Justice has nothing to do with it, and neither does the moral high ground. You must deal with a world that is not the way you may wish it to be, but the way it actually is. So recognize now that Israel is caught in a morass. Military action alone will not extricate it, and in the absence of a political solution Israel will have to spend lives and treasure in a struggle that will continue for years. Many conservatives, however, especially the professional pundits among them, are in denial about this. If anyone in the Bush Administration should hint at the need for a political solution, they will accuse him of going wobbly.
Meanwhile you may also detect among the professional pundits a growing eagerness to “take out” — their preferred phrase — Iran and Iraq. Grant now that it would be a fine thing to topple both those regimes. The supposition, though, seems to be that we can do it alone, without logistical support from, or bases in, any other Arab nations. Militarily this makes no sense, but the pundits create a world of their own. Presumably Bill Kristol will parachute into Tehran, while George Will swims across the Persian Gulf, and Bill Bennett slips into Baghdad and rallies the Iraqi opposition.
But back now to Israel, where Haaretz, a daily newspaper, argues almost every day now about the need for a political solution to Israel’s problems. You may read the English edition of Haaretz on the Internet at www.haaretzdaily.com. Haaretz is generally liberal, but you must not hold that against it. Its reporting is unbiased and first rate, and it is closer to the front lines in the war against terrorism than the conservative pundits. Suicide bombers have killed Israelis outside its Tel Aviv office.
But as a Haaretz editorial said last week: “The various military responses to the murderous attacks by Palestinians” have not worked.; instead they “have increased Palestinian enmity and have strengthened those seeking to wreak destruction in the streets of Israel.”
Haaretz has also declared, sensibly, I think, that the hawks’ claims about “eliminating the terrorist infrastructure are misleading.” It asks, “What is the terrorist infrastructure when anyone can become a suicide bomber?”
So what is to be done? For one thing, Haaretz wants Ariel Sharon to go away: His answer to the Palestinian problem “is based on the assumption that any attempt to solve it through political means deserves defeat.” Haaretz also worries that George Bush sees in Sharon “a mirror image of himself opposite the axis of evil.” Meanwhile Haaretz cites the “tragic mistake by every Israeli government since 1967 — building settlements on the West Bank. “Everyone knows,” it declares, “that if not for the settlements, it would have long since been possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.”
I am not sure about the “everyone knows” part of that, but I do know that the professional pundits, much less the unctuous liberal politicians (think Lieberman and Schumer, for two) who proclaim their support for Israel, do not want to talk about the settlements. It is too sensitive an issue, and whether it has merit or not, they would simply rather not raise it.
So the Israeli-Palestinian struggle goes on, and in the world that actually is, and not the one we wish it to be, anti-Semitism arises, and Israel must live with the consequences. Thus it was not noticed much in this country, but certainly it was in Israel, that the U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted 40 to 5 for a resolution that accused Israel of “mass killings perpetrated by the Israeli occupying authorities against the Palestinian people.”
But there were no mass killings, of course, and the resolution was nothing more than malice. Meanwhile, as a very sober New York Times editorial has just noted, ancient hatreds are appearing again all over Europe. A cartoon in the liberal Italian daily La Stampa depicted an infant Jesus looking up at an Israeli tank and saying, “Don’t tell me they want to kill me again.” A Lutheran bishop in enlightened Denmark delivered a sermon in Copenhagen in which he compared Sharon’s policies toward the Palestinians to those of King Herod, who ordered the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem.
We may look for much more of this if the Israeli-Palestinian problem shows no sign of being resolved. And the pundits and others who insist that this can be done only by military action are not solving the problem. They are, in fact, part of it.