In a recent conversation with a visiting American rabbi, Daniel Gordis—a longtime resident of Israel—explained, to his interlocutor’s shock, that a formal end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is unlikely to happen in the coming decades. To his guest’s greater shock, Gordis described his own position as optimistic:
In ten years, . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if things look very much as they do now. Israelis can elect a government even further to the right, but the international commitment to Palestinian autonomy of some sort isn’t going to go away. Yet even a radically leftist government led by the Meretz party, with a solid coalition, would have no impact on the recalcitrant Palestinian street. Regardless of who is elected here, nothing is going to change the fact that, on the whole, Palestinians would rather wage conflict against Israel than lay the groundwork for the state they say they want. (Note the response to the metal detectors [installed on the Temple Mount].) . . .
Assuming that things stay more or less the same, what will we have? We will have a world in which the Jews do not live subject to the whims of their hosts. . . . Ten years from now, Jews will determine where Jews live; and for that alone, Israel will be a success. . . .
Some 150 years ago, everyone in the world who spoke fluent Hebrew could have fit comfortably into one of Jerusalem’s larger hotels. Some 150 years ago, virtually no one outside the Jewish world could name a single Jewish [novelist]. Today, though, Israeli writers—reflecting a renaissance of Jewish thought, creativity, and writing—win prizes like the Man Booker and the Nobel. . . . Jewish culture flourishes in Israel in a way that it cannot anywhere else. Even if the conflict persists, the Jewish state will still be the epicenter of a worldwide Jewish cultural revival. . . .
Would life here be better if the conflict could be resolved? Of course it would. But since that is not likely to happen in our lifetimes, it’s worth noting—particularly as now, after [the fast of] Tisha b’Av, [a day of collective mourning], we have entered the [period in the Jewish calendar know as] the “seven weeks of consolation”—that the Jewish state is a success far greater than anything its founders imagined.