.

The video seen time and again tells another story, but families of Palestinian killers routinely proclaim their innocence and charge murder by the police.

Here in French Hill we are suffering from the noise of police firing tear gas and stun grenades late into the evening, along with the heavy thudding of a police helicopter overhead or the constant hum of a drone. The concerns are Isaweea 200 meters to the east and Shuafat a kilometer to the north.

It’s part of the price we pay for civilization.

We nod hello to the residents of those neighborhoods who stroll the quiet and clean sidewalks of French Hill.

Essential to proper behavior is the concern not to make things worse by nastiness. Security personnel help us avoid the impacts of Palestinian nastiness by their actions, some of which we do not see or hear. Also involved is an occasional episode like that which flattened parts of Gaza, whose lesson should not be lost on those claiming to speak for the Palestinians of the West Bank.

Dealing with the likes of Barack Obama and John Kerry requires more subtlety. 

They are the current generation of worthies who think they can solve the problems of an emotional hot spot (Promised Land, birthplace of religions etc.), without learning from the failures of others who tried the same things from the 1930s onward.

Bibi is good at this game. His dealing with the American president and secretary of state occurs within the fuzzy rules that gentlemen employ in matters of dispute. Courtesy prevails in public, and who knows what in private. The prime minister’s underlings are more outspoken.

The US Congress provides part of the field on which this combat occurs.

We may not get a nuclear free Iran, but the combination of Israeli technology, U.S. built planes, and German built submarines may keep us safe.

Israel has power in U.S. politics, but it’s a limited power. We should think about the historic situation of Jews. The principle is not to expect or demand too much, and we’ll get something.

Jews have been playing this game at least since Yohanan ben Zakkai figured out how to cope with the Romans. There have been some classic failures along the way, and the testing continues.

For some indications of how we’ve done, come share our walks on the clean sidewalks alongside the flowers planted in the traffic circles of French Hill, and think about Gaza.

Those who cringe at the collateral damage should remember those thousands of rockets sent toward Israeli civilians. And if that doesn’t bring quiet, have a cup of something, join a demonstration, find a good book, or write me a nasty note.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


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