Friends Like These

Throwing Netanyahu Under Abbas

Mark Baker on what the Israeli right demands of Israel's friends.

Marty Melville, AFP / Getty Images

Isi Leibler often writes dispatches about his old Melbourne shtetl from his home in Jerusalem. In his latest Jerusalem Post piece, he berates the great Labor betrayal that turned Autralian Prime Minister Gillard’s vote from a nay to an abstention. For Leibler, there is more at stake in the last minute flip-flop than a single U.N. resolution. It signals a deeper erosion of bipartisan support for Israel, a trend paved by former friends like the two Bobs—Carr and Hawke—who have been pushed by Australia’s growing Muslim population to throw Israel under Abbas.

According to Leibler, the downward spiral has accelerated since the U.N. vote was cast. He notes that Israel’s highly regarded Ambassador, Yuval Rotem, was summonsed to the Foreign Ministry and laments the post-vote chorus of condemnations from capitals throughout the world.

From reading Leibler’s article one wouldn’t guess that other events also transpired that same week. There is no mention of what some might regard as Benjamin Netanayahu’s betrayal of Israel’s friends: his announcement of settlement plans in the controversial E1 region, the withholding of Palestinian taxes, and a ratcheting up of rhetoric against the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority.

Implicit in Leibler’s worldview is the belief that criticism of Israel is tantamount to blasphemy. No matter how extensive Netanyahu’s legal and diplomatic transgressions, he is supposed to be permitted the kind of impunity reserved for tinpot dictators.

Friends like Barack Obama who support Israel with words and weapons should know to turn their cheek against a pattern of ritualistic humiliation. European friends who take Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech at its word are meant to ignore the facts he is building on the ground that contradict his rhetoric. Friends who won’t talk to Hamas because it’s a terrorist organization are asked to treat Abbas and Fayyad with equal disdain because their strategy of non-violent nation-building conceals a more insidious intention.

The truth that Israel’s friends won’t dare speak without being branded enemies of the Jewish state is that Netanyahu does not believe, nor has he ever believed, in a two-state solution. Friends must accept that the Palestinians should not be permitted to consider East Jerusalem their future capital. Friends must accept that the laws of occupation do not apply to Israel because forty years of rule over Judea and Samaria is a Jewish birth-right. Friends must accept that the only option for Israel is the status quo—a euphemism for a rapidly changing landscape of territorial usurpation and erosion of human rights.

What these friends are not supposed to accept is that Israel, like any other society, is a nation divided, albeit unequally if the ultra-Orthodox and settlers, but not Arabs, are polled. They are not supposed to listen to progressive voices in Israel that line up to condemn Netanyahu’s settlement projects. They are not supposed to read journalists who warn of the dangers of the two-state solution slipping away, forcing Israel to make existential choices between democracy or discrimination, Jewish values or equal citizenship.

Everything comes down to this: the Holocaust is not over. As the generation of survivors tragically dies out, Europe must never be permitted to forget that the debt that is owed can only be transacted by the government of Israel. Under Netanyahu, the debt that must be paid is an endless guilt offering that subsumes all other rational considerations, including alternative liberal assessments of what is good for the Jewish state.But here’s the irony: Israel itself is supposed to constitute a refutation of the Holocaust. Jewish sovereignty, Jewish empowerment—what the philosopher Emil Fackenheim called the Jewish return to history—was meant to transform the relationship between Jews and the world. Yet Netanyahu, in the name of Zionism, paradoxically spouts the most non-Zionist ideology of all. We might be buffed with muscle on the outside, he is crying to the world, but on the inside we are a ghetto surrounded by hostile Goyim.

Every threat—be it from a nuclear Iran, or Hamas rockets, or PA diplomacy, or even from Jewish traitors like Amos Oz, and now from our friends in power, are all manifestations of the same cyclical hatred that leads back to the destruction. The green line is an Auschwitz border so how dare Angela Merkel tell Israel not to settle on E1!

Amidst this bravado, the Diaspora Jewish lobby is reduced to the role of a shtadlan, a medieval intercessor that asks its leaders for special dispensation. Just as early Zionists once described the world’s pathology as Judeophobia, now the world must acquiesce as Israel self-diagnoses its eternal condition of isolation and rejection.

That is what Israel’s gentile friends must accept as truth in these days. But we Jewish friends who carry these same legacies, we who are Zionists who believe in the future of Israel as a Jewish, democratic, and ethical state, what will we accept and how will we remember?