by Sarah Honig
More and more luminaries from out in left field don’t hate Binyamin Netanyahu fully as much as they did just a while back. By a near miraculous transformation he no longer appears quite as grotesque an ogre.
His dovish utterances on the launching of another peace gabfest seem to have earned Netanyahu grudging, if conditional, tolerance from confirmed political maligners.
It’s beginning to look familiar. It’s beginning to call to mind the abeyance of the Left’s unfathomable animus for Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu is probably incapable of Sharon’s outright overnight betrayal. But the Left detects potential in Netanyahu to repeat the irresolution he evinced erratically throughout his first term, most particularly during the Wye summit.
Diehard leftists indeed looked faintly more tolerant of Netanyahu post-Wye, only to ditch him despite enticing promises for a parliamentary “security net.”
While he isn’t expected to show the same inimitable aptitude for treachery as Sharon, his opponents harbor high expectations that he’d inexorably revert to his old indecisive self-destructive self.
Any indication that not all leftist hopes are lost suffices in some quarters (hardly all, to be accurate) to at least marginally curtail the acrimony towards the prime minister. The gala launching in Washington of the umpteenth peace process provided plenty such nuances.
The dissimilar emphases honed by Netanyahu and PA figurehead Mahmoud Abbas served to instill joy in leftist hearts. Needless to say, both Netanyahu and Abbas lived up to the occasion and waxed ecstatic about the bounties of nonviolence. But the similarity ends with their obligatory lip service.
Strikingly, Netanyahu stressed only Israeli security. Abbas postured as the determined resistance leader who demands due justice for the downtrodden. This inherently triggers fundamentally different receptors in international opinion.
Abbas impressed his listeners as a liberator aiming to redress profound wrongs – one from 1967 and an earlier, more critical grievance of 1948 vintage. He portrayed the Six Day War as an aggressive campaign of occupation whose ills must be undone. That means full and unequivocal withdrawal because Israeli presence in lands it came to control following that war is villainous.
The preexisting injustice is the refugee problem. Arab propaganda has successfully convinced a voluntarily gullible world that this was the inevitable outcome of the birth of the Jewish state. This of course is an out-and-out falsehood, because it was the war the Arabs themselves launched against the outmanned and outgunned newborn Jewish state – and the subsequent breakdown of their genocidal designs – which resulted in the displacement of populations whose artificial refugee status they callously perpetuated thereafter.
YET ABBAS’S subtext is obvious: Without justice – i.e. the inundation of the Jewish state with millions of hostile Arabs claiming to be of the progeny of the original refugees – the conflict won’t end. The mere return to the anyway precarious status quo of June 4, 1967, won’t bring peace.
For the benefit of those among us who failed to get the message, Abbas reiterated it loudly, clearly and unambiguously last week. Without much hair-splitting he set the rules of this negotiating round: It’s my way or the highway.
“If I am pressured to make concessions either on the 1967 borders or the 1948 refugees, I’ll pack my bags and leave the talks,” said he. “True, we are conducting negotiations, but without straying from our positions,” Abbas was quoted as declaring by the Arabic-language east Jerusalem-based al-Quds daily. Translation: There will be no Palestinian concessions whatever.
Thus Abbas returns to the starting point. He underscores that this isn’t just a border dispute, nor a clash about the establishment of a Palestinian state. This showdown is about the continued existence of a Jewish state.
Yet, after all that, our own Netanyahu implored Abbas to please stay and palaver. By default he has accepted Abbas’s rules of bargaining: no Palestinian budging but “painful concessions” from Israel. Netanyahu had already pledged his readiness for the latter.
His only caveat is that giving Abbas what he wants must be accompanied by security arrangements geared to keep as many Israelis as possible from being slaughtered by Palestinians who will take control of the hilltops overlooking Israel’s densest population center on the Coastal Plain, where we would all be sitting ducks.
Netanyahu’s failure to so much as mention justice, even in passing, in his Washington speechifying is what particularly delights our Left. He didn’t spoil the spectacle. By not challenging Abbas’s pose as the champion of overthrowing oppression, Netanyahu allowed him to paint Israelis as oppressors.
The Left heaved a sigh of relief when Netanyahu neglected to note that there is a Jewish case and Jewish rights – that there is justice in the Zionist revival and an inborn tie to Eretz Yisrael, that we aren’t foreign interlopers and vile occupiers in our own homeland, that we were attacked both in 1948 and 1967, that we fought for our very lives and not for the glory of conquest.
These glaring omissions denote inclination to cede territory. But they don’t only radiate purported moderation, they weaken Israel’s case.
For any normal nation, its tie to its land would be an ever-resounding theme if ever contested. For us it’s hackneyed and benighted. I once witnessed Romanian and Hungarian journalists facing off passionately on which of their respective ancestors initially appeared on which stretch of Transylvania. The assumption was that the earlier migrant deserves the title deed.
Arabs spuriously stake precisely these claims, though any dabbler in history knows they are latecomers. We, in extreme postmodernist conceit, put ourselves above such basic-rights argumentation.
Trendy post-Zionists often buy into skewed Arab contentions with undisguised relish. Nevertheless, they bristle with intolerance and abuse if fellow Jews dare mention that we have dibs here, that our national character was forged here (as distinguished from all others – from any temporary sojourners and/or invaders of this land, Arabs among them) and that in modern times we made barren Eretz Yisrael the attractive national domicile it has become.
Talking about Jewish rights is uncool, which perhaps is why most of us prefer pragmatic security-oriented parlance. Yet worthy and cogent though it may be, exclusive reliance on security concerns implies that we only seek means to further entrench ourselves in usurped property.
Ardent “land-of-our-fathers” terminology was the bedrock of Jewish aspirations for two millennia and fueled Zionist zeal, but nowadays “new historians” disapprove of unenlightened emotional attachments by Jews. Hence while aggrieved “native” Abbas fights to regain the “legacy of his forebears,” we carp about the minutiae of border arrangements.
We appear like mediocre bureaucrats clinging to as much as of our ill-gotten gains as we can.
Our struggle for survival in this land doesn’t merely hinge on border demarcation technicalities or on territorial concessions. Pernicious lack of conviction parading as pseudo-sophistication undercuts our hold on every nook, on either side of the Green Line, within what we shy from affirming as the land of our fathers.
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