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Dialogue on the Gaza Flotilla

“I appreciate your call. My staff was going to get in touch with you. The task force is meeting tomorrow at 8:30. Can you make it?”

“I’m afraid the Consulate will need to get someone else. I’m calling to tell you I can’t help anymore. I’m too upset…”

“But the facts are on our side. Didn’t you see the IDF video we just released? It’s great! It proves that our soldiers were attacked when they descended from the helicopters. So Israel had every right to…”

“..Jeffrey, my son, isn’t buying it. That’s why I’m upset. He’s home from Brandeis and he’s reading all the Twitter feeds, the blog posts. He’s even started to read Haaretz.”

“Oh no!”

“He wants to know why I keep automatically defending your country every time it gets accused of something. He says I look for the facts that help me come to Israel’s defense and ignore all of the other facts. He accuses me of not wanting to offend everyone else in the JCRC by being a non-conformist and thinking for myself.”

“Yes, we greatly appreciate your help, Si.”

“I taught my boy to be an independent, critical thinker. So now he’s thought about that attack, and he’s telling me there was no justification for storming the boat in international waters. He says Israel wasn’t protecting itself. Its actions had nothing to do with Israeli security; it was protecting a blockade of Gaza that is a form of collective punishment, which is illegal. And immoral.”

“Did you tell him why the blockade is necessary? That Hamas is a terror organization, and we can’t allow them access to weapons, or materials that could be used to make weapons?”

“Yeah. And he pointed out that if it were all about keeping out weapons, why is there a blockade of exports from Gaza? Why don’t you let Gazan workers into Israel? Why can’t students there get visas to study abroad? He said Israel wants to keep people living in a wretched state so they’ll blame Hamas. He dared me to defend that and I couldn‘t do it. I didn’t want to do it.”

“But there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Did you tell him that?”


“Why not?”

“Because I’m not sure I believe it myself, I don’t know why I should trust you more than I trust Amnesty International. They say there’s a crisis. So I tell myself, `somebody must be lying. Why should I believe Israel isn’t lying?’”

(Long, long pause). “Si, could we get back to the original topic? Your son should know that the volunteers on that ship were pro-Hamas activists. They were armed with clubs and knives because they wanted a confrontation. That was their choice, not ours.”

“Jeffrey doesn’t buy it. That’s the point. He doesn’t believe anything Israel says anymore. Look, I know you’ve got a tough job and I’m sorry. But there are just too many things about your country I can’t defend when he talks about them….”

“…I would be happy to supply you with more talking points. Ask me anytime…

“…Tossing Palestinians out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, so that settlers can move in…And not letting in Noam Chomsky…And your foreign minister, your boss, pushing for Israeli Arabs to take loyalty oaths…”

“Those are all isolated examples. What does any of that have to do with the Gaza flotilla?”

“It has to do with my only son. He asks me why I would want to be the p.r. mouthpiece for a country like that!”

“Has he been to Israel? Does he understand how complex the situation is?”

“Sure he’s been there. This summer, he went to Bi’lin, on the West Bank, and he saw how the security barrier cut that village in half. So he joined the protestors. I told him that was a mistake…But I didn’t really believe what I was saying. Now he’s considering joining the boycotters when he gets back to school. You’ve lost him. But I don’t want to lose him. Forget it! Enough is enough! The respect of my kid is more important to me than helping your country!”

“Look, if you’re concerned about him, why not tell him he doesn’t need to leave the fold? There are liberal Zionists against the occupation. He can still find a home in the pro-Israel community.”

“You mean an official of the Israeli government is recommending that someone join J Street, or Americans for Peace Now, or Ameinu? Does the Foreign Ministry know about this?”

(Long pause. Sigh) ”I didn’t even want this posting. I wanted them to send me to Costa Rica.”

60 thoughts on “Dialogue on the Gaza Flotilla

  1. Actually Dan before you go charging that something is illegal, you should know something about international law. A blockade is legal as long as it is declared and enforced against the ships or aircarft of all nations equally and that the blockader and blockaded nation are at war. It seems pretty clear that Hamas and Israel are at war. If you have any doubts just ask Hamas. If you don’t believe me, go to The New Republic where Marty Peretz has posted the relevant laws in his blog. Leslie Gelb also defended the legality of the blockade at The Daily Beast.

    Now as to the wisdom of the blockade, that is something else.

  2. Dan,

    I read the entry but I still don’t see how the Egyptian-Israeli blockade is any different than the British blockade of Germany during World War I or the American blockade of the CSA during the Civil War. As long as the population doesn’t starve and is allowed medicines, the blockade is legal.

    Now whether it is an effective policy is another matter. In public relations terms it is a disaster. But until the Palestinians stop demanding a right of return, there is no longterm end to the conflict possible. And the PA won’t be able to do that as long as Hamas remains in power or remains a potent political force. The only way out of this may be for the PA to declare statehood and have it recognized by the EU and others. Israel could then be compelled to withdraw from the West Bank in exchange for peace with the PA, without a return of refugees. If this occured then the blockade would remain in effect in Gaza until such time as the PA was able to assume control of the Strip. If the PA were able to maneuver Israel out of the West Bank then it could likely force Hamas to merge with it on its terms, rather than on Hamas’s. But in the meantime Israel must find a better way of exercising its belligerent rights to maintain a blockade. This means not dumping Israeli goods on the Strip while keeping out foreign goods in order to establish a captive market.

