Netanyahu’s Phony Realism

By David Isaac

    “People do not understand where they live. If you do not live in the real world, it is possible to disregard everything, and I suggest that they start being wary in order to protect the existing construction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made these remarks last month in an effort to justify an attack by Israeli security forces on a small Jewish community in Samaria where for the first time pneumatic guns were used on Israeli civilians by Israeli forces.

‘The zeitgeist is against us,’ Netanyahu was saying. ‘Our international standing is eroding. We’ll be lucky to hold onto even part of Judea and Samaria. So quit complaining. Those plastic bullets we pumped into you were a gift – a kind of reality check.’ Having grown accustomed to international pressure, a hostile media and the acceptance of the Palestinian Arab narrative the world over, Netanyahu has resigned himself to life as he knows it.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s approach is nothing new. When Zionist fortunes ebbed, even in its early stages, Zionist leadership was quick to accommodate itself to the new ‘reality’, regardless of how detrimental that reality was to the Jewish people.

In Lone Wolf (Barricade Books, 1996), his biography of the great Zionist leader Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, Shmuel Katz describes the depressed condition to which the Zionist movement had sunk only a few short years after Herbert Samuel, himself Jewish, had taken the position of High Commissioner of Palestine. Initially his appointment was greeted with elation by Zionists everywhere who interpreted it as further proof of Britain’s noble determination to implement the Balfour Declaration which promised “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Those hopes were soon dashed. In Lone Wolf, Shmuel quotes Moshe Glickson, editor of the newspaper Ha’aretz: “The Jews of Jerusalem and Tiberias in the Jewish National Home under a Jewish high commissioner were treated like the Jews in the towns of Shklov and Berdichev in Czarist Russia. There too they had been a majority but were prevented from exercising their rights. In Jerusalem and Jaffa, only Arabs were employed by the municipality. The Hebrew language was treated with utter contempt.”

What was the Zionist leadership doing during this time? Sadly, instead of fighting the situation, they were coming to accept it. As Shmuel writes:

    the stage-by-state whittling down of the promise of the Balfour Declaration … was then also the story of the accommodation of the Zionist leadership to that gradual emasculation.

Jabotinsky, partly blaming himself for the deteriorating state of affairs, wrote: “If the era of Samuel provides a precedent it is so only in one respect, and that a very sad one: that we were silent instead of reacting to these three years of systematic destruction of all that is dear and important to us. This is what has created an ineradicable precedent. … I must conclude on a bitter note, with reproach to myself. This system was created and has taken root in Eretz Israel only because we have lacked backbone: and it threatens to become a tradition only because of us.”

The blame really belonged to Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Executive, under whose leadership and discipline Jabotinsky had placed himself. Weizmann, an anglophile, couldn’t bring himself to publicly criticize Britain.

As Shmuel writes in Days of Fire (W.H. Allen, 1968):

    He identified himself with the British way of life and with British interests, and this identification became a guiding principle in his public career.

Netanyahu may not share Weizmann’s attachment to another country, but he does share an accommodationist mindset. And like Weizmann, Netanyahu understands the true state of affairs but lacks the will to change it.

For it was not that Weizmann failed to grasp what Britain was doing. As Shmuel writes in Days of Fire:

    It was not that he was blind to the tragic facts. Indeed his basic comprehension was acute, and he did not shut his eyes to the British betrayal of the Balfour Declaration. In his autobiography, published in the evening of his days, he reveals how often he gave private expression to his bitterness, how free he was of illusions. He recalls conversations with British statesmen indicating their indifference to Jewish suffering, their irresponsible attitude toward their Palestinian obligations – the deceit inherent in their relations with him….Yet at the time he resigned himself to the belief that British policy must prevail, that when the last word of criticism had been spoken, when all persuasion had failed, British policy must be accepted by the “martyred people.”

It’s worth noting the startling speed with which not only Weizmann, but the entire Zionist movement accepted the worsening situation. Only three years after the heady days of Herbert Samuel’s appointment, the Zionist movement had distanced itself from the idea of a Jewish state. Shmuel writes:

    By 1923 to talk of a Jewish state or Jewish commonwealth had become uncomfortable in many Zionist quarters. …. “Throughout the whole of the Zionist front,” Jabotinsky wrote, “the signal for retreat has been given. It is said that three-quarters of our political writers are busy… obscuring, or simply erasing, one by one, all the foundations of the Zionist program. Now that the term Judenstaat has for some time been qualified as tactless, they are taking us further: they have begun to whisper that even the creation of a Jewish majority in Palestine is not essentially a binding Zionist aim; and that if this arithmetical demand frightens the Arabs, why not by one means or another cancel it?”

