Getting Yitzḥak Rabin’s Legacy Right

Dec. 11 2017

Reviewing Itamar Rabinovich’s recent biography of Yitzḥak Rabin, Efraim Inbar praises it for correcting the misconception that the Israeli general and statesman was far more concerned with achieving “peace” than with issues of security; in reality, his entire career was focused on security. At the same time, however, Inbar faults the book for errors of both fact and interpretation:

[Rabinovich criticizes] Rabin for not making “bold” decisions or taking on more “diplomatic initiatives,” terms favored by Israeli leftists who find the status quo vis-à-vis the Arabs untenable. Yet, gaining time and waiting for the Arabs to change and accept Israel has been the Zionist strategy from David Ben-Gurion’s time. Moreover, Rabinovitch offers little criticism of the security risks taken by Rabin in accepting the Oslo agreement, which was described by his disciple Ehud Barak as having “a lot of holes. It’s like Swiss cheese.”

Similarly, Rabin’s willingness to withdraw to the 1967 line in his negotiations with Syria elicits [from his biographer] no discussion of its potential repercussions, particularly when the current Syrian predicament, with both Shiite and Sunni radicals pressing up against the Israeli border, is so evident. Finally, the author’s dislike for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for religious Zionists (a much more diverse group than [Rabinovich implies]) is fairly strident and echoes the frustration of Israel’s left with changes in Israel’s society and politics that it can no longer control.

The author also misreads Rabin’s approach to the first intifada and the Palestinian issue. Rabin never believed that the only way to deal with these issues was by finding a political solution. For Rabin, any political solution was predicated upon Israel’s superior military power and its occasional use. In Rabin’s mind, military power and diplomatic efforts were not disconnected.

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More about: Intifada, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Oslo Accords, Yitzhak Rabin

 

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times