  3. On the legality or illegality of the blockade, these are useful:

    To me it seems clearly illegal under the Geneva Convention as an act of collective punishment– explicitly so. The chronic malnutrition, the shortages of medicine, the decimated public water system that causes disease– these are not unfortunate byproducts of the blockade, they are part and parcel of its goal, to create misery among the civilian population.

    Which raises the question– if Israel’s actions are inhumane & making peace harder to achieve, and if those actions are in large part funded by US tax dollars…isn’t it time to call for cutting back on US military aid? If you write a blank check, can you really complain about how the money is used?

  4. Thanks, Printhead. Those articles were very instructive. The legality of both the blockade and the flotilla action boil down to the question of whather Israel and a non-state actor are involved in an “international armed conflict.” If they are, if this really could be characterized as a “war,” then Israel would have grounds to justify both. If not, then the Geneva Convention applies to Gaza, and Israel is inflicting illegal collective punishment.

  5. Article cites were from a Glenn Greenwald post on Salon, which I should have noted.

    The guy at says that if the Israel/Hamas conflict is defined as an international armed conflict, the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on collective punishment still applies:

    “[Israel’s] blockade of Gaza, therefore, seems to depend on its willingness to concede that it is occupying Gaza and is thus in an international armed conflict with Hamas. But Israel does not want to do that, because it would then be bound by the very restrictive rules of belligerent occupation in the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

    One doesn’t need to be an expert in international law to see that collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population is immoral, and is precisely the kind of thing that boost support for Hamas.

  6. Printhead,

    Seeing as how the Palestinian authorities have several times declared a state–in 1948, in 1988, and possibly on other occasions–and the PLO for decades conducted diplomatic relations with many governments, than Hamas has inherited the PLO’s control of Gaza. So even if Israel isn’t occupying Gaza, which it isn’t physically, it is still in conflict with Hamas. I agree that keeping the population on a very restricted diet is counterproductive, but Britain did so to the Germans during WWI.

    It seems that your sources are making several assumptions i.e. Israel is only entitled to exercise belligerent rights if it is in occupation, but that is not the case.

  7. The following excerpt is from the an article on the San Remo Manual website of the International Committee of the Red Cross, pay attention to clause e below:

    San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea

    However, in addition to this general definition, and unlike Additional Protocol I, the Manual contains examples of activities that would normally cause vessels engaged in them to become military objectives, and this list is meant to provide some concrete guidance. The relevant paragraph[7] reads as follows:

    The following activities may render merchant vessels military objectives:
    (a) engaging in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy, e.g., laying mines, minesweeping, cutting undersea cables and pipelines, engaging in visit and search of neutral merchant vessels or attacking other merchant vessels;
    (b) acting as an auxiliary to an enemy’s armed forces, e.g., carrying troops or replenishing warships;
    (c) being incorporated into or assisting the enemy’s intelligence gathering system, e.g., engaging in reconnaissance, early warning, surveillance, or command, control and communications missions;
    (d) sailing under convoy of enemy warships or military aircraft;
    (e) refusing an order to stop or actively resisting visit, search or capture;
    (f) being armed to an extent that they could inflict damage to a warship; this excludes light individual weapons for the defence of personnel, e.g., against pirates, and purely deflective systems such as chaff; or
    (g) otherwise making an effective contribution to military action, e.g., carrying military materials.

  8. For any a blockade to be legal under international law, even if the general circumstances permit it, the principle of proportionality must be respected. Clearly that has not been the case in the current incident, nor in Israeli policy toward Gaza in general.

    Collective punishment, in most cases illegal, is almost always a bad idea. It’s an expression of the idea that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”– which hasn’t worked out so well for either Israel or the US. It tends to multiply enemies, and subtract and divide friends. Most fundamentally, the blockade of Gaza has failed what a Ha’aretz writer called “the test of results.”

    Amoz Oz’s piece in the NYT today had a reasonable proposal for an Israeli diplomatic strategy to achieve peace– but one that has zero chance of being adopted any time soon.

    So how much longer must US tax dollars continue to fund military actions that are inhumane, counter-productive, inflict suffering on a large civilian population, and are at least arguably illegal?

    I am interested to know what Israel would have to do before folks who post here would call for a halt, or at least a reduction, in US military aid. Are there limits to the blank check– or not?

    [Previous paragraph comes out more confrontational or self-righteous than I’d like. Most folks who post here know more about the conflict than I do, and I think we share a lot of values that I consider important. That said, this is still a question that’s been on my mind as I read this week’s news.]

  9. The San Remo manual that defenders of Israel are so fond of citing states that:

    102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
    (a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or
    (b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade

    Given that every objective observer has found that the blockade has created an economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and given the numerous statements by Israeli officials that the intent of the blockade is to reduce political support for Hamas, it’s clear that the blockade of Gaza fails this test.

