On Saturday night, the boycott of Israel gained an impressive new level of mainstream recognition in this country. Channel 2 News, easily the most watched, most influential news show here, ran a heavily promoted piece... on the boycott in its 8 p.m. primetime program. The piece was remarkable not only for its length and prominence, but even more so because it did not demonize the boycott movement, it didn’t blame the boycott on anti-Semitism. Instead, top-drawer reporter Dana Weiss treated the boycott as an established, rapidly growing presence that sprang up because of Israel’s settlement policy and whose only remedy is that policy’s reversal.
– Larry Derfner, Boycott goes primetime in Israel, January 19.
There is, in fact, a groundswell of “elite” (read: Leftist) opinion building in favor of unilateral Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank.
– David Weinberg, The Impatient Israeli Political Left, January 28.
Last June, I published a column, “My prediction: Please help prove it wrong,” in which I warned that “A determined domestic thrust is under way to compress Israel back into its precarious pre-1967 frontiers, imperiling the viability of Jewish sovereignty.”
Three emerging threats
Elaborating on my “strong premonition of dire things to come,” I predicted the emergence of three pernicious and interconnected processes, now materializing with alarming speed before our very eyes.
1. I forecast that the issue of anti-Israel sanctions would be raised with increasing intensity and frequency in the public discourse, and the threat, allegedly because of continued construction (indeed, existence) of Jewish communities across the pre-1967 lines (a.k.a., pejoratively, “settlements”), would be featured with increasing prominence in the mainstream media.
2. I then cautioned that, as a result of this, soon a wide-ranging campaign would be launched against the “settlers,” singling them out as the fundamental cause of the sanctions and casting blame on them for inflicting international isolation and economic pain on the rest of the country.
3. I warned that, as it becomes ever-more apparent that the impasse between Israel and Palestinian Arabs cannot be resolved consensually, Israel’s leaders will begin to capitulate under the perceived pressure of sanctions and embrace the idea of unilateral withdrawal from Judea-Samaria. Since coercive eviction of large numbers of Jews resident in the evacuated areas would be operationally infeasible and politically untenable, I foresaw the adoption of a policy of “benign” abandonment. This would mean that Jewish residents/communities would be left to the tender mercies of some prospective Palestinian regime.
Writing on the wall?
The following are selected predictive excerpts from my June column, which as I shall show later, are being borne out with eerie – and infuriating – accuracy:
“As the growing specter of international… sanctions looms ever larger… public concern will be harnessed to fan the flames of resentment toward the designated cause of these potential punitive measures – the continued Jewish presence across the 1967 Green Line
"… a well-orchestrated campaign to discredit the residents of the Jewish communities of Judea-Samaria will begin. They will be portrayed as the source of economic burden and physical danger to the rest of the population living within the pre-1967 frontiers…
“In parallel, a drive will be launched… to accustom the public to the notion of ‘constructive unilateralism’ [i.e. unilateral withdrawal from virtually all of Judea-Samaria – M.S.] and to persuade it of its acceptability, indeed, inevitability…
"Conferences will be staged with compliant, high-profile participants to impart ‘intellectual depth’ to this shallow, capricious concept; opinion polls will be conducted, with questions carefully crafted to elicit responses that can be portrayed as reflecting widespread public endorsement; opinion pieces will be published/posted and primetime interviews granted in mainstream media channels… with sympathetic editorial policies, to build up pressure on politicians and policy-makers.”
As for the fate of the Jewish residents in communities across the Green Line, I made the following prognoses “… [they] will have to decide: Either accept a modest relocation compensation package or remain where they are, to live under the rule of whatever regime will assume power in the region.”
All coming true…
January was a bad month for common sense, and augured ill for Israel’s future. It was a month which brought an avalanche of corroboration of the dire prophesies I have been making for almost two years in various forums and which I condensed in my column last June.
It is seldom that I agree with anything Larry Derfner (whose controversial column in The Jerusalem Post was terminated following his alleged support for Palestinian terrorists’ rights to massacre Israeli civilians) writes. But this time (see introductory excerpt) Derfner hit the nail squarely on the head. The boycott has indeed gone primetime in Israel.
As if reacting to a well-rehearsed cue, the program unfolded as a carefully choreographed campaign to panic the public and political leadership into believing that unless Israel relinquishes control over virtually all of Judea-Samaria, it will face economic ruin and international ostracism, like South Africa during the apartheid era.
The Channel 2 program Derfner refers to was a classic case study in the use of the mainstream media for political manipulation. Presented by the comely Dana Weiss, the program painted a dour picture of the prospects for Israel’s economy if settlements across the pre- 1967 Green Line continued to exist.
Significantly, the only political leader interviewed by Weiss (apart from a brief, somewhat disparaging, glimpse of Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin), was Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Livni is a remarkable phenomenon in Israeli politics.
She has demonstrated that, both in her capacity as a party leader and as a government minister, no outcome is too disastrous for her to attain, and apparently no failure is abject enough to disqualify her from holding positions of influence in public life – but that is a subject for another column.
The dialogue in the interview is edifying, if unsurprising.
Livni: If there is one thing that the world does not understand it is the settlements. What will happen…?
