As someone whose grandparents helped to found the modern State of Israel, I experienced a feeling of immense sadness after reading Norman Podhoretz’s powerful analysis of the current post-Oslo fighting in Israel (Commentary, October 2001).
As the endless cycle of killings, assassinations, and suicide-bombings gradually infects Israel’s Arab citizens and becomes part of daily life in Israel proper, our wishes and hopes must be replaced by hard realities. The hardest reality of all is that absolutely none of the proposed solutions presented by Israeli’s legitimate political parties has any likelihood of future success, whether the “war” proposals found on the near or far Right or the “peace” proposals found on the near or far Left. Whether or not historically inevitable, the continuing close proximity of Jews and Arabs will today lead to endless bloodshed.
There appear to be only two possible outcomes to this conflict. Israel may eventually choose to follow the path of the outlawed Kach Movement, and exterminate or expel virtually all Palestinians from both Israel proper and the West Bank, whether or not they are long-time Israeli citizens. Or the endless fighting, with its social and economic consequences, will produce an increasing and self-accelerating exodus of Israeli Jews to America and other places that allow a more peaceful, affluent, and stress-free way of life, eventually leading to the collapse of the Jewish state within another generation or so.
I doubt that even the harshest possible crackdown on Palestinians short of complete elimination would today do anything other than simply increase the remaining pool of suicide-bombers and random knifers. Similarly, I fear that even the most extraordinarily generous two-state peace proposal wouldn’t today do more than temporarily mollify even most of Israel’s own Arab citizens. There are simply no plausible solutions anywhere within the full spectrum of what is currently regarded as legitimate Israeli political opinion.
I doubt that democratic Israel will ever develop a Kach consensus for achieving ethnic cleansing by killing or expelling all the millions of Palestinian men, women, and children. Therefore, I expect Israel’s trajectory to follow that of the temporary Crusader kingdoms, surviving for seventy or eighty years following its 1948 establishment, then collapsing under continual Muslim pressure and flagging ideological commitment.
Centuries of Jewish oppression throughout Europe and the atrocities of Czarist pogroms had provided the original ideological motivation for the Zionist movement, and Hitler’s genocidal Holocaust directly led to the creation of the Jewish state. But today, half a century or more of very good circumstances for Jews in America and other Western nations has largely dissipated the practical pressure for Israel’s existence. Younger generations of Jews, both American and Israeli, experience virtually no sense of alienation or fear from living in overwhelmingly non-Jewish societies. Therefore, in recent years, the flow of Jews from Israel into the West has probably substantially exceeded that in the reverse direction, in reality if not necessarily in official statistics. I suspect that this trend has greatly accelerated since the beginning of Intifada II, and will continue to do so.
For most Jews around the world, Israel just is not the essential life raft it seemed immediately following the Second World War. Although we should certainly continue to hope for Israel’s permanent existence, hopes and expectations are two entirely different things.
Palo Alto, CA