Even the Liberal Jonathan Chait is Fed up with Netanyahu
I was intrigued by a very puzzling tweet (by @billmon1) which noted that Jonathan Chait had compared Benjamin Netanyahu to Yasser Arafat.
I thought that a very odd comparison as they don’t seem similar to me, except for the part about participating in negotiotiations but never actually accepting a final peace agreement.
But I now understand that’s not the point. It isn’t an analogy it’s an insult. Chait has burned the bridge between himself and hawkish zionists. In that circle, comparing someone to Arafat is an unfogiveable affront.
This is news, because Chait was one of the most prominent remaining liberal zionists who disagreed more with lefist critics of Israel than with hawks.
For what it’s worth, Chait explains his insult as follows
Netanyahu may be best understood as Israel’s Arafat — a master of nationalist politics, yet also disastrously lacking any strategic vision, and able to survive only at the deep and possibly fatal cost to his own people’s long-term aspirations.
I disagree. I agree that Arafat didn’t have a strategy but, it seems to me that Netanyahu has a strategy. The status quo is acceptable to Netanyahu and the then (and now) status quo was not acceptable to Arafat. Netanyahu has most of what he wants except for occasional rocket flying from Gaza. Arafat never accepted a state without Jerusalemn, but he ended up without a state at all.
Chait argues that, in the long run, Israeli’s who follow Netanyahu will pay costs similar to those paid by Palistinians who followed Arafat. But he doesn’t explain why or how this will happen any more effectively than Herzog did. He mentions a possible security council resolution which, I’m sure, terrifies Netanyahu.
Still the open outspoken expression of Chait’s hate of Netanyahu is news.
I think it is a matter of demographics. Long term, without a two state solution, Israel will no longer be recognizable.
Netanyahu’s vision for Israel is a demographic dead end. There is no imaginable scenario where the world allows Israel to simply annex the West Bank. Expansion of the settlements may go on for the foreseeable future but they will reach a tipping point that will likely provoke a showdown.
Israel cannot possibly absorb the Palestinians and remain anything remotely resembling a liberal democracy. Add to the Palestinian demographics issues with Israeli demographics like the growth of the ultra religious who are exempted from military service and many other responsibilities of citizenship and the result is social and economic stagnation.
Netanyahu’s vision seems to rely on some sort of ultimate showdown where israel’s allies assist in a military defeat of the surrounding Arab nations plus Iran. He has the same obsessions as our neocons nut even if they succeed in dragging us into war the end result will not be a new order just a continuation of the current poison.
There may not be a direct parallel in strategy to Arafat but it does seem that both Netanyahu and Arafat wanted something that simply cannot happen. There may not be a solution to the problems of the area. It may be that it remains, at least for the time being an intractable situation but Netanyahu’s vision leads to a cliff perhaps later rather than sooner but a cliff nonetheless.
maybe Netanyahu has to sound like a mad dog to keep his enemies at a distance.
or maybe it’s just that politically it’s just what the voters want to hear.
i agree with you that there doesn’t seem to be a way out, but in the short run barking loudly seems to work better than anything else.
It’s the difference between playing poker for one pot or being around at the end to take everything. Netanyahu cannot win the demographic game but he can win a few immediate pots.
Naftali Bennett and the far right Israeli ideologues remind me of the rabidly pro-slavery Southerners who could not see that the end game did not favor them in any way. What was important was zealotry for the sake of zealotry.
Netanyahu has thrown his cards in with the far right because that leads to the easiest immediate coalition but ultimately it’s a losing hand. The problem is that there is no rational way to deal with people driven by a messianic eschatology. Many U.S. evangelicals support Netanyahu based on a Revelations based version of events. They are simply playing a different game with different rules. The same goes for many (but not all) of the Islamist groups.
As long as there are significant parties in the game whose vision is eschatological and not political there cannot be a political solution.
perhaps. you seem to agree with my friend Bruce, and I drive him crazy.
There have been plenty of unwinnable hands played by people who were not “eschatological,” and there is a case to be made for winning in the short run: it gives you the high ground for the longer run.
I think the rabidly pro slavery South was that way first because of economics… the economics of the owners, who told the people what to think, and second because the Southern gentleman was raised with a code of “honor” (as in honor killings) that demanded insane zealotry (giving insolent people a whipping).