    As a sidenote, I am not in the least bit surprised to see alleged leftist Tom Mitchell’s defense of the blockade here. Whenever there’s some massive human rights violation committed by Israel, you can always count on Tom to come up with a creative justification for it. Personally, I fail to see why the Palestinian reluctance to give up their (intentionally-recognized) right of return somehow justifies the intentional immiseration of 1.5 million Gazans, but that’s just me.

  10. Gee, I should make a copy-and-paste text for refuting this [which is what I just did], seeing as hasbarists all over the internet like to copy and paste this San Remo manual. The short version:

    a) This is *not* international law. It’s a manual compiling international law. But of course, all the hasbara parrots…
    b) The actual conventions governing this deal with international armed conflicts. Since Gaza is not a state, nor Hamas a recognized belligerent, the quoted passage is – quelle surprise – entirely irrelevant.

  11. Koshiro,

    I don’t know what the the Arabic for hasbara is, but anyone who believes that Israel isn’t a democracy but that Algeria is is definitely engaging in spin. And like I said the PLO conducted international relations, maintained its own military and declared a state in 1988. Hamas is merely inheriting the PLO’s position in Gaza.

  12. Tom Mitchell,

    Ok, fair enough, I shouldn’t have described you as an alleged leftist.

    The rest of what I said still stands.

  13. Peter,

    Most recognition is intentional. And as far as human rights violations go–whose alleged human rights violations do you condemn except those of Israel and possibly the United States? That is one of the primary reasons why I never saw myself as a leftist.

  14. That’s easily the most impressive fictional dialogue between a leftist Israeli’s and a center/right Israeli’s perspectives which was clearly written by a leftist trying to present both sides but also making sure to portray the center/right POV as either very sleepy or deeply and profoundly brain-damaged that I’ve ever read.

  15. “nd as far as human rights violations go–whose alleged human rights violations do you condemn except those of Israel and possibly the United States? That is one of the primary reasons why I never saw myself as a leftist.”

    This is true of some lefties, but not all. Most lefties support Amnesty International and HRW,which try to do an honest job reporting on all human rights violations (to the extent possible).

    The lefties that do focus on the US and its allies have good reason for doing so (citizenship in the US is the usual reason given) and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as they don’t actually engage in apologetics for other human rights violators.

    Centrists and righties are commonly apologists for the crimes of the US and its allies–if critical, they water down their criticisms.

  16. “Centrists and righties are commonly apologists for the crimes of the US and its allies–if critical, they water down their criticisms.”

    There are exceptions to this, of course. Andrew Bacevitch seems to be one, from what I’ve read of him.

  17. I meant “internationally-recognized” right of return, not “intentionally-recognized”. Sorry about the typo.

    Sure, there are lots of states whose human rights violations I condemn besides Israel & the United States. I could get into more detail, but I’m not sure why that’s relevant to this discussion.

  18. “And like I said the PLO conducted international relations, maintained its own military and declared a state in 1988.”
    You can declare a state in your bathroom if you like to. Doesn’t make it one.

  19. Printhead-
    As an “Orthodox-religious-right-wing-pro-settlement” Israel I can only pray that the US do what you advocate and end aid to Israel. Israel doesn’t need the aid, it is given for political reasons and it actually damages the Israel economy. The political reasons it is given are complex…..partly to show the Arabs that the US is committed to Israeli security, partly to be able to jerk Israel’s chain and Israeli leaders use it to be able to claim that they can’t carry out certain policies because “the Americans won’t like it”. The most prominent of the latter was Ariel Sharon who, while Israelis were being slaughtered during Arafat’s suicide bomber war starting in 2000, Sharon kept justifying not taking action because Uncle Sam was against it. Finally, though, he was forced to act.

    So please, keep advocating abolition of the aid to Israel.

  20. It is not in Israel’s interest to become as isolated as you propose Yakov.

    Its “freedom” would be a disaster.

    Do you think that the policy re: Gaza blockade and interception of the Turkish ship was a success or less than a success? How much less?

    I think the Free Gaza effort did illustrate Israel’s innattention to morality and its absence of skill in correcting its policies and/or even implementing them competently.

    You choose.

    There are three general types of positions that Israel (or anyone can take):

    1. Unconditional animosity – Meaning that regardless of the enemy’s behavior, policies will remain inflexibly. (So, in this case, Hamas did greatly reduce the shelling on civilians and over an extended period now – near zero. But, Israel has not responded in kind, in the form of significant relaxation of ground border crossing).

    2. Conditional response – Meaning that IF Hamas reduces or eliminates assaults on Israeli civilians, then the border would be normalized. “IF you keep my commandments, I will give you the rain in its proper time…”

    3. Unconditional acceptance – Good for sincere Christians and fearlessly charitable Jews. Not appropriate for states.

  21. Y. Ben-David

    It’s not the just the military and economic aid the US provides Israel that’s signifigant, it’s also the political & diplomatic support. Just look at the how the Obama Administration managed to force the Security Council to water down its condemnation of the attack on the flotilla and made it call for an “impartial” rather than an “independent” investigation. Don’t tell me that’s not important to Israel’s interests.

    Richard Witty,

    I noticed you haven’t been commenting at Mondoweiss recently. Did you get banned or have you decided not to comment there?

