Opinion

Face It, Israel, Sometimes Countries Just Commit Suicide

Ari Shavit believes Israel can be saved if we can find a way to make Israelis see sense about the dangers of the occupation — even though, after numerous attempts by many fine patriots, no one has managed it to date.

A Palestinian boy holds a sign that reads "We demand our dignity" in front of Israeli soldiers, Hebron 2016.
Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

Perhaps Ari Shavit can finally reveal to us this mysterious “third way” he has worked so hard on developing (“The Third Way,” Haaretz, September 8), through which he says a decisive majority of Jews in Israel can be convinced to forgo the occupation.

That would include dismantling the settlements along Route 60 in the heart of the West Bank, which will never be part of Israel’s internationally recognized borders (including Kiryat Arba, the Jewish community in Hebron, and Ofra and Shiloh — the jewels in the crown in the biblical land of the messianists). It will also include the division of Jerusalem, our “eternal” capital, making do instead with just its western part, and an agreed-upon compromise on the Temple Mount.

Perhaps he will also reveal what its general guidelines are. That’s if he hasn’t managed to polish that “new political language,” as he calls it, that will convince Israelis to elect a center-left government with a mandate to give up those territories, remove those settlers and sign those agreements.

Please note that this same miraculous approach and magical language will not be able to resemble the manner in which our “gatekeepers” — those former defense establishment heads, generals and Shin Bet security service and Mossad espionage agency directors — appealed to Israelis’ hearts, warning the Israeli public that if they don’t halt the occupation, disaster would befall them.

After all, the gatekeepers failed. The Israeli public didn’t listen to them, even though those delivering the message were great patriots with vast accomplishments to their credit. These proud Israelis, who devoted their best years to their country and made sacrifices for it, didn’t manage to penetrate the hearts of the Israeli public.

What did they do wrong, these army generals and agency directors? What should they have done? In what way is it their fault or responsibility for not knowing how to speak in a language that Israelis understand and appreciate?

What alchemy of language and ideas is Shavit concocting that will overcome Israelis’ deafness and cure them of their pathological blindness to the catastrophic, destructive urge that has taken hold of them? Cure them of their increasingly extreme nationalism, their growing racism, their diplomatic march of folly, as they proudly head toward oblivion?

A right-wing government, Shavit says, is the “punishment” meted out to the center-left for not finding out how to appeal to Israelis. Are you sure, Ari? Might there be a simpler explanation? Could it be that there simply is no way? Maybe they’re not ready to listen?

The fact is that you, even you, have not managed to find that elusive path — which, alas, has not been revealed to you, either.

You claim that finding the correct approach is an essential condition to ending the occupation. I agree. The world won’t end it for us. You write that if we don’t believe in the existence of such a path, we will sink into despair. I call it sobering up, and prefer it to caprice.

But look, I’m all ears. You insist that the radical left (I would call it the realistic left) is irrelevant, that it’s out of the game. The moment that we accept the certainty of a binational state, that of course is incorrect. But let’s assume, for the purposes of discussion, that “perhaps all is not lost,” as you write. You need to prove the relevance of your “ideological move.” Prove it to the disillusioned left. Prove it to the mainstream Israeli public.

The feeling is that everything has already been tried. If they assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then turned around and elected Benjamin Netanyahu, if they booed Mossad Director Meir Dagan, scorned Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin and ignored Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gadi Shamni's security plan as a way to find peace, what do you have up your sleeve that can be a game changer? Prove you’re not a fantasist, because the suspicion is taking hold that there is no other language, no other approach. Sometimes countries just commit suicide.