Friday, January 06, 2017

Reclaiming Unilateral Action

A recurrent theme in my recent writing on Israel and Zionism has been the fundamentally reactive character of many "pro-Israel" voices. They can only speak in what others are or aren't doing. Ask them why Israel doesn't do X -- withdraw from settlements, say -- they speak solely in terms of the badness of someone else's Y. The UN is biased. The Palestinians incite. The Saudis behead people. It's not that these things are wrong -- far from it. But they have completely supplanted any sense of Zionist-Jewish agency -- a sad development in a movement that was supposed about Jewish self-determination.

I am pleased, therefore, to see at least some move in the rhetoric of the pro-Israel left that explicitly adopts this frame. I already flagged T'ruah's statement that "Zionism, ultimately, is about taking our future in our own hands, rather than waiting for someone else to determine our future." The Israel Policy Forum has a post on David Friedman declaring him a symptom of a larger disease: "the personified distillation of the view that Israel need not seize its own destiny and should not seize its own destiny, and that everything in the end will be fine because the status quo can reign forever." A prestigious Israeli think tank, cynical about the prospects of a negotiated settlement, has just come out with a proposal for a unilateral two-state solution.

Now to be clear, I do not prefer unilateralism as against a negotiated solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Many of the people who consider the Gaza withdrawal a disaster (I don't, but I concede I'm in a minority) lay the blame on its unilateral character. An agreement is obviously better than an imposed solution, by anyone. But with -- for all manner of reasons -- negotiations a dim prospect for the near future, I do favor Israel taking the steps it can take over Israel lying back and doing nothing indefinitely.

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