  22. An assessment of Israeli relationships since Netanyahu became prime minister.

    Israel – US (Strained, not antagonist except in some Israelis’ eyes)

    Israel – Europe (Strained, not yet antagonist except in some Israelis’ eyes. Some relations worse than others. Most respect Israel’s predicament, and criticize its policies, public relations, and now its military and intelligence capacity)

    Israel – Turkey (By Israel’s actions and negligence – mostly in failure to communicate, “successfully” transforming a friend into an adversary)

    Israel – Egypt
    Israel – Jordan – Similar to Turkey, “successfully transforming one that accepts Israel into an adversary

    Israel – PA (PA is making success, Israel is making failure of every opportunity, worse than missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity)

    Israel – Hamas (“successfully” changing a status of deferred war and actual quiet, to active civil disobedient war)

    Israel – Hezbollah (“successfully” keeping a status of deferred war, not much one can do positively except to keep it deferred)

    Israel – Arab moderate states (“successfully” distancing any possibility of reconciliation)

    Israel – Iran (“successfully” facilitating the development of goodwill for Iran in the world)

    Israel – Israel (“successfully” isolating Israeli Arab minority, “successfully” stifling Jewish Israeli dissent)

    It could get worse. Israel could lose more trust in its integrity and its capacity.

  23. Richard-
    It is important to realize that Israel has a collective leadership…..Netanyahu, Barak and Peres make the decisions, so blaming Netanyahu alone is not reflective of reality.

  24. Obama and Erdogan are the best things that ever happened to the the Israeli “Right” in years. They are uniting the country in a way that has not been seen since the Six-Day War. Here is Turkey, a Muslim country that had extrensive trade and political relations with Israel, and for whom Israel provided intelligence and sophisticated military supplies and technology (Israel is due to deliver Heron UAV’s soon, so the Turks can use them to kill Kurds) and they are willing to thorw the whole thing away in order to make an alliance with the North Korea-Iran-Venezuela-Russia bloc. All those countries are economic failure (yes, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have money at the moment, but not one of them is an industrial powerhouse…all are dependent on exporting raw materials whose price can vary wildly) and Tom Friedman is puzzled about this. This just proves Friedman’s view of the world is skewed…countries don’t act only to maximize their economic power…there are also deep emotional and ideological (including religious) factors at work. Now Israelis can see that giving our Arab enemies money and territory is not enough to ensure peace with them.

    Here is an anecdotal example of how Israelis are now more unified than in a long time:

    This column by Sleeper is really pathetic. The frustration at losing the battle for Israeli public opinion is palpable. So what is left? To somehow get Obama to “force” Israel to do what it can’t do. And how will this happen? To persuade the 20% or so of American Jews who think like J-Street to “pressure” Obama to “force” Israel to capitulate. What about the rest of American Jewry which does support Israel (meaning that they say the Israeli government is best placed to decide what Israeli interests are and not J-Street, George Soros, MJ Rosenberg, etc). What about the 70% of American non-Jews who support Israel? Obama should ignore all of them and do what J-Street wants?

  25. Yakov,
    You prove my point more than dispel it.

    That you are speaking in terms of Israel’s pride to resist the statements of Obama (extremely mild), J-Street (also mild), Rosenberg (slightly less mild) and others, RATHER than Israel’s cool and rational thinking, is a great tragedy (an expanding one).

    On your comment about Barak, Peres, Neitanyahu.

    The center of the current government is Netanyahu/likud. They control the majority of ministries, and the coordination of them through the prime minister’s office. Shas and Israel Beitanhu control more of the government than labor (as participant in the government), and you know well that Peres is a non-player.

    You are better than to misrepresent Israeli power structure.

    The negligence of policy, the observable tragic isolation and alienation from the rest of the rational world, is largely the result of the right’s policies and practices.

    And, critically, the current support of Israel within American pro-Israel organizations is observably waning. My generation (55 years old), is the last generation that has close direct contact with holocaust survivors, with pioneering Israeli founders, with pre-67 Israeli isolation.

    Those less than 35 barely remember the 2000’s terror waves.

    The political support will wither, the financial support will wither. Don’t push the relationships to a qualitative breaking point. It won’t serve Israel well.

  26. I am afraid that it is you who don’t understand the Israeli power structure. There is “the Establishment” which the MAPAI-LABOR people set up and continued to control even after the Likud came to power in 1977. The media-i.e. the main daily newspapers and the state-controlled electronic media are ovwerwhelmingly controlled by this same Establishment. Yediot Aharonot, the biggest newspaper is pro-Kadima. Ha’aretz is pro-MERETZ-HADASH. Maariv is dying, it is centrist.

    Likud Prime Ministers have to hide behind the skirts of Labor Party people, in this case, Barak and Peres, in order to have international legitimacy. You are aware that “progressives” (e.g. Silverstein and MJ Rosenberg) use the term “Likudnik” as synonym for Nazi. Notice that Peres meets with Mitchell every time he comes, even though I don’t see why a supposedly is a “figurehead” President. I am CERTAIN that all major policies supported by Netanyahu MUST be cleared by Barak and Peres. How else do you explain the “settlement freeze”?

