There’s no mention of the fact that by 2000, Israel was well on its way to ending the very occupation Beinart so hates by withdrawing its troops from almost all Palestinian population centers. There’s no mention of the fact that it was this very withdrawal that allowed Hamas and Fatah to plot and execute their wave of suicide bombings from these same centers. And there’s no mention of the fact that it was only when Israel sent its troops back into these towns and villages in 2002 that they were able to stop the carnage.
Beinart opines that, “Occupying another people requires racism, and breeds it.” Actually, all it requires is a desire to leave your home without being blown up.
Beinart likewise glosses over Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace offer to Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert’s offer was even more generous than Barak’s: a Palestinian state in over 94% of the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, and land from Israel to compensate for the 6% of the West Bank Israel would retain. The fact that Abbas rejected this offer raises serious questions about whether he’s willing or able to end the conflict.
Blind to the real motives driving Israelis and their American friends to proceed with caution, Beinart must find our motives elsewhere. And he does. He’s decided that we’re the true prisoners of time. We’re stuck in 1938 or 1967. Our Jewish identity is linked to being victims — either of the Nazis or the Arabs — and we refuse to come out from hiding. But Israel — as he repeatedly reminds us — is now a regional superpower. Our worries are over.
If Beinart deigned to listen to the real debate going on both in Israel and the American Jewish community, he’d hear few of us talking about Hitler or Nasser. He’d hear us talking about Gaza. Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Hamas filled the void, and began firing thousands of missiles into southern Israel.
Most Israelis are wary about seeing this same scenario play out in the West Bank. From these centrally located strategic highlands, even the crudest Hamas missiles could stop life in the narrow coastal strip from Tel Aviv to Netanya that contains over 70% of Israel’s population and infrastructure. These are hardly 1967 worries. And these new threats — like that of a nuclear Iran (not mentioned once in Beinart’s book) — cannot be so easily dismissed.
Beinart has appointed himself the savior of democratic Israel. But what his book demonstrates more than anything else is a disturbing contempt for Israel’s democracy. Israeli candidates dedicated to negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians won elections in 1992, 1999 and again in 2006. In each case, these leaders were replaced by more cautious successors when their peace overtures coincided with increased terrorism. This isn’t evidence of a brutal state dedicated to occupation, but of a vibrant democracy trying to achieve the elusive goals of peace and security.
As Israelis wrestle with these difficult issues, they don’t need us to save them. What they need is our respect and our support. And given the very real risks Israelis have taken for peace — and the very real bloodshed that’s followed — they’ve earned that much.
David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel, is the author of Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State.