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For American Jewish leaders, the 60th anniversary of Israel is an occasion for piety, patriotism, and paranoia.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, endorses ‘my country right or wrong’ sentiments: “Let us not allow our dissatisfaction with this or that government policy to dampen our support for Israel ... politics has nothing whatever to do with our connection to the Zionist idea ... which lives in the soul ... and in the prayers we say ...” (Reform Judaism, Spring 2008).
Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expresses his belief that “pressing Israel into making more concessions” is irrelevant to peacemaking (Amit, Spring 2008). His interviewer summarizes Hoenlein’s view of the two-state solution as a classic expression of neoconservatism: “addressing the threat of Iran, stabilizing Iraq, [and] ending the support — political, financial and military — of terrorist groups will create circumstances in which Israeli-Palestinian peace will be possible rather than the reverse.”
Friends like these may be great companions at Israel’s 60th anniversary party, if the goal is to party on like teenagers with no regard for the morrow. Apparently, that’s the spirit infecting Israel’s government leaders these days, as they have been virtually pissing over the security wall onto Mahmoud Abbas’ shoes.
Israel has accelerated construction of Jewish homes on occupied land by 500 percent since Annapolis, according to Ha’aretz — and any advocate of peace must ask, Now? It’s not enough to maintain more than five hundred checkpoints on the West Bank? Not enough to squeeze Gaza into harsh poverty to punish rocket-launching radicals? Not enough to kill such radicals in assassination strikes that almost invariably take innocent lives? Not enough to receive the Arab Peace Initiative with a yawn?
Yes, we know: Hamas and others have been launching rockets at Israeli civilians! They do not accept Israel’s right to exist! They consider all Jews to be targets, and are amassing the weapons to prove it! All true, and terribly tragic for both peoples. Yet a policy of continued occupation, settlement expansion, and disproportionate military response — while we wait, as Hoenlein suggests, for the virtual transformation of the Middle East! — is not the best that a mature nation can do, even with implacable enemies.
The party is over, and it is time for Israel’s supporters to sober up. The fact is that the Jewish state needs a Palestinian state, as Ehud Olmert stated starkly last November: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle . . . then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.” Let this 60th anniversary therefore be a milestone not merely of survival but of reckoning and transformation. Biz a hundert un tsvantsik — and beyond.