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The Villa in the Jungle

ofdesign.net

Three months ago Ehud Barak—former Israeli Prime Minister, Defense Minister, IDF Chief of Staff, commander of the storied Sayeret Matkal, and still the most decorated IDF soldier—visited our town as part of the ‘Sacramento Speakers Series.” Like other expatriate Israelis, and many Jews in our community, I was eager to hear Barak’s talk, and learn of his views regarding the current Israel government and political situation, the Palestinian issue, Middle East, Iran, war and peace. To be frank, I was largely disappointed, as he hardly touched on these topics, at least not in his initial long talk. The second part of the evening however—the interview session, where he was asked question by a local TV personality—was much more interesting and he was forced to touch upon these topics, and was also more revealing as to who Ehud Barak the person is.

The reason I’m coming back to his talk so late is because one thing, one phrase of his, had remained planted in my head—and kept bothering me—more than anything else he’d said that evening. He’d kept comparing Israel to “The Villa in the Jungle,” at least a couple of times (this being his favorite moniker). There was also an element of smugness in him, of look how clever I am, saying that. And I came to believe that this saying is symptomatic of a lot of what’s wrong with Israel’s attitude and politics today, with the army’s parlance and ‘school-of-thought’ adopted by political leaders. I thought it’s well worth analyzing. So here goes:

The first thing to disturb me in this saying was the stench of plain racism that came from it. We built, he actually said, a beautiful (white, I assume) villa in the jungle (dark, I assume). Inside, he said, we’re doing very well, but once we venture outside, we’re surrounded by the (black, I assume) barbarians at the gate. What can we do, he really remarked, but we are not living in Canada. This was, still is, so reminiscent of South Africa, and how the white minority, the Anglo and Dutch outsiders had ruled over the native, black majority there for so many years. And how they thought of, and behaved toward, the people surrounding them. Indeed, Israel is accused by many of being in the process of creating an Apartheid state.

It’s also, for second, not exactly true. In the north of Israel we have Lebanon. For many years, it was regarded, especially Beirut, as the ‘Paris’ of the Middle East.’ Southern Lebanon, where Hazboollah now is completely in charge, was the bastion of the Christians, historically an educated, culturally sound society and place (I know, I’ve been there). If not for the Palestinian issue—which Israel continuously refuses to solve, and to acknowledge as being the central issue, the core of the conflict—things there would’ve been much, much better.

True, it was Ehud Barak, in his short stint as Prime Minister, who pulled the IDF out of Lebanon. It’s also true that he tried to strike a deal with Arafat—unreciprocated unfortunately—in order to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There are some ongoing efforts to promote coexistence with the Israeli Arabs, and with Palestinians. And not that there were never any other serious peace negotiations and attempts on Israel’s part. Yitzhak Rabin paid with his life for one such an attempt. Still, in the current political climate in Israel, these are too few and far between, and the majority of Israelis continue to move right-of-center, and are opposed to any compromise with the Palestinians.

And then we have Syria and Jordan to the East. Yes, things in Syria are horrendous currently, but that country carries a lot of historical, cultural significant in the Middle East and the world. And so does Jordan. And we also have Egypt in the south, with its own immense historical, cultural treasures. It’s not as if we Jews, by coming to the land of our forefathers, are the only cultured, educated, enlightened people around.

It’s also brings to mind the larger question of how we see ourselves—Israel that is, and its people—living in the region. Are we there to erect and solidify our walls (that indeed Israel keeps building), to separate ourselves in our fortified “Villa,” fighting and dreading the day we’ll be overrun by the wild people of the “Jungle.” Or do we, finally, want to be an integral part of that rough neighborhood. To belong, at least, if not necessarily to assimilate. To live in peace with our surrounding neighbors, and not in a constant war.