    I don’t believe young Jews are going to abandon Israel. Beinart was partly correct that some young Jews don’t care about Israel, but this is not because of Israel’s policies. They are not going to go around obsessing about “the plight of the Palestinians, they are not joing to join J-Street and they aren’t going to bombard Obama with letters demanding that he stick it to Israel, as the “progressives” want. Rather, they are just going to fall victim to indifference due to assimilationist tendencies.
    I went to the Kotel (Western Wall) on the day after Shavuot and I caught up with a group from the Birthright program (which the “progressives” rightly fear). The guide was explaining the historical importance of the Kotel, Jewish history, the War of Independence and I saw the participants were moved. They were all “under 35”. But even as Beinart pointed out there are a lot of young “right wing” Jews in America plus the large number of non-Jewish supporters, so I am not worried.

  27. Yakov,
    You are urging that Israel ignore the west (and the east, and the north, and the south).

    I value the Kotel and the land, AND I value the commandments to love thy neighbor as thyself.

    The labor party is NOT the “establishment” in Israeli politics currently and you know it. There has only been one very short period in which labor led a non-shared government in the last 25 years. Don’t misrepresent please.

    Kadima is a likud spin-off, an acknowledgement that the former likud policy of annexation of the river to sea, would result in a non-Zionist Israel.

    The generational shift in Jewish youth is profound. You should be aware of it. Beinart is just the published article that describes it in a readable form.

    The only comment of yours that I agree with at all, is of the exagerations by the far left, and the dismissal and fears that that engenders.

    I made the grave mistake a number of times in my life recently, of reacting to those exagerations, and beginning to form my own views and commentary more in reaction than in my own thought.

    When a coherent right-wing Christian evangelist concludes that Israel is violating the commandments, and is thereby deterring the coming of the Messiah, then we all should worry. And, it will occur, as it has in the past.

    Currently, the right-wing Christian fanatic position is that the Messiah will only come if the physical land of historic Davidic Israel is intact.

    Its wierd to think that Israel would place its tipping validity on the gamble of what the prevailing theory of Christian rapture is.

    That is the basis of your confidence. I prefer more substantive basis.

  28. YBD:

    Whenever you discuss Israeli politics you confuse direction with position. You confuse your position on the spectrum with an objective overview of it. You are on the far Right, therefore 95% of parties are to the left of you–that does not mean they are part of the Left. Kadima is a party that left the Center-Right Likud for the Center. Labor is the Center-Left and Meretz is the Left.


    Is there a particular reason why you don’t capitalize the name of Israeli political parties–they are proper nouns just like the names of people.

  29. Richard,when you come back to mondoweiss I will meet you part of the way, as I like much of what you say here. I will still criticize you when you downplay Israeli crimes (or alternatively,sigh loudly in front of the computer screen and let someone else do it).

    I think you’d do well at mondoweiss to emphasize how to reach American supporters of Israel and give up the apologetics you indulge in that drive me and others so nuts–no one will agree that we should soft-pedal our criticisms of Israeli atrocities, but there might be something else you could say that some of us could agree with. I don’t get the impression you are actually much better informed about Israelis themselves than many of the rest of us, but presumably you can speak to the American side of the Zionist equation.

    “When a coherent right-wing Christian evangelist concludes that Israel is violating the commandments, and is thereby deterring the coming of the Messiah, then we all should worry. And, it will occur, as it has in the past.”

    I don’t think this is very likely, frankly. You might just have more and more evangelicals abandoning the whole dispensationalist scheme with its science fiction-like ways of interpreting the Bible, while others cling to it no matter what. That would be a good thing in itself. There are evangelicals with a social justice slant who are critical of Israel (the way Tikkun is) , but they would say the the tone of the very most extreme folks at Mondoweiss was wrong and would say you should hate injustice without allowing that to turn into hatred (or even intense dislike) of people.

    As far as the Christian Zionist right is concerned, they’ve been saying the same thing for a great many years and there’s zero indication that they will change their theology in the way you fear.

  30. Tom-
    I don’t understand what you definition of “Left” is.
    In the 1970′-1980’s, the “Left” favored territorial compromise, the “Right” was for annexation of the territories. Many “Leftists” supported settlement in Judea/Samaria/Gaza but were willing to compromise with the Arabs and to restrict Israeli claims to parts of those territories.
    In the 1990’s, the “Left” supported the Oslo Agreements, the “Right” opposed them. With Netanyahu’s becoming Prime Minister in 1996, he announced that he accepted the Agreements, so the argument switched to “Left” advocating giving up almost all the territories and the settlements, the “Right” saying as few settlements as possible should be removed.
    In addition, in this period, “Left” means acceptance of the need for civilians to die (Rabin’s immortal phrase “victims of peace”) in order to advance diplomatic and strategic interests of Israel, the “Right” demanded strong security actions.
    Sharon was elected on a “Right-wing” platform” (“Netzarim in the Gaza Strip is no different than Tel Aviv”) but started talking about the Palestinians “suffering under occupation”, something NO “right-winger” would say previously. Then he flip-flopped and destroyed Gush Katif. He brought many Likud people like Olmert and Livni into Kadima. Sharon announced before he collapsed that he was reversing his policy stated before the destruction of Gush Katif that this was being done “in order to save the settlements of Judea/Samaria”, and that he now intended to dismantle many or even most of them. Olmert and Livni said “It is a vital interest of Israel to set up a Palestinian state” and that Jerusalem must be redivided. Olmert went so far as to say “Israel was doomed if a Palestinian state is not set up” (good news for the Arab camp!).
    So, Tom, you tell me, Kadima is NOT Left? Really? What is the difference between Sharon at the end and MERETZ? After destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Judea/Samaria in 2003, he reverted to the “we must have civilians die so that we can have diplomatic advantage” (victims of peace) in his destruction of Gush Katif.
    Is Barak of the Labor Party “Left”? He is sitting in Likud coalition? Netanyahu froze settlements and talks of a Palestinian state. Is he “Left”. Who is “Right” anymore in the political spectrum in Israel?

