The questions for Benjamin Netanyahu, now that his policies and his rhetoric have reduced Israel to a bitter and truculent defensive crouch, are these: how does he envision the future of his country, and how does he intend to get there? For all his settlements, his walls, his powerful military, he has succeeded only in isolating Israel increasingly from the community of nations, in alienating not only the American President but growing numbers of the American people--his country's best among its dwindling supply of friends--and in feeding the hostility of neighbors who would gang up on him at a moment's notice, as they have done in the past, if they foresaw the possibility of driving Israel into the sea.
I don't get it. Unlike what I now take to be the vast majority of leftist thinkers, I would want to support this tiny nation. I support the idea of a homeland for the Jews. I remember the second World War. I know enough of European history, for the past two thousand years, to acknowledge their claim to a place of commonality and safety. Israeli's legitimacy was endorsed by a majority of the other countries of the world. It needs to be respected and protected. I get that it's impossible to live in peace under a hail of rockets, and there's a sacred right to self-defense.
Still, I fail to see how it can be argued that Netanyahu's policies are functional as self-defense. The growing numbers of Palestinians proportionate to Israel's population, within the nation of Israel and without, suggest a future in which it will become increasingly difficult to contain their anger and resentment, and to defend against their assaults. Provocative territorial actions and repression can succeed only so long, before their negative effects accumulate into a situation that is uncontrollable by military force.
So those questions are the vital ones: how does Israel envision its own future, and how does it intend to get there? My wish for the country is that it fulfill its original--may I say "leftist"?--vision, to be an island of democratic sanity where the Jewish people could live in the spirit of peace, justice and harmony amongst themselves and with the world around them. It will soon be Passover again. Since allying myself with a Jewish family, I have attended the annual seder, the celebration of the Exodus, for the past forty years and more. I have joined in the saying of many prayers and the singing of many songs extolling freedom, peace, and harmony not only for Jews, but amongst the nations of the world. These are heartfelt aspirations.
The concluding words of the seder are "Next year in Jerusalem." For me, this is not, and cannot be, an exclusive vision. I was brought up singing the Christian hymn created from the William Blake poem, "Jerusalem," which concludes with the words "Till we have built Jerusalem/In England's green and pleasant land." That Jerusalem, as I see it, is a not a fortress, but an inclusive city, where the ideals of human peace and brotherhood can flourish. History, as well as current circumstance demonstrate that this cannot be easy. On the contrary, it is agonizingly hard. There is a long, war-pitted road ahead. But Netanyahu will not be able to lead his people to that city with nothing but a bloody sword in hand.