We Need To Do Some National Soul Searching

October 5, 2014

5 min read

We need to listen to both sides of the aisle. While the left’s claims are mostly wrong, it draws the right conclusions, and while the right is bad at drawing conclusions, it makes some valid points.

Please, surprise us, MK Shelly Yachimovich pleaded, moments before Benjamin Netanyahu started his UN speech in response to Abbas’ speech. He didn’t surprise us. The praise, wonder and boasting from the right, or the voices of disappointment and criticism from the left, were also entirely predictable. Yachimovich wanted surprises, but there weren’t any.

Today is the eve of Yom Kippur. A day of soul searching and self examination. We’ll do our personal soul searching with our friends, but we’re having a hard time with national soul searching and scrutiny. We recycle. We don’t surprise. Stagnation is dangerous, the sane left charges at the right. Their claim is not wrong. But there’s no stagnation. The right, mostly the right of the right, created a new reality over the past two decades. And it changes this reality year after year. The right is creating one big state here. It won’t be a Jewish state, though, it’ll be a bi-national state.

But there’s stagnation on the left too. The left has been reciting the same slogans for years while ignoring reality. The Palestinian leadership has made it clear, over and over again, that it has no interest in a two-state solution, unless Israel commits in advance to accept a Palestinian dictate according to which a Palestinian state will be established, alongside another state that will turn Palestinian.

The most the sane, Zionist, nationalist left is willing to compromise on is somewhere in the area of the Clinton Parameters, the Geneva Initiative and the Olmert realignment plan. Except there’s a problem. Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters. Some of the Geneva Initiative’s signatories on the Palestinian side have since renounced it. Abbas rejected Olmert’s plan, though the latter is trying to present a fabricated and strange version of events in which Abbas “just” didn’t respond favorably.

But the left has eyes and it fails to see, it has ears and it fails to hear. Even in the last round of talks led by John Kerry, Netanyahu was willing to make a far-reaching compromise. Over 90 percent of the territories, even according to the left’s leading newspaper. Had Abbas signaled he was in favor of that compromise, the Kerry plan would’ve dissolved the Likud. It’s true that Martin Indyk tried to create a different impression, but with $14.8 million donation from Qatar to the Brookings Institution, where Indyk is vice president, it’s reasonable to suspect his motives.

In any case, investigative reports published later, like Ben Birnbaum’s report in the “New Republic,” uncover the fact that even with Obama, Abbas maintained the Palestinian tradition of intransigence. This only serves to increase suspicion of Indyk’s fictional narrative against Netanyahu.

The right is no different. Because, despite its detrimental comments, Abbas is still a partner. Mostly because the Palestinian Authority has been making a serious effort to prevent violence for years now. It’s not that Abbas is working for Israel as Hamas and senior journalists of the paper for people who think have claimed. Abbas knows it was violence that led the Palestinians from one catastrophe to another. So maybe, who knows, he could understand that intransigence is the twin sister of violence. It’s also leading the Palestinians from one catastrophe to another.

The problem with the right wing is much graver, because the right needs to explain its recruitment to the realization of the extreme left’s vision, which focuses on the abolition of the Jewish state for the sake of a bi-national state. Meanwhile the left needs to explain how exactly we could reach a diplomatic breakthrough after Abbas, just like Arafat, rejected every proposal.

Even an Israeli announcement that it agrees in principle to the Saudi initiative, a worthy cause indeed, won’t change a thing, because talks will explode over the “right of return” demand.

So I would like to expand on Yachimovich’s request: Please, surprise us. Both those on the left and those on the right.

If you’re members of the left wing, please listen to the right on occasion. The right’s concern that Hamas will take over after an Israeli withdrawal is a valid one. The assertion that Hamas’ strengthening is a result of the occupation is nonsense. This type of strengthening is happening all over the Muslim world. It happened in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and in other places – and had nothing to do with Israel.


And if you’re members of the right wing, please listen to the left on occasion. But only to a part of the left. The Zionist left is correct in its concern for the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. In a rather strange way, the right’s claims are more correct, but its conclusions are wrong. The left is wrong in most of its claims, but is right in its conclusions.

Zehava Gal-On claimed that “the solution for the ISIS problem lies in reaching an accord with the Palestinians.” How did we not think of that? An accord with the Palestinians will probably also fix the hole in the Ozone. Gal-On’s life is easier, because she has instant solutions to all of the world’s problems.

The other side also has instant solutions. More housing units in Ma’ale Yitzhar. Another outpost called Tapuach D.

Today and tomorrow, we’ll say at the synagogue that we have sinned, we have transgressed, we have deceived. We’re remorseful, we’re looking for penitence.

The problem does not lie in the public, but in the leadership. Those of us who speak to Likud voters and Labor voters and center voters know that there, precisely there, this complexity is a lot more open and well-known.

But when you get to the leadership – there are no surprises. There are clichés. Any third-rate wheeler-dealer can write the predictable reactions not only from Gal-On and Danny Danon, but also from Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Herzog. It’s true that Netanyahu failed to surprise. Did Ya’alon manage to surprise us?

There’s only one politician that manages to deviate from routine: Avidgor Lieberman. He’s the only one who can surprise us from time to time, in all kinds of directions. A month ago he signaled on a new willingness to accept the Saudi initiative. Not its every detail, but the initiative itself as an idea that’s heading in the right direction.

Yours truly also needs to do some soul searching. I used to believe in Arafat’s good intentions. I was wrong. In the past few decades I supported the two-state formula and the Clinton Parameters. Nowadays questions should rise, as new chapters in the history of the Middle East are currently being written. Nations crumble, new entities are being created. It is possible a US-led coalition could strike the Islamic State, but ISIS is not an organization, it’s an idea. You don’t need the majority of Muslims or the Palestinians to support the idea for it to turn into a real threat, because it is cancerous. It’s spreading. It exists in Nigeria and Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan and even in London, in Malmö and in Paris. It’s destructive wherever it is – in Gaza, in Somalia or in Nigeria. Can we withdraw from Judea and Samaria while this cancer is spreading, and there’s concern Hamas takes over?

National soul searching requires us to free ourselves from the left and right’s examples. We were wrong. We are wrong. And most of all – we’re unable to see that both the left and the right have worthy claims. Most of the public understands this. A great majority of politicians from both the right and the left, however, refuse to understand this.

So please, surprise us. Give us some soul-searching. Show us some new directions. It’s time. Gmar Hatimah Tova.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Ynet

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