Opinion

The Israeli Left’s Bad Choice of Heroes

Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech in Ramallah on January 28, 2020.
ABBAS MOMANI / AFP

In his op-ed Sunday “The left’s messianic stage,” Aluf Benn rubs salt into the left’s wounds: “Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ has delivered a knockout blow to the Israeli left.” And why? Because it placed its trust in “the Messiah,” namely “the world.” This Messiah, it turns out, did phone often, but, like every false Messiah, never came.

In Benn’s opinion, to achieve its primary goal, the establishment of a Palestinian state, the left should have worked in an entirely different way. How? He doesn’t elaborate. However, Haaretz’s editor-in-chief is challenging his colleagues not to rely any longer on “the Messiah,” as they have for a generation and more.

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It’s true that on the Palestinian issue the Israeli left has always been delusional and messianic. This messianism is reflected in its belief that all the Palestinians want is to establish a state and live in peace alongside Israel. The fact that the Palestinians have rejected every Israeli proposal, including the (far-reaching) ideas of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, did not cause the left to sober up from its belief regarding their motives. Nor did the betrayal by Yasser Arafat in the Oslo Accords, or two intifadas and tens of thousands of acts of terror.

Until the advent of the broad public relations onslaught by the Israeli left, “the world” had barely heard of the Palestinian “people” and did not identify with its sovereign “right.” It actually identified with Israel, which in the Six-Day War removed an existential threat to itself and returned to the heart of its historic homeland.

The group that mobilized to convince the world – this time without quotation marks – that it is the Palestinians who have the just cause was the Israeli left. It did so with a sense of mission and impressive adherence to the goal. Left-wing organizations even persuaded communities overseas, as in Israel, that terror is the only way to achieve the sacred objective. Thanks to this messianism, most of the “enlightened world” transferred its support from Israel to the Palestinians.

Those who surpassed themselves were well-known Israeli legal scholars, who also mobilized for the sacred goal. They propagated the baseless claim that according to “international law” Judea and Samaria (which were never under Palestinian sovereignty) are “occupied territories,” which belong to the future Palestinian state.

“The world” was convinced, and this was accepted as fact in international legal discourse. For that reason (too), “the world” prevented right-wing governments from imposing Israeli law in Judea and Samaria. And that is the situation to this day, even after the publication of the Netanyahu-Trump plan.

The messianic left has chalked up another success in the internal Israeli discourse. In the past 53 years it has succeeded in causing too many Israelis to question their belief in the justice of the path of Zionism and the Jewish state. It has implanted in the Jewish public the false narrative of the Palestinians – that it is the Jews rather than the Arabs who are responsible for the 1948 war (which we mustn’t call the “war of independence”).

With the exception of sliding over into violent means, namely a civil war, the left has done everything to promote a Palestinian state. The reason why until now this “everything” has been unable to achieve the sacred objective, is due to one small (repressed) fact: The Palestinians’ primary goal – which takes priority over the establishment of a state for themselves – is to bring an end to the Jewish state.

If the Palestinians had acceded to the proposals of Olmert or Barak – or the Clinton Parameters – they would have a state today. A major struggle by the right, like that waged against the evacuation of Sinai and Gush Katif, would not have prevented that. The Palestinians, and not Netanyahu & Trump, have delivered the knockout blow to the left. The time has come for the left to admit: It’s the Palestinians’ fault that there is no Palestinian state.