Finally, this saying—which depicts, describes Israel as the “Villa in the Jungle”—represents a lot of the problems afflicting today’s Israel and its people. It’s the reason why, despite all its advances—in agriculture, hi-tech, culture, democracy, and yes, military might—it’s still so isolated, especially culturally. Not that surprising then that Natalie Portman, Paul McCartney, the singer Lorde, and the Argentinian Soccer team, all refused to come to Israel lately. In a way, Israel brings it upon itself, isolating itself—culturally and politically especially—with this attitude; which the saying—the “Villa in the Jungle”—is such a reflection of.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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The Price of Victory

Katherinekiviat.com

Many words have been written last year, around the fifth of June, on the occasion of the 50-year anniversary to the Six-Day War of 1967 and its aftermath. I’m not going to add to that here again, but it is now clear for all to see that what has been predicted by some, including by yours truly for the last five years or so, including on this blog, has become a reality. That reality is the death of the Oslo Accords and the Two-State Solution, and the rise of the Bi-National state solution, the Israel-Palestine state option, or alternately the Israeli-Apartheid state option. Take your pick.

This is the price Israel is paying now for its great victory in 1967, and its inability to contain the forces—the settlers’ movement and its American Jewish backers—from exploiting that victory (in which they’d played no part.) The demise of the Palestinian-state option, existing side-by-side with Israel, will bring about a stronger, louder demand from the Palestinians to become equal citizens in the larger state of Israel, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel will not grant them their wish—a wish that will signal the end of Israel as a Jewish state—and instead will try to contain them forever in a ‘limited autonomy,’ a ‘state minus,’ call it what you will. Bantustan-like territories is what I call it.

The world—other than America, at least as long as this president is in charge—won’t stand for it, and Israel will end up being a pariah state among the nations. Just read this quote: “Victory isn’t about lining up behind a specific final-status deal, but rather convincing the other side to accept the country’s existence as a Jewish state, while also demonstrating that there are core issues where Israel simply won’t negotiate… The political tools for trying to coerce ‘defeat’ out of the Palestinians are readily available, even if it’s far from obvious what their actual impact would end up being.”

I’m going to tell you what “their actual impact would end up being.” But before I do that, l’m going to tell you who’s the author of the above quoted statement. It was issued in November 2017 by a joint group of ‘members of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus,’ and members of the ‘Congressional Israel Victory Caucus on Capitol Hill.’ As reported in Tablet Magazine by Armin Rosen on November 17, the Knesset ‘Victory Caucus’ has 16 members from across the spectrum of Zionist parties, and the American version counts 32 members of Congress, the majority of whom are Republicans. They are committed, according to my understanding of their aims and statements, to solidify Israel’s victory by all means necessary, coercing the Palestinians into acceptance of Israel’s terms-of-victory, while giving them peanuts in return.

As the past few weeks prove, since the Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it won’t work. If nothing else, the Palestinian people are proud people. As their leader Abbas just said: “Jerusalem is the diamond in the Palestinian crown.” Now, with Netanyahu behind it all, the American administration—led by people without any understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand—tried, with some surprising assistance from Saudi Arabia and maybe even from Egypt, to coerce the Palestinians into accepting a solution of ‘state minus.” Of being ‘second class’ people and nation. The Palestinian leadership, with Abbas at its head, gave a fiery response this week, which already has proven them totally wrong. And will prove them wrong eternally.

You see, Israel—with the support of the Americans—will have the upper hand militarily. No doubt about that. And the fact that there was no major resistance (i.e. Intifada) to the ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ other than youth throwing stones and burning tires, is a good indication of that. Militarily, Israel has won. Morally though, it’s going to lose. Because the dilemma the Palestinians’ refusal to accept surrender means the end of the Zionist dream in its original intent. If the country is not majority Jewish, or if the country is not a democracy, then the dream is gone.

This is the big conundrum. Put it another way: A victory doesn’t necessarily mean vanquishing and humiliating the enemy entirely, capturing its country forever and wiping its entity off the map. The Russian-Soviets had tried that in Eastern Europe and failed. The Americans and British knew better, and had been proven correct. But Israel, it seems, is refusing to learn this lesson. Most tragically, refusing to learn from its own long history. I don’t proclaim to know exactly how it would end. It might take a few more generations to sort itself out. But the collapse, the defeat—of the Zionist dream, in its purest form—is written in large letters and murals on the wall of victory.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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