“Can Israel Survive its Assault on Gaza?”– what a provocative headline! But in service of what? The sensationalism in this Time article by Tim McGirk is ultimately meant to advance the overtired we-need-a-two-state-solution mantra. Not that there’s anything wrong with believing in the feasibility or desirability of a two-state solution, as long as one doesn’t lose touch with reality and acknowledges the actual steps needed to achieve this goal.
However, when Time reporters and editors choose to focus on Israel’s “survivability” in covering the Gaza situation, chances are they merely mean to provoke rather than engage in sober and productive analysis:
Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has promised a “war to the bitter end.” But after 60 years of struggle to defend their existence against foreign threats and enemies within, many Israelis may be wondering “Where does that end lie?” The threat posed by Hamas is only the most immediate of the many interlocking challenges facing Israel, some of which cast dark shadows over the long-term viability of a democratic Jewish state.
Did McGirk actually ask “many Israelis” what they think, or did he simply project his own musings onto the minds of an unspecified multitude? Here’s more of McGirk’s version of reality:
Israelis will have to choose between living with an independent Palestinian state or watching Jews become a minority in their own land.
False dilemma aside, Israelis have already made their choice. The official policy of the Israeli government favors a two-state solution, as does the majority Israeli opinion. Could McGirk be genuinely oblivious of these facts?
Much further down in the article we read what seems at odds with the previous statement:
This tectonic shift in demographics is what scared even hawkish Israelis like former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into abandoning the biblical dreams of a Greater Israel stretching all the way from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. As Olmert recently warned, “If we are determined to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, we must inevitably relinquish, with great pain, parts of our homeland.” In other words, if Israelis cling to the West Bank and Gaza, as many religious Zionists insist, Jews will find themselves a shrinking minority in their own state.
So by McGirk’s own admission, the choice, right or wrong, has been made. Why make it seem as if the main obstacle to a sustainable peace lies in Israel’s territorial ambitions? (“Sustainable” is now a mandatory word for any discussion regarding Mideast affairs-as sanctioned by Secretary Rice). This is no innocent contradiction: Time has an agenda to sell–and insinuating that the ball is in Israel’s court is the only way to sell it:
Israel’s leaders need to recognize that if Hamas cannot be beaten militarily, then it must be engaged politically. That means accepting the idea of dealing with some kind of Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. A coalition between Hamas and Abbas is essential for the future of a Palestinian state and for moderating Hamas’ extremism. Hamas, which 18 months ago chased Abbas’ men from Gaza, says it will pair up with Abbas if he, along with the international community, recognizes that the Islamic militants legitimately came to power in the January 2006 elections. Israelis rightly view such claims with skepticism, and yet all Palestinians and their Arab backers reject the current situation, where the meager land set aside for a future state is chopped into two, Gaza and the West Bank, ruled by rivals.
The idea of engaging Hamas is not new, and certain points could be made in its favor. The argument that including Hamas in the political process would tame its radical ideology was at the root of President Bush’s controversial decision to support Hamas’s inclusion in Palestinian elections. The White House leaned heavily on Ariel Sharon to get his approval. Was it a mistake?
The President doesn’t think so. He still believes, or so he says, that in the long run the choice must be made by Palestinians themselves. In the short run, though, the inclusion of Hamas in the political process brought little else except devastation: the legitimicy resulting from electoral victory, the coup in Gaza, the undermining of President Abbas and his Fatah allies, etc.
Now Time’s distinguished intelligentsia, whose political compass ironically tends to point to the polar opposite of Bush’s positions, are trying to convince us that engaging Hamas is still the way to go.
Why would it be worth trying again? The article doesn’t say, but it ends with this prescriptive paragraph:
Israel eventually will have to pull back to the 1967 borders and dismantle many of the settlements on the Palestinian side, no matter how loudly its ultra-religious parties protest. Only then will the Palestinians and the other Arab states agree to a durable peace. It’s as simple as that.
The former editor of Haaretz, Hanoch Marmari, once said:
[The Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has created a real crisis of values for journalism. I believe I can compress the enormous volume of coverage and comment into four cardinal sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance.
This Time article, I’m afraid, is guilty of them all.