I am still hoping to hear of a rational way to “save” Israel. I think that means “save the Jewish state,” because that’s what the (jewish) people want, and it’s no good appealing to “democracy” and asking them to invite their enemies to reason together. They want different things, and “religion” is only the excuse they each give themselves (but not all of them). They could just as well be calling for the Triumph of the Master Race, or the People’ Revolution. or even “Free Enterprise” (without the buy-in from the fundamentalists who don’t know they are being used).
If you… and I hate to say this because you are a good guy and i hate losing my friends… think that the answer is for the jews to just give up the idea of a jewish state (and maybe the territory and population they think will be needed to defend it) and just be reasonable and “live in harmony with” their arab neighbors I think you may have missed the story of history in favor of an eschatology of your own.
No, I don’t think the Jews should give up the idea, mainly because they can’t. On the other hand I don’t think the idea of a purely religious state is possible, although in some respects Jew is also an ethnic idea.
The problem is that unless the Israelis engage in either apartheid or ethnic cleansing the demographics simply overwhelm them. Believe me I would like it to be otherwise, I have relatives who live in Israel, but i am skeptical about the possibility.
I think the only tenable solution is the two state model. That comes with a whole mess of complications, difficulties, and maybe impossibilities but the sector of Israelis who have a religious view of a greater Zion (and that’s hardly a majority but it is a minority with tremendous leverage) hold a view that is neither practical or political but guided a belief that God granted them the land of Israel. In the absence of supernatural intervention that isn’t a workable theory.
I seriously doubt that Israel’s security will result from a sudden movement of harmony with their neighbors but there may be ways of creating international guarantees of security, although blowing up Iran probably isn’t part of that package.
Sorry, I have to disagree with your assessment of the proslavery movement as purely economic. I would suggest George Frederickson’s “Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny 1817-1919”. Economics was part of the equation but it was much more complicated than that.
And if we disagree I hope that doesn’t make us mortal enemies. My version of friendship doesn’t require unqualified agreement or approval. Based on my reading I think my thoughts on the issue are credible, defensible, and maybe even valid but they certainly aren’t definitive. My point was simply that when one element of a conflict is heavily committed to an apocalyptic end times narrative negotiation becomes pretty impossible. I hope my analysis is wrong and I’m certainly willing to be convinced otherwise but for the moment that’s what I see.
i probably agree with you about most of that. and i don’t know enough to disagree about any of it with conviction or cogent argument.
i am a little touchy about arguments that “blame religion.” certainly there are idiots who think they are religious, but there are also very thoughtful people who are religious. And a very great many people whose religious feelings are manipulated by people who don’t give a damn about god but know where the votes, and infantry, are.
i would have suggested the Sioux uprising in Minnesota 1863 as a place to look for the dynamics of “tribal” conflict absent most of the religious complications that we seem to stumble upon. for what it’s worth the Sioux thought they were getting a bad… crooked… deal and finally responded by murdering a few whites. the whites responded by murdering a lot of indians and planning to hang about 300 of the “leaders.” The Episcopal bishop of Minnesota went to Lincoln and asked him to intervene. Lincoln managed to commute all but about 30 of the hangings.
not a specially good example. just one i read about recently.
as for the South, I was thinking of Preston Brooks and a book by Gerald Horne, The Counter Revolution of 1776.
I think “economics” is never free of other issues, because people don’t think clearly enough. Their bosses and newssources tell them a story and they believe it. More than that, people naturally find reasons for hostility toward those not like themselves, especially if they are a designated class that it’s okay to abuse, But you have to be carefully taught NOT to hate one another. Something I think I am trying to do by saying “yes,but..” about the “religious explanation.”
I think (no information) that Jews would settle for an “ethnic” state (not a religious state). And the Joshua-ites would fade into irrelevance if their vote was not useful to the “right” who want power, and expansion, as a matter of their own deep psychology.
If I were them I would take advantage of every chance to make deals with “moderate” Arabs and see if a two state solution can be made to work. I think it could, but it’s too easy to rile up the people on both sides with the occasional bombing and counter-bombing. No one remembers ‘oo killed ‘oo first, or gives a damn.
Trust. But verify.