Where Jabotinsky differed from Weizmann is that he wasn’t prepared to live with the situation. Jabotinsky set about to reverse Zionism’s slide and founded the Revisionist movement. According to a Ha’aretz report at the time:

    “The activism of Jabotinsky and his movement is a natural reaction against the passive attitude and the ‘realism’ which has penetrated the Zionist ranks in the last couple of years. … If the Revisionist Movement arrests this passive attitude, awakens political thinking and revives the political activities of the Zionist Organization, it will be fulfilling its task; this will be its merit and its reward.”

We are presented here with two models of leadership. There is Weizmann’s accommodationist approach which in practical terms meant quiet acquiescence to anti-Zionist realities and further erosion of the Zionist position. Then there is Jabotinsky, who refused to passively accept ‘reality’ – a euphemism really for British betrayal – and who did everything in his power to stop the destruction of Zionist aspirations.

One would think Netanyahu would embrace the Jabotinsky model, especially as the Likud Party hangs banners of Jabotinsky from the walls of its headquarters. Netanyahu even asked Jabotinsky’s grandson to run in the last Likud primaries, milking the event for all its press value. But Netanyahu has more in common with Weizmann than he does with Jabotinsky, accepting reality as it comes to him, hoping only to get Israel the best deal possible in a bad situation.

In the 1930s, Jabotinsky tried to save the Jews of Poland from approaching doom, urging a mass evacuation to Eretz Israel. The greatest resistance to his plans came from officials of the Zionist movement, who felt he was causing unnecessary panic and playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The famous Yiddish author Sholem Asch was enlisted to speak against Jabotinsky. As Shmuel writes in “Wiseacres and Pragmatists” (The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2004):

    Sholem Asch, one of the great Yiddish writers of the last century, was not a politician but he was convinced, like many others, that in the ongoing Zionist conflict of the Twenties and Thirties between Chaim Weizmann and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Weizmann was the rational, levelheaded statesman while Jabotinsky was an impractical dreamer.

    When I met Asch in the early 1950s, he told me of his pre-Holocaust opinions on Zionist politics. “But,” he added, “it turned out that I was all wrong. After all that happened, it became clear to me that the roles were completely reversed. It was Weizmann who was the dreamer, while Jabotinsky was the ultimate practical thinker.”

Netanyahu is the dreamer if he thinks destroying Jewish settlements and shooting plastic bullets into his own people will assuage the howling international mob. Every retreat will only lead to demands for more retreats. The practical realists who settle Gilad Farm understand this. They have the courage to shape reality – rather than be crushed by it.

April 8, 2011 | 12 Comments »

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12 Comments / 12 Comments

  1. Mitzi Alvin says:
    April 10, 2011 at 5:44 am

    People live by their myths. The Jews have two great paradigms involving a savior’s reaction. One is the response of Moses when he attacked and killed the Egyptian who was abusing a fellow Jew. The other is Mordechai, the court Jew, who whored his niece in order to save his fellow Jews from genocide.

    Well said! 🙂

  2. People live by their myths. The Jews have two great paradigms involving a savior’s reaction. One is the response of Moses when he attacked and killed the Egyptian who was abusing a fellow Jew. The other is Mordechai, the court Jew, who whored his niece in order to save his fellow Jews from genocide. In the diaspora, Jews, a minority of minorities, are well-aware that they live by suffrance. The customary response to persecution has been to somehow find favor with the powers-that-be. It doesn’t always work. Nothing always works. But at the end of Exodus is the Kingdom of the Israelites. At the end of the Purim story is the indulgent condescension of a foreign king and centuries of nervous appeasement. Moreover, the Jews in Mordechai’s story are not truly empowered. They are only allowed, for that moment, the privilege of self-defence. Israel, as it is today, has a choice to make. It can stand up for itself, even against its patrons, and retain its integrity, both psychologically and physically. Or it can be a very large ghetto where its leaders make up to the Big Boys in the hope that it will be allowed to hold off its enemies while praying that its struggle doesn’t interfere too much with its protectors interests.

