He sounds a lot like the Obama administration at the beginning. Peace with the Palestinians is a means to… getting the Arab world to support us in confronting Iran, to making the world a peaceful place… etc., fantasies that had Clinton and Obama announcing a solution in a year[!]. As the administration has discovered, much to its unhappiness, “peace with the Palestinians” is right now not possible, and taking Gorenberg’s advice will only make things much worse.
There are two further points here worth making.
1) Who is responsible for Israel’s Pariah Status?
Although he doesn’t discuss it in this article, lying behind much of Gorenberg’s concern is international opinion – the pariah status he warned against in his opening remarks, and which plays a still larger part in his book. The “liberal democracy” that Gorenberg prizes is not really a flesh and blood democracy (they’re all fallible), but the perfectionist demands of progressives – Jews and non-Jews alike – which, intentionally or not, spell suicide for the only functioning democracy in the Middle East and catastrophe not only for the Jews but for the rest of the democratic world. This moral perfectionism that makes serious but relatively small Jewish blemishes unbearable to Jewish progressives and “humanitarians” with Human Rights Complex should not confuse outsiders.
In fact Israel’s “pariah status” is not her fault. Sure Israel has problems, and sure she has made mistakes, both formally and on the field of conflict. But this is nothing in comparison with the revolting behavior of her enemies, who represent a kind of religious and gender apartheid in both principle and practice that should – were there any serious moral consideration at work among progressives – make them the object of universal disdain.
Gorneberg would unconsciously agree by retorting to any effort to lessen Israel’s culpability by pointing to her enemies by insisting that he does not want to be judged by the same standards as Israel. And as an Israeli citizen whose children have served in the army, he has the right to his moral exclusiveness. But outsiders, the people making Israel a pariah, have no business using Gorenberg’s aggressively masochistic notion of the chosen people as their guide to understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As many observers have noted, “Anti-Semitism” is not a Jewish problem, it’s a gentile problem.” I agree (although there are Jews like Gilad Atzmon, who internalize that problem). The same can and should be said for Anti-Zionism. If Israel is a pariah state among European intellectuals and other “progressive-minded” folk, like the academics who have colonized too much of Middle Eastern studies and other fields with their post-colonial paradigm, it’s because of a moral disorientation that will, if unchecked, be the downfall of the West. Rather than rush to appease such moral lunacy – which it cannot because the moral demands have nothing to do with real morality – Israel needs to endure an impossible contradiction long enough for the West to come to its senses.
It’s not that the problem of Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insoluble. If the Palestinians really wanted a civil, two-state solution, they’d have had it long ago. It’s that the real moves have to come from the Palestinians, and they won’t do anything until the pressure is on them. Pushing Israel only makes the Palestinians more demanding (as Obama has learned to his chagrin), and in the current climate the Western approach (the European Commission, the Obama Administration) is asking Israel to commit suicide. This is, of course, a painful situation for Israel. I agree with those who feel that keeping Palestinians in a headlock is morally corrupting. But if it’s the only alternative to giving Nazi-wannabees more power, then its the price of survival.
2) The Urgent Task:
Gorenberg, like most of the “Israel has to do something for peace” crowd favor the “the current situation cannot hold. In a sense, he’s one of those people crying “fire” in a crowded theater about the demographic threat, the threat of irretrievably “losing” Israeli democracy, the threat of pariah status from the rest of the world. And in so doing, he wants to panic Israelis into “doing [what he believes is] the right thing.” But these fires are not forces of nature (not even the demographic), but social phenomena. When people flee a fire in panic they are not feeding the flames; when Israel does as Gorenberg subscribes, they feed the fires of Palestinian irredentism. The idea that if Israel doesn’t leave the West Bank soon – the next five years? – it will have to be an apartheid state, is a product of movements like the BDS which mobilize this moral lunacy.
Rather than shouting “fire” at the Israelis, Gorenberg would do well to shout “folly” at the very people he allows to bully him into self-destructive concessions. But his own moral perfectionism closes off that route. He can’t allow himself to know what’s going on in Palestinian political culture because it would make it impossible for him to propose his “solutions.”
I actually think the present “impossible” status quo – Israel keeps Gaza under blockade to prevent weapons from getting in, keeps the Palestinians from having free run of the West Bank – is not only possible, but the only realistic choice… until the West comes to its senses, and the Arab world grows up and ceases to be driven by its desire to avenge its lost honor. And as unlikely as that outcome may seem, it is the only one that can assure a peaceful global community in this troubled 21st century.
Alas. Reality is a hard mistress.