  31. “Richard:

    Is there a particular reason why you don’t capitalize the name of Israeli political parties–they are proper nouns just like the names of people.”

    No reason. I never considered whether I similarly capitalize democratic/republican (apparently not).

    I’m not sure of any substantive difference between Kadima prevailing position and labor. The liberals left labor (for ozone apparently).

    The only rational question that left Kadima tipping (right or left) was whether there was a reliable path to negotiate with Palestinians. When they concluded that there was a potential partner for peace, they resembled labor. When they concluded that there wasn’t, they resembled likud.

    The prevailing “wisdom” of the Israeli populace appears to be that there is not currently, which I think is faulty reasoning.

    The math of public opinion and the institutional layers of support (states’ policies) internationally create a changing OBJECTIVE set of concerns for Israel.

    You spout the utopian/ideological view that Israel ultimately stands alone. A more apt metaphor is of life cycles.

    When we are born we are utterly dependant, relying on our mother for all of our needs. As we proceed to adolescence, we become adults as in possessing free and accountable will, but imagining wisdom (the experience and knowledge to make good decisions). As parents our primary driver is responsibility. We have colleagues and friends to help us, but will forms our attitudes and path. As we age, we again require help, becoming dependant. And, when we die, unlike at childbirth, we die alone.

    The move towards alone-ness, rather than towards care for one’s primary relationships of assistance in one’s responsibilities, is a sign of either adolescent over-exuberance, or a haunting tiredness, a “death-wish”.

    Are you really serious in that, Yakov?

  32. YBD:

    You have a binary view of the political spectrum (I’m guessing that you may be originally American, which would contribute to this) and I don’t. You don’t leave much room for nuance or differences of approach. Seeing a center area leads to much more gradiation. The Left consists of those parties wanting to make a nearly complete withdrawal from the territories, oppose settlement, and are much less inclined to use force. The Center consists of those who are in favor of territorial compromise, favor limited settlement or easily acquiese to settlement demands from the Right, and who want a more activist approach. The Right consists of those parties that are opposed to the return of the territories, favor settlement, and are very activist. With your view you have people suddenly switching from Left to Right (or vice-versa) when in reality they may have been people of the Center all along.

    Yehoshua Harkabi published a book in the 1970s in which he wrote of Hawks, Doves, and Hawk-Doves–in the latter category he placed people like Dayan, Allon, and Rabin. The Labor Party throughout the 1980s and early 1990s was divided between the hawkish element led by Rabin and the dovish element led by Peres. Rabin didn’t suddenly have an epiphany in 1992-93 and become a Leftist. He decided to take advantage of weakness by the PLO to see if he could secure peace when overall trends were looking negative for Israel down the road.

    In the case of Sharon he decided that Gaza wasn’t important to Israeli security and decided to withdraw. Had he really been of the Left he would have listened to those from the Left urging him to coordinate the withdrawal with the PA so that Hamas didn’t get the credit for it. But Sharon hadn’t changed his perception of the Palestinians. But this is a secular way of looking at politics. The far Right seems to prefer defining an endless series of leaders who are traitors to their cause without questioning the viability of the cause itself. Thus Begin was denounced for leaving Sinai and evacuating the Sinai settlement. Shamir was denounced for agreeing to the Rabin Plan with Palestinian elections. Sharon is denounced for his talk of occupation and the withdrawal. And in time Netanyahu will be denounced for compromising with Obama. In the case of Kadima, Livni is farther to the left than the bulk of her party. A large chunk of Kadima could easily move back to the Likud without changing its beliefs. Barak is also further to the Right at this point than much of his party.

  33. Tom-
    And Haim Ramon, Dalia Itzik and Shimon Peres are also in Kadima. So does this mean it is really “comfortable” with the Right?

    Regarding the “traitors” of the Right, the fact is that before they all their “epiphanies”, they made many, many speeches with a correct view of the things and then, suddenly like Sharon stated, “when I became Prime Minister I suddenly saw things are not like I thought they were”. Really, how stupid does he think people are? After all his years in the Cabinet, he didn’t know how the PM viewed things?

    Regarding Barak, yes it seems he is “further to the Right than his party” but wasn’t he the first to offer to divide up Jerusalem? Didn’t he recently start talking about “the ‘A’ word”-Aparatheid and how Israel is desparate to set up a Palestinian state. I heard him in a speech I attended 2 years ago hear him say the Arabs are not prepared to make peace with Israel. So now they are? How can we believe anything any of them say?

