Getting Reuven Rivlin, and the Israeli Right, Wrong

Six months ago, when Reuven Rivlin was being considered for the position of president of Israel, the press eagerly painted him as a right-wing fanatic at whose hands the Jewish state would “be thrust into a dark era of international isolation.” A leading Israeli newspaper referred to him as “the Philosopher Clown.” As president, however, Rivlin has shocked his critics by, among other things, speaking out for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. Their befuddlement, writes Liel Leibovitz, comes not from some sudden change in Rivlin but from their habit of thinking in stereotypes and their cluelessness about the foundational ideology of the Israeli right:

It is dispiriting to see so many pundits opine without regard for Rivlin’s legislative record and ideological roots—his is a firm commitment to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s teachings, which stressed in equal measure a dedication to the land of Israel and to the values of liberal democracy. But it is infuriating to know that beneath this thin veneer of ignorance lies a deeper Manichean mindset, one in which a passionate Zionist can no more be a tireless defender of civil liberties than a bull can work the showroom of his neighborhood china shop.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Israeli politics, Likud, Reuven Rivlin, Vladimir Jabotinsky

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood