Harnessing anger for smart policy

By David M Weinberg, ISRAEL HAYOM

Anger, writes Maimonides, is a treacherous emotion to be avoided in most situations, as is hate (Codes, The Book of Knowledge 2:3). Except when faced with evil. Then, anger is an appropriate, necessary and energizing emotion. And it is a mitzvah to hate those who seek to undermine the morality of society or to destroy the nation.

In matters of defense and foreign affairs, anger can be an especially dangerous basis for policy. One hopes and expects that cooler heads will dominate government decision-making in these fields, even when facing brazen assaults on our national dignity and security.

And yet, there comes a point when one hankers for a bit more peeve in Israel’s positioning; a touch more irritation in Israel’s response to attacks on it; a little less acceptance of the inevitability of hypocrisy in the way Israel is treated by putative allies and the usual enemies alike.

Anger has served U.S. President Donald Trump well in shucking off some of the existing orthodoxies in Washington. His resentment of liberal elites and their conventions has driven him to upset the apple cart in ways heretofore unthinkable; and – guess what? – not always detrimental.

This includes Trump’s rejection of the Holy Grail status of accords like the Paris climate agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and former President Bacak Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. It includes his unwillingness to ignore North Korea’s nuclear provocations. It includes Trump’s bucking of the global diplomatic consensus not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It includes his refreshing stance regarding the violability of U.S. funding for the malevolent U.N., for the funding of Palestinian forever-refugee support schemes like the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, and for Palestinian pay-for-slay programs.

So, to a certain degree, annoyance at accepted wisdom can be a valuable spur to creative policy. Pique and impatience can be harnessed, hopefully smartly, for nifty change.

Were it to be so here in Israel, too.

It is high time that the public angrily demand that both government and opposition parties put aside their internal rivalries and overcome paralyzing hyperattentiveness to foreign criticism, and do what is necessary to break out of Israel’s long-standing diplomatic straightjacket.

Partially, this means being truly open to new diplomatic initiatives coming from Washington, which I think will yet come forward (despite the current Palestinian refusal to engage in any talks that don’t promise them everything they want in advance).

But it also means that it is no longer acceptable just to sit back and sigh that “Israel’s hands are tied” in response to terrorism and lawfare.

This is particularly true in the days following the terrorist attack in Samaria that slew Rabbi Raziel Shevach, and the launch by the Palestinian Authority of yet another round of legal action against Israel in international forums. One doesn’t get the sense that Israel’s political leaders, on either side of the aisle, are truly burning with ire, and moving decisively to counter these assaults.

Doing what is needed to improve the personal security of Israelis and advance the country’s national goals should not require any apologies. Israel should act.

Primarily, this means shutting down the radical Islamic and nefarious Turkish networks operating in Jerusalem; rolling back illegal (and EU-funded) Palestinian settlement in Area C; halting the pollution of Israeli water sources by Palestinian sewage; and acting to shore up Israel’s strategic hold on key zones in the “disputed territories.”

It means building massive amounts of new housing for the continuing Zionist settlement project in areas that are in Israeli consensus and not up for future negotiation with the Palestinians – like Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and the strategic mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria. It means real building – not just announcements of intention to build – in E1, Maaleh Adumim and Givat Hamatos, and in Oranit, Petzael, Ariel and Netiv Haavot.

Unfortunately, the government has actualized very few of its announced building plans. The de facto settlement freeze – mainly in settlement blocs where the government has solid control over tenders and permits! – is so drastic that even the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Peace Now movement have acknowledged that this government barks a lot about settlements but bites and builds very little.

It’s almost as if Israel has been lulled into a stupor by the intractable nature of the conflict with the Palestinians. No matter how many times Palestinians violate their treaty obligations and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas incites to violence by spreading lies about Israeli threats to the mosques in Jerusalem, Israelis, it seems, just settle back into the living room armchair to sigh and cluck in sadness.

And no matter how many times the international community votes to deny Israel’s patrimony in Jerusalem or fails to acknowledge Israel’s incredible contributions to global health, science and security, the Israeli government, it seems, takes it on the chin. Israel didn’t even think about withdrawing from UNESCO until Trump led the way.

You have to wonder: When will we learn to harness the vitality of anger, instead of marching in place and waiting for the next blow to land?

David M. Weinberg is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal website is davidmweinberg.com.

January 12, 2018 | 5 Comments »

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. @ Michael S:

    As you say…”Having said all that”….in reality you have said exactly NOTHING. I am not angry with you, I have rachmonas on you, and your pathetic quoting of mythical Gospel and lunatic prophetic ravings, as harbingers of today’s events. You live in a dream world and I am sorry for you, and it’s your own business, But Please do NOT bring in MY name to illustrate some chimera of your own. Our relationship here is NIL.

  2. I see that Edgar has not missed an opportunity to blame the lack of Israeli public anger on the goiim. I don’t agree with him.

    When are the latest times I can recall seeing Jews angry? The Haredim can get livid, when their idyllic, utopian lifestyle is perturbed in the least. Also, Leftist Jews in the US and elsewhere have a history of demonstrating and lipping off; but it’s usually the blacks and Irish-Americans who throw the bricks through windows.

    Jews just don’t get FUNCTIONALLY angry. They lip off a lot, sometimes; and when they’re really teed off, they might sue you — but for that matter, you might get sued, even if they’re not angry. Edgar has been angry at me for months. What of it? We’re both still here. If he really wants to get at me, he can persuade Ted to pull my plug. I can live with that kind of anger.

    Having said all that, I don’t exactly agree with the RAMBAM. Anger can be useful, yes; and more often, it is not; but I don’t think it’s necessary for defeating evil. Far stronger than anger is faith, especially faith that the God of Israel stands with His people. With that firmly in place, not much need be added.

  3. The only pangs the politicians might have are those of indigestion from eating too well. A diet on bread and water until they start moving in the right direction, put aside theier petty squabbles which rise almost to hatred of thr opponent, It has become endemic in Israel generally, not only in the “Halls of Power” but everywhere, almost, so that the lone, occasional pioneer and warrior stands out before he’s speedily squashed.

    They have become ghettoised, all the affronts,and dangers mentioned in this article are accepted by a shrug of the shoulder and a “Nu what can you do”. “We’re Jews, born to suffer”….They all need fircrackers under their backsides, except the Bayit Yehudi Party, (and a very few Likud MKs,) which should get far more seats than projected. They still retain some energy.. In Shaked, they have one of the most go-ahead politicians in this or any country, clear and unambiguous, whilst still adhering closely to Israeli Law.

    The country has become law-bound with straps of steel, forced by the Goyim who examie every little grepz with a microscope. A little…-no a LOT- of anger and push-back, as the writer suggests would perhaps straighten our shoulders and give us some spirit to fulfill our original destiny, which has become sidetracked. Netanyahu, wonderful politician as he is, and the right man at the right time, also suffers from the semi-coma of agreeing, but letting it lie until “later” knowing that “later” will never come.

    A very timely article.