  3. The article should be titled “Netanyahu’s phoniness”. This man will go down in history as Israel’s most dishonest political hack even surpassing Shimon Peres for the title. He promises building in response to the Itamar massacre but he not only offers no defense against the attacks but tells Jews not to take the law into their own hands. He promises more housing but he’s the one who imposed a building freeze in Yehuda and Shomron. He also perescutes the Jews of Yehuda and Shomron sendign the black uniformed YaSSam thugs in the middle of the night to shoot plastic bullets at them while tying the army’s hands to act against terrorists. Arabs on the other hand build illegally on state land and while Bibi does nothing, he’s only tough on Jews. Netanyahu also is showing his spineless character against international pressure instead of telling them where to go and kowtows to Obamuslim and his anti Jewish State Department. He goes to Washington like a shtetl beggar for the three billion dollars in foreign aid which goes mostly to politicians and does nothing for Israel’s economy.

  4. What Bibi forgets is that while the “zeitgeist” might be against Israel, like any player in a situation, Israel has the power to alter the zeitgeist; it is not a powerless object at the mercy of pogromists.

    Ther trouble with professional Jews is that they are so impressed with their own cleverness, their need to demonstrate how urbane and diplomatic they are, the self-importance of quiet diplomacy and the success they feel when a powerful friend tolerates them, that they lose sight of their rights, responsibilies, intersts and their self-respect.

    Bibi in not like Yonathan nor his father. He crumbles under pressure and in common with the Israeli political elites he has a need to show himself as a true European statesman, even to those who despise Israel and betray her.

    He and his predecessors should long ago have crushed the terror leadership and sent the survivors back to Tunis. He should not have accepted the tongue lashings at the hands of Obamanite lackeys and he should have imposed harsher conditions on the local Arabs as well as reoccupying and expanding the Philadelphi corridor and told the international community that the more they object the harder it will go for the self-styled Palestinians.

    And one other point on a slightly different matter. The IDF has gone mad with its insane “purity of arms” doctrine and the brain washing of its troops to follow orders to the letter. The strength of Israel’s citizen army was its ability to innovate and disregard orders if need be, say like Sharon, in crossing into Egypt in 1973. When an army is used against its own people a certain rot sets in, which is as dangerous as political infighting in times of war. Unauthorised settlements by Jews must not be treated more harshly than unauthorised settlements by enemies of the Jewish state; citizens must have more rights and protections than enemies, civilians or not.

  5. collapsed governments.

    Collapsed governments, are preferable to compromise leaders. Weakness then becomes our strength. Absent what you call a national leader dysfunctional governments are too weak to impose if not agree to the suicidal compromises the world and Americans try to impose on us. This is why I am opposed to A- a Presidential system here with a fixed term like America and France and B- to a constitution for Israel.

  6. I don’t know if Israel has any national leaders. It only seems to have factional leaders. It has only two choices: compromise leaders, or collapsed governments.

  7. An Introduction to the Book of Shmot

    by Dr. Israel Eldad

    “One leaves Beresheit ( Genesis) and enters Shmot,(Exodus) as one leaves the home of mom and dad, where even the arguments were warm and heartening . . . . No more whistling of flocks, but rather whistling of the masters’ whips; not one person’s prayer, but rather the crying of the multitudes; not a dream, not one single dream, but a difficult and bitter reality; no visions in the night, no but rather a People drowning in water, and an entire People yelling in thirst in the desert ‘Bring us water;’ not a son who buys from his father a blessing and the freedom at their divine father and demand to be returned to the fleshpots.

    And from a singular Lech-Lecha to the Lech-Lecha of a People. When you close your eyes, how wonderful it is to reminisce and remember the good book of Beresheit; and when you open your eyes again, it is the book of Shmot that you see, that you feel, with its screams of bondage and its scorch of desert.

    Now go and see: how easy were the works of creation, how easy it was for the Creator to make light and order out of chaos, to form life from material. And how hard, oh how hard it is to form a People out of the Children of Israel.”

  8. Yitzchak Shamir is in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

    That would be the same Shamir who led us to the Madrid Conference, which resulted in the Oslo Accords.

    Try again.

  9. If Netanyahu cannot stand up to world pressure, he should simply resign and let someone like Shamir be Prime Minister.