Commentary Magazine


Topic: party chairman

The Real Demographic Threat

As Israel celebrates its 62nd Independence Day this evening, is the country actually independent? Judging by the remarks of some of its leading politicians, one would have to conclude that the answer is no.

Speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony yesterday, for instance, Defense Minister and Labor-party chairman Ehud Barak declared that only by signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians could Israel preserve its Jewish majority. Ehud Olmert made this claim even more bluntly in 2007, when he was prime minister, declaring that if “the two-state solution collapses … the State of Israel is finished.” Olmert’s successor as head of the Kadima party, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, has made similar remarks.

In other words, Israel has no control over its own fate; its continued existence depends entirely on the goodwill of a nation that would like nothing better than to see it disappear. Moreover, all the Palestinians have to do to secure this outcome is to continue doing exactly what they have done for the past 17 years: say “no” to every peace offer Israel makes. If that is true, Israel really is finished.

In reality, of course, the Barak-Olmert-Livni conclusion is ridiculous even if one believes the demographic doomsayers (there are grounds for skepticism, but that’s another story). Should Israel someday decide the status quo is untenable, it doesn’t need a peace agreement to leave; it can always quit the West Bank unilaterally, just as it did Gaza. After decades of condemning Israel’s “illegal occupation” and demanding its end, the world could hardly object if Israel complied.

Unfortunately, “ridiculous” is not the same as “harmless.” This credo is actually deadly dangerous, on at least four levels.

First, it encourages Palestinian intransigence: if Palestinians can destroy the Jewish state just by saying no, they have no incentive to ever say yes.

Second, it could lead Israeli leaders to make concessions that truly do endanger the state’s survival.

Third, it encourages world leaders to pressure Israel into such concessions, by enabling them to claim they’re really doing it for Israel’s own good. After all, if Israel’s own leaders say the state can’t survive without a peace deal, isn’t any concession that might appease the Palestinians, however dangerous, better than the alternative of certain death?

Finally, it demoralizes Israel’s own citizens, most of whom know perfectly well that no peace agreement is attainable in the foreseeable future. If Israel’s continued existence really depends on an unachievable peace, then Israelis have no reason to remain here and no reason to continue sending their sons to fight and die in the state’s defense. And should enough Israelis reach that conclusion, the state really will collapse.

Thus if Israel is to survive another 62 years, it desperately needs its leaders to relearn the wisdom that guided its founders in 1948, when the demographic situation was much worse: that the purpose of independence is precisely to enable the Jewish people to shape Israel’s fate, rather than being the helpless hostages of a hostile nation. The “demographic threat” cannot destroy Israel. But its leaders’ own folly can.

As Israel celebrates its 62nd Independence Day this evening, is the country actually independent? Judging by the remarks of some of its leading politicians, one would have to conclude that the answer is no.

Speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony yesterday, for instance, Defense Minister and Labor-party chairman Ehud Barak declared that only by signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians could Israel preserve its Jewish majority. Ehud Olmert made this claim even more bluntly in 2007, when he was prime minister, declaring that if “the two-state solution collapses … the State of Israel is finished.” Olmert’s successor as head of the Kadima party, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, has made similar remarks.

In other words, Israel has no control over its own fate; its continued existence depends entirely on the goodwill of a nation that would like nothing better than to see it disappear. Moreover, all the Palestinians have to do to secure this outcome is to continue doing exactly what they have done for the past 17 years: say “no” to every peace offer Israel makes. If that is true, Israel really is finished.

In reality, of course, the Barak-Olmert-Livni conclusion is ridiculous even if one believes the demographic doomsayers (there are grounds for skepticism, but that’s another story). Should Israel someday decide the status quo is untenable, it doesn’t need a peace agreement to leave; it can always quit the West Bank unilaterally, just as it did Gaza. After decades of condemning Israel’s “illegal occupation” and demanding its end, the world could hardly object if Israel complied.

Unfortunately, “ridiculous” is not the same as “harmless.” This credo is actually deadly dangerous, on at least four levels.

First, it encourages Palestinian intransigence: if Palestinians can destroy the Jewish state just by saying no, they have no incentive to ever say yes.

Second, it could lead Israeli leaders to make concessions that truly do endanger the state’s survival.

Third, it encourages world leaders to pressure Israel into such concessions, by enabling them to claim they’re really doing it for Israel’s own good. After all, if Israel’s own leaders say the state can’t survive without a peace deal, isn’t any concession that might appease the Palestinians, however dangerous, better than the alternative of certain death?

Finally, it demoralizes Israel’s own citizens, most of whom know perfectly well that no peace agreement is attainable in the foreseeable future. If Israel’s continued existence really depends on an unachievable peace, then Israelis have no reason to remain here and no reason to continue sending their sons to fight and die in the state’s defense. And should enough Israelis reach that conclusion, the state really will collapse.

Thus if Israel is to survive another 62 years, it desperately needs its leaders to relearn the wisdom that guided its founders in 1948, when the demographic situation was much worse: that the purpose of independence is precisely to enable the Jewish people to shape Israel’s fate, rather than being the helpless hostages of a hostile nation. The “demographic threat” cannot destroy Israel. But its leaders’ own folly can.

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Media Spin: GOP at War!

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

Read Less




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