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

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Relax

 


It sounds worse than it really is.

This is an optimist’s view of Israel’s condition with itself and in the world.

Most of the resolutions seeming to recognize a Palestinian state are advisory. Resolutions expressing the sense of the house, but not requiring action, are a dime a dozen among what legislatures do.

Moreover, many of them hitch on to their sentiments the process of a negotiated settlement. Several of them are explicit in mentioning a two-state solution. 

The U.S. is prominent in demanding a negotiated agreement, and opposing an imposed settlement as demanded by one of the parties. The secretary of state indicated that the U.S. would veto the Palestinian formulation, presented to the UN Security Council by Jordan.

Formulations discussed by U.S. officials include mention of Israel as the Jewish state, something that is likely to provoke, once again, a Palestinian rejection.

1967 borders are often mentioned, but in some of the resolutions as starting point of negotiations, and not as the end point. A capital in Jerusalem ain’t a big deal. We can offer the Palestinians Isaweea, the Shuafat “refugee camp,” and/or a few other troublesome neighborhoods. However, Palestinian polls indicate that residents might vote to stay with Israel.

Also in the air is a European Union Supreme Court decision removing Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, coming on the same day as the EU Parliament passed a resolution in favor of a Palestinian state.

Explanations are that the court’s decision is technical, temporary, and something that will be repaired.

Meanwhile, it is the biggest gift that Bibi has received since Sheldon Adelson’s discovery of Israeli politics and his founding of Israel Hayom.

The page 2 headline of Israel Hayom on Thursday was “Europe Against Israel.” One op-ed had the headine, “The Blind: They do not understand terror.” Another was, “Kristallnacht II in Europe.”

Bibi and his party colleagues, along with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are playing those European decisions for all they are worth. They are reminding Israeli voters that Europe was the site of the Holocaust, and predicting another Dark Age as it becomes ever more beholden to its Muslim migrants.

Hamas is celebrating victory in Europe, with about as much justification as it continues to celebrate victory over the IDF in Gaza.

A report that Hamas has diverted some of the material meant for civilian reconstruction to their work on attack tunnels will not help the Palestinians.

The current betting is that Bibi will form a govt with Kahlon, Liberman, and Bennett. He may not need the Haredim, who are in trouble due to a split within SHAS. It should be possible to keep Haredi MKs in line with money for their religious academies, and going lightly on the recruitment of their young men to the IDF.

The Livni-Herzog combination may have peaked in the polls. She is closely identified with a peace process, made unpopular by Palestinian incitement and extreme demands.

The new government won’t accomplish much, given its internal divisions.

That’ll make it like most governments, dealing more in competing rhetoric than path-breaking legislation or the solution of long standing problems.

As in other western democracies, there is enough already legislated. The vast majority of government is done by apolitical professionals, with minimum impact from the braying of politicians.

Sanctions are a distant possibility.

Iran and Russia show that they can bite, even in societies much larger than Israel, with lots of oil that can be sold on the black market if not openly, and sufficiently authoritarian to control protest. 

Israel would be more vulnerable to sanctions, but its policies demonstrate moderation, and provide arguments against sanctions. Almost all of the building over the 1967 lines is in Jerusalem or the major settlement blocs, widely conceded as remaining Israeli. It has lightened controls on Palestinian movement, provides the inducement of entry permits for Palestinian workers, and has cooperated with Palestinian security personnel for the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians.. 

Palestinians foul their own nest with rejection and demands that many see as absurd.

There are sticks as well as carrots in Israel’s arsenal, but the government explains their occasional use as appropriate responses to Palestinian excesses.

Much of the Palestinians’ money, as well as its electricity and water, depend on Israel. On several occasions, Israel has delayed the transfer of funds collected at its ports as taxes on Palestinian imports. These actions have postponed the payment of salaries to Palestinians’ bloated public sector workforce. The action may increase animosity, but it also reminds Palestinians about who depends on who.

Some of the most threatening of those who hate us, and some of the most frightened of those among us use the model of South Africa as Israel’s future.

Yet that is flawed both by enormous differences of populations. South Africa’s population was the mirror image of Israel’s, i.e., 20 percent White and 80 percent non-white, while Jews are close to 80 percent of Israel’s population. Moreover, the extremism of White South Africans’ treatment of the Black majority was nothing like the Israeli reality.

Israel has a case, more than minimally recognized, composed both of its own behavior and that of the Palestinians.

The continuity may depend on keeping Israeli extremists at bay.

Israel’s politics is messy and unsatisfying, but works against extremism. Messianics who view the land as all ours can be found in Likud and Jewish Home, but do not control the government.

Also in the mix are Jewish values that respect human life and personal dignity, with a substantial component of recognizing Jews’ dependence on more numerous and more powerful others.

Israel’s posture does not reduce to the blacks and whites described by simpletons. It requires a tolerance of nuance and subtlety to understand, but there is at least a bit of those adrift in the world.

Likewise, there are enough other international problems to keep outsiders active. Prominent is the barbarism associated with Muslim extremism, wrestling over Russia and Ukraine, and a new event likely to keep Washington busy. The opening between the US and Cuba means richer cigar smoke in the rooms where things are decided, and applause from some quarters. It also gives Republicans in Congress another reason to make life difficult for the President and his Secretary of State. 

An optimist can make no promises. In politics, as in medicine and economics, it is necessary to decide according to the probabilities, and they look like what is described above.

So we can relax. 

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

 

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