    I am well aware the world wants a Palestinian state. I am well aware that it is not pleasant for a PM to get calls every day from world leader nagging them about this. I have repeatedly stated that I am convinced that if the Arabs would announce they are giving up the demand for the implementation of the Palestinian “Right of Return”, ANY Israeli government would have no choice but to agree to a COMPLETE withdrawal to the pre-67 lines, INCLUDING the Western Wall (with supposed Arab “guarantees” to allow Jewish access). This included “Right-wing” Likud coalitions. Yossi Beilin has repeated written in the Israel HaYom newspaper that Obama has no need to topple this government, there is no need to bring Kadima into the coalition, THIS “right-wing” coalition would agree to a complete withdrawal.

    But the point is the Arabs will never agree to this. So what do we do? That is the question. To me the only answer is to keep building settlements because only this will convince the Arabs that their current salami tactics against Israel won’t work and some sort of UNOFFICIAL modus vivendi will emerge. As long as they think Israel is weak, they will keep pulling stunts like the Turkish ship and keep trying to carry out terrorist attacks and keep building up their rocket arsenals because they mistakenly believe that these will frighten Israel into unilateral concessons.

  34. And, on the flip side of what you won’t do.

    What will you do to make good occur?

    Your rationalization for building settlements in land with contested title, conflicts with Torah ethics, which does not advocate taking because it is there.

    Restraint from building additional settlements, creates goodwill. It conveys the intention, “we don’t seek to prohibit you from a viable livelihood or self-association”.

    In contrast, establishing settlements, especially those intentionally designed to divide Palestinian community, does convey an unwillingness to live and let live, an aggression, not just a passing inconsequential phenonema.

  35. “Regarding the “traitors” of the Right, the fact is that before they all their “epiphanies”, they made many, many speeches with a correct view of the things and then, suddenly like Sharon stated, “when I became Prime Minister I suddenly saw things are not like I thought they were”.”

    Correct on what basis? Factually correct? Legally correct according to Israeli and international law? Or dogmatically correct according to neo-Revisionist Likud or NRP religious Zionist dogmas?

  36. “Dogmatically correct” according to the views of us “right-wingers”. All of our predictions regarding what would be the consequences of the Oslo Agreements fiasco and the destruction of Gush Katif were proven to be correct. Going back in time, even though Ben-Gurion cursed out Jabotinsky as a “fascist” and “Vladimir Hitler”, he ended up adopting almost all the policies Jabo advocated.

  37. YBD:

    Ben-Gurion may have adopted the Iron Wall policy, but he certainly didn’t adopt Jabotinsky’s territorial policies. BG accepted both the 1937 Peel Plan and the UN Partition Plan; he late in his career advocated withdrawing from nearly all of the occupied territories. And he certainly didn’t adopt the policies of Jabotinsky’s leading disciples: Begin, Shamir, et al. Begin advocated for years that Israel should without pretext engage in a war of conquest against Jordan and destroy the country. BG just ignored Begin. BG was wont to ally himself against whomever he considered was his biggest enemy at the time. First it was Jabotinsky, then it was Weizmann, then it was Begin, and finally it was Eshkol and the Old Guard of Mapai. BG made peace with Begin at the end of his career merely to fight Eshkol.

  38. Tom-
    If you would notice, the 1949 cease fire lines were way outside the 1937 Peel Plan or 1947 UN Partition plan boundaries. When the time came for the proclamation of the state in 1948, there were those who advocated making Israel’s recognition of the UN Partition Plan boundaries, but Ben-Gurion adamantly refused saying that there was no need for the Jews to restict themselves, and his view won out.
    Also, Ben-Gurion refused the demands of the hard-line socialists in his circle to eradicate capitalism and to have a separate socialist education system, instead going for a single-stream national (secular) education system. All of this in line with Jabotinsky’s views and NOT with those of the Zionist Left.

  39. YBD:

    If you are going to be consistent you should recognize that the most socialist of the parties, Mapam, was also the one most inclined towards territorial expansionism. It was the Palmach leadership, which was the leadership of Mapam and later of Ahdut Ha’Avoda in the 1950s that was the most in favor of expanding the borders. The element least inclined towards this were the followers of Haim Weizmann–the General Zionists–who in 1965 allied themselves with Herut to form Gahal, the basis for the Likud.

  40. Tom-
    What you said about MAPAM is correct, but that was true at the time of the War of Independence, they dropped it soon after. However, at the same time, they were for a bi-national state, figuring that the Arabs would welcome living in a “progressive, socialist state” even if there were a lot of Jews in it. That just goes to show you how Marxist ideology really blinded those who fell for it.

  41. YBD:

    And Lehi believed that the real enemy was the British and that the Arabs would be perfectly content to see the Zionists victorious. That just goes to show you how Revisionist ideology and religious mysticism really blinded those who fell for it.

    How can you consider Sharon to be a traitor or a Leftist, but think that somehow BG was associated with the Right? If Sharon was changing his ideology he was returning to his Mapai “roots”? (I know that his father was a Revisionist, but BG “adopted” him when he was a young officer.)

  42. Your attempt to turn the tables on me doesn’t work because, if you recall, the LEHI was a break-away faction from the 1930’s ETZEL which was set up specifically to fight the Arabs, not the British. While it is true that Stern decided to make war on the British already from the start of World War II, I don’t think he or his colleagues had any illusions about the Arabs. The 1939 MacDonald White Paper made the Arabs quiescent then. It was just a matter of first things first.

