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Chait on Israel

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Count Jonathan Chait among the long-time supporters of Israel depressed about the nation’s dead-end stance toward Gaza:

The story further reveals that Netanyahu appeared on several occasions to approach the brink of agreement, but pulled back in the face of right-wing pressure within his coalition. Numerous figures in the story attempt to plumb the Israeli Prime Minister’s psychology — does he truly have it in him to go over the brink and make peace, or is he merely bluffing? — but the exercise turns out to be ultimately futile. Either Israeli politics or Netanyahu’s own preferences kept Netanyahu from striking a deal. And since that failure, the most moderate leadership the Palestinians ever had, and probably ever will have, has been marginalized.

Viewed in this context, the campaign of Israeli air strikes in Gaza becomes a horrifying indictment. It is not just that the unintended deaths of Palestinians is so disproportionate to any corresponding increase in security for the Israeli targets of Hamas’s air strikes. It is not just that Netanyahu is able to identify Hamas’s strategy — to create “telegenically dead Palestinians” — yet still proceeds to give Hamas exactly what it is after. It is that Netanyahu and his coalition have no strategy of their own except endless counterinsurgency against the backdrop of a steadily deteriorating diplomatic position within the world and an inexorable demographic decline. The operation in Gaza is not Netanyahu’s strategy in excess; it is Netanyahu’s strategy in its entirety. The liberal Zionist, two-state vision with which I identify, which once commanded a mainstream position within Israeli political life, has been relegated to a left-wing rump within it.

Couple of points. First, going forward into the future, I have no idea how this turns out well toward Israel. Netanyahu seems to count on only ally as necessary–the Republican Party in the United States. Yes, there are still many many Democrats who are 100% on the side of Israel as well and AIPAC’s power in U.S. politics can’t be overestimated. But as they insult Democratic presidents and blow off John Kerry, they are going to lose support. And if Israel is starting to lose people like Jonathan Chait, then it’s support in the U.S. is showing real signs of eroding. Yes, Chait is still holding on to wrong ideas on this issue–such as his claim that the Palestinians are to blame for the decline of the Israeli left. But still, it’s a remarkable essay.

Within their own land, the demographic crisis is inevitable, leading to the nation needing to choose between inclusion and going full apartheid. It’s pretty clear that the Israeli public is moving toward the latter choice, not only in Gaza but in right-wing intimidation and violence against left-wing Israeli critics of the violence. Netanyahu is doing nothing but strengthening Hamas. If anyone can point out some way these attacks help Israel in the long run, let me know because I can’t think of any.

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