By Daniel Greenfield
The anniversaries of the Yom Kippur War and the Rabin assassination have come and gone. Both historical events are national traumas laden with ambiguous meanings.
The Yom Kippur War destroyed the political fortunes of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan and moved Rabin into the big chair. Rabin couldn’t hold on to power as Labor corruption ended the unbroken rule of the left commencing what was effectively fifteen years of rule by the right.
Rabin’s return to power was an equally brief window for the left. Since Peres’ loss to Netanyahu, there has only been one Labor prime minister and he barely lasted two years in office.
From one angle, Israel has emerged out of the shadows of the left. Under conservative governments, it has modernized and innovated. The Israel of the startup probably would not exist if the kibbutz was still a viable proposition. From another angle, Israel is a conservative country in the grip of an unelected left.
The peace process, a desperate attempt by the Labor Party to become relevant again, is headed into its third decade. The casualties of the endless Peace War and the expansion of the enemy’s capabilities to the point that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been shelled are all terrible, but they are not the real threat.
The terrorist war against Israel is a war of nerves. It is meant to drain Israel’s energies, to tie it down and make its people and soldiers feel futile and desperate in the face of a threat that can’t be pinned down. These are the same exact tactics being used against the United States. Terrorists are proxy armies. They are not the ultimate threat. They are a strategic means of disabling an enemy before the real attack.
The Yom Kippur War is a reminder that the era of the surprise attack isn’t over and the domestic conflicts over the Peace War, in which the Rabin assassination and its ugly aftermath was only a single episode, are a reminder that Israelis may be quite capable of repeating the follies of history.
The unelected left has become Israel’s albatross, irrelevant but immovable, incapable of adapting and incapable of giving up power. Its leaders have trouble winning elections, but they pervade academia, the media, the judiciary and even the ranks of the top military brass. And they are making it clear that they would rather destroy the country than lose control over it.
It took a united Israel to win the Six-Day War. Labor’s failures in the Yom Kippur War helped destroy it, but the protests against the Lebanon War were its revenge. It would have taken a united Israel to break away from the peace process; but the left was too politically desperate to cling to Rabin’s legacy. And now it is perversely working against any effort to stop Iran out of a reflexive hatred for the right.
The left may not be able to win elections, but it can destroy Israel.
A divided Israel has not been able to break away from the peace process. And it is unable to stop Iran. Netanyahu’s dilemma is not just that he has to convince Obama or dance around him, but that he has to figure out a way to do the same thing for the country’s domestic left whose parliamentary presence is limited, but whose actual obstructive powers are huge. And the left will insist on waiting until the very last second while claiming that Netanyahu is manufacturing a crisis for political advantage until it’s almost too late.
Or until it actually is too late.
The same establishment that was wrong about Turkey and wrong about the Arab Spring insists on sticking to its guns, or lack of guns, when it comes to Iran.
Israel’s left ran out of ideas long ago and runs instead on the recycled effluvia of the European left. It has adopted the conviction of the international left that Israel is always to blame. Except it replaces Israel with its favorite right-wing villains and is surprised every time it is confronted with the fact that the international left doesn’t bother making any fine distinctions between settlers in Ariel and Kochav Yair and between the good Israeli soldiers who will only serve within the Green Line and the bad Israeli soldiers who will serve beyond the Green Line.
With the dogmatic cluelessness of the professional ideologue, much of the Israeli left really believes that it would be able to get along with everyone from Hamas to Baroness Ashton if it wasn’t for the right. It’s a deadly illusion and there is no telling how many more Israelis will have to die before the illusion dies.
The Israeli left has never been willing to believe that it faces an inescapable regional conflict because of matters of religion and race. It thought that it could make common cause with the Arab left. It thought that class mattered more than ethnicity in a region where people kill each over clan honor. It thought that religion would stop mattering in a place where Shiites and Sunnis have been killing each other since the time of Charlemagne.
It was wrong on all these counts. And it has never been able to admit that.
Their only hope was that the Israeli left, like American liberalism, would see an equivalent of the split between fellow travelers and anti-Communist liberals that made a united front against the USSR temporarily possible. There have been occasional signs of such a split. Figures like Benny Morris may be the prototypes of a split over national security and a realistic attitude toward the regional conflict.
But Israel may not have enough time left to evolve its own neo-conservatives. Israel isn’t the United States in 1955. It’s Czechoslovakia in 1938.
The Middle East is changing. Israeli leaders dream of being Singapore, but they’re caught in the middle of a regional ethnic and religious conflict tearing apart the region. And every side in that conflict wants to score political points by destroying Israel.
The Sunnis and Shiites may be more obsessed with killing each other right now, but Jerusalem is still their great prize. Whichever side destroys the Jewish State will be able to claim that Allah has given them a mandate for regional theocracy and empire.
The time is five minutes to midnight. Israel faces serious threats from Iran, its Sunni rivals and their proxy terrorist armies inside and around its borders, but its biggest threat may come from its own left.