Weiss (inviting the false apartheid analogy): South Africa?
Livni (taking the proffered cue, while emotive scenes of Black anti-apartheid demonstrators are screened in the background): Yes! I spoke with some Jews living in South Africa. They said, “We thought we had time. We thought we could deal with it – that we don’t need the world at all costs. It happens suddenly – all at once”
Weiss (offering a generous opening to display political “foresight”): Did you say “Wake up, guys”?
Livni (predictably): I yell it. “Wake up!”
Toward the end of the program Livni reappears, to point an accusatory finger at those who used to be her constituency, while she was building her political career as a hard-line Greater Israel hawk in the Likud: “We have a group whose ideology is Greater Israel… they cannot impose this isolation on us!" Their obstinacy, their proclamations… Every additional statement, every additional house built… is another stone on the wall of isolation that they are building for us!”
Ah, the vagaries of Israeli politics.
You never know when the individual you voted for will turn on you…
Weiss concludes the program on an ominous note, warning that “the looming specter of the approaching boycott is getting ever closer. We can only hope that this time a miracle will occur and we will wake up before it will be too late.”
In other words: We must disown the “settlers,” comply with Palestinian demands and withdraw from Judea-Samaria – posthaste.
National numskull pontificates
True to my warning that “conferences will be staged with compliant, high-profile participants…” to advance the sanctions scaremongering and promote the idea of unilateral withdrawal-cum-settler abandonment, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) held its annual conference this week in Tel Aviv. As usual, Yair Lapid, the numskull who, courtesy of the gullibility and imprudence of the Israeli voter, holds the title of the nation’s finance minister, was a keynote speaker.
Like Livni, he lent legitimacy to the apartheid analogy used so frequently against Israel, stating: “The apartheid regime in South Africa did not notice the starting point of the boycott. We are now at the tipping point in the context of the boycott.” According to Lapid, if Israel is blamed for failure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the EU is considering canceling its association agreement with Jerusalem.
Displaying that his grasp of international politics is as sparse as his knowledge of macroeconomics, he pontificated: “If negotiations with the Palestinians will stall or blow up and we will enter the reality of a European boycott… the cost of living will rise, budgets for education, health, welfare and security will be cut, many international markets will be closed to us… [which will] substantially hurt the pocket of every Israeli.”
So now all the Palestinians have to do is show sufficient intransigence to ensure the failure of the talks, in order to inflict massive harm on the Israeli economy.
They sure must appreciate the heads up. Way to go, Yair.
See what I mean by numskull?
Although Lapid claimed that “…we know… canceling the association agreement with the EU… is already on the table,” the Post reported that “The EU delegation to Israel denied such drastic steps were being considered, saying, ‘There has been absolutely no consideration in the EU of the abrogation of the association agreement. It is not in the cards.’”
This highlights an additional aspect of the perception of the risk of sanctions which I discussed in another column, titled “Sanctions: Don’t blame the EU,” published shortly after the one referred to earlier.
In it I made the point that there is “an array of domestic elements in Israel that are pleased as punch” at the prospect of an EU boycott, since the threat thereof helps promote their anti-settler advocacy, and they thus have a vested interest in increasing the intensity of the danger as perceived by the public.
In light of the EU denial, it would be far from implausible to assign such motivations to Lapid’s threatening declarations.
Unilateralism’s heinous corollary
The specter of settlement-induced sanctions and the emerging recognition that no consensual arrangement with the Palestinians is likely, has, as forecast, led to increasingly frequent endorsement of unilateral withdrawal from virtually all of Judea-Samaria.
At this week’s INSS conference, unilateralism was one of the main themes raised – arguably the central one. In recent weeks, influential voices have joined the chorus endorsing this ill-conceived concept, including former ambassador to the US Michael Oren and former Likud minister Dan Meridor. With generous funding and institutional backing, it is forcing its way into the discourse as a viable policy option, however perilous it may be.
But unilateral withdrawal comes with an even more heinous corollary, the abandonment of Jews in the areas withdrawn from unilaterally. As mentioned, since coercive eviction is unlikely to be feasible, operationally or politically, the option of leaving Jews in the existing communities is, again as predicted, becoming an option that is being discussed – however grotesque a distortion of the Zionist ideal it may be.
It is in this context that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trial balloon this week should be assessed, when he raised the possibility of leaving Jewish settlers under Palestinian rule.
More cause for concern was an opinion piece this week by veteran journalist Dan Margalit, which carried the approving title “Benefits outweigh the damage” and ended with the chilling words, “Every capital in the world now realizes Netanyahu is seriously considering the idea of keeping [i.e. leaving] some settlements in Palestine.”
Massive political tsunami building
A massive political tsunami is building that is threatening to wash away almost half a century of Zionist endeavor and enterprise.
Although the writing has been on the wall for a considerable time, the Israeli Right has failed to mobilize effectively to confront, contend and counter it. It has continued to behave much as business as usual, at times offering alternatives that make the two-state option look decidedly inviting.
In its failure to rise to the challenge it will bear much the same historic blame for the consequences as do its left-wing adversaries.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)