  43. Tom-
    The General Zionists were split into two groups, a Left and a Right. When the Liberals decided to merge with Herut to form GAHAL, the Left split off and formed the Independent Liberal Party which later merged with the Labor Party.

    When did I ever say BG was a “Right-winger”? He did write a letter after the Six-Day War saying it was imperative to settle Jews in Hevron. The Israeli Left today is embarrassed because many old-time Leftists believed in settlement and Jewish Rights to the whole country. They were not victims of the current politically-correct views of modern “progressives” like saying that Nationalism is bad (for white people) or that ruling Arabs is immoral or that giving Jews certain preferances in the country is abhorrent.

  44. YBD:

    Read Yosef Heller’s book on Lehi, which was based on extensive research in Lehi documents and on interviews with the leading figures.

    I interpreted your remarks in #49 above as an attempt to claim him for the Right. You practically claimed that he was an unacknowledged disciple of Jabotinsky.

  45. Tom-
    I never claimed he was a disciple. In the early days (World War I) they were friends. They became bitter enemies when Jabo split from the Zionist organization. After the Arlosoroff murder and the extremely ugly atmosphere that the Labor Zionists created which led to riots, beatings and killings against the Revisionists, BG came to a secret agreement with Jabo, but BG’s party turned it down.
    I am simply saying that BG’s recognition of the situation forced to to adopt Jabotinsky’s policies, against his will. In other words, Jabotinsky had a better understanding of the situation, but BG was the far superior politician. Don’t forget that BG refused to allow Jabotinsky’s remains to be brought to Israel from New York (Jabo stated in his will that he wanted this to happen only on the orders of a Jewish government). Finally, it was Levi Eshkol (one of Israel’s greatest PM’s in my opinion) that ordered it in 1965.

  46. I should add that BG was elected for the last time to the Knesset in 1969 on a 4-man list called “HaReshima HaMamlachtit” (The State List) and after BG’s retirement in 1970, it joined the Likud. Also BG’s original splinter party that split from MAPAI in 1965 was called RAFI and it had numerous supporters of the settlement movement in Judea/Samaria after the Six-Day War including Dayan and Peres.

  47. YBD,

    Rafi joined with Ahdut Ha’Avoda and Mapai to form Labor in 1968, BG was the only major figure in the party who refused to go back–so strong was his hatred for Eshkol at this point. So he then formed the State List with Yigal Hurvitz, later a Likud finance minister and the no. 2 man in Dayan’s list in 1980.

    By the early 1940s BG understood that the Arabs would fight any attempt to form a Zionist state. He had held his meetings with Arab notables throughout the 1930s and learned from the Arab Revolt. But one of BG’s political maxims was to always have the backing of at least one great power before acting. In 1948 he had the backing of both superpowers. In 1956 he had the support of France and the acquiescence of Britain. In 1967, thanks to Israel waiting for several weeks Abba Eban was able to line up American passive support. And in 1973 Israel had the support of the U.S. because Israel waited. This is where the Revisionists, particularly the neo-Revisionists of Herut/Likud differ from BG. Sharon lost American support during the Lebanon War (Shalom l’Galil)after Israel went much further than Sharon and Begin had said it would go. And now with a new Democratic administration in power, Netanyahu looks like he will lose American support as he came close to doing during his first term in the late 1990s.

    What Israel was able to do in 1948 immediately after the Holocaust and after the Central Europeans had expelled the Volk Deutsch from their countries, Israel cannot do two generations later. Some on the Right act as if Israel were in the same situation as the U.S. in the 1830s and the Israeli prime minister can act like President Jackson.

  48. Tom-
    You are incorrect about Israel losing the support of the US during the Lebanon I War. Yes, the US was quite upset with it, yet shortly afterwards the US signed the then-unprecedented Stategic Cooperation Agreement with Israel.

    Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, captured 40% of the island and expelled hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots from that territory. They got away with it, so your last comments are not correct. Also, something like 300,000 Kraijina (sp?) Serbs from Croatia (in addition to other such ethnic cleansings in the former Yugoslavia) and nobody seems to get excited about that. But nobody in Israel is talking about expelling the Palestinian population in any event because everyone knows it wouldn’t solve anything, just as the flight/expulsion of the Arabs in 1948 didn’t. The Rights big project is to hold on to and strengthen the Judea/Samaria settlements

  49. YBD:

    I wasn’t aware that either Greece or Serbia were major exporters of oil or that they had international organizations backing their regional conflicts. Croatia was able to expel the Croatian Serbs because this attack was made in coordination with an offensive made by Bosnia to win back territory before the Dayton Peace talks in 1995. Turkey’s actions in Cyprus left it isolated and a resolution of the Cyprus conflict is one of the conditions for its entry into the EU. I don’t know if the EU will allow Turkey into membership if it complies with their demands–Washington certainly wants this to happen. But Israel’s position in the world is much closer to South Africa’s in the late 1970s or early 1980s that it is to Croatia’s or Turkey’s.

    Realism calls for context, not simply plucking examples out of the air as moral justification for one’s own actions.

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