AVIGDORUrielSinai:Getty

Read Jeffrey's latest. He makes a point that improves on my own formulation:

I disagree with his formulation about Israel's suicide, though not entirely. If anything, Israel may wind up the victim of murder-suicide. The long and brutal strategy of Arab Muslim extremists is to keep up the pressure on Israel until it makes a fatal mistake (the Gaza invasion, many believe -- and I do, on some days -- was an example of a non-fatal, but pretty damn serious strategic mistake) or until Israelis simply give up.

I think that murder-suicide is a better formulation. I despise the idea that Israel doesn't have as much a right to exist as any other state, that it doesn't have the right to self-defense as much as any other state, and I do believe that in the 1990s, the Israeli governments and people made good faith efforts to make peace that were largely, but not entirely, unreciprocated. I think Taba was more complicated than many neoconservatives made it out to be, but I had little difficulty in taking Israel's side unequivocally in those years. 

What concerns me - and concerns many - is what has happened since.

I'm sorry I haven't had time to respond fully to Jeffrey and Jon yet - I thought it more urgent to tackle Marc Thiessen and this blog's incessant pace makes the kind of reflection necessary to be fair in a real response in real time very hard. (And I hope Jeffrey saw my "tear his argument to shreds" point had a tongue-in-cheek quality to it. I certainly didn't write, as his headline has it, that I would tear him to shreds. )

What concerns me is the hardening of attitudes in Israel, the emergence of a radical right in the mainstream, a foreign minister who is a vicious racist, and a response to Obama's offer to hold a mirror up to Israel that amounted to a Cheneyite attempt to smash that mirror to pieces. Since the 1990s, the population of settlers on the West Bank has doubled, while the entire world has shifted deeply against Israel - and not solely because of rampant anti-Semitism. I do not single out Israel for war crimes - look at my record on the US. But I do believe that the Gaza war was worse than a mistake. It was, in many respects, along with the blockade, a pre-meditated crime.

And if Ehud Ohlmert were still prime minister, we might have made huge strides this past year. But Olmert is not prime minister. Netanyahu is - a wily, deeply cynical pol. And Avigdor Lieberman is Israel's face to the world. No less than Marty Peretz has described Lieberman as a "neo-fascist … a certified gangster … the Israeli equivalent of Jörg Haider." This is Israel's foreign minister - and he's there because the domestic politics of Israel put him there. We have the equivalent of Rove-Cheney in power in Israel, and we are approaching a terribly dangerous moment with Iran. I fear terrible consequences and I see in Washington the same neoconservatives upping the ante more and more.

Jeffrey doesn't see it quite that way, but he does see the problem, and his writing has helped me understand more deeply the problem:

I've been writing since 2004 that Israel will one day be considered an apartheid state if it continues to rule over a population of Arabs that doesn't want to be ruled by Israelis. That is why it is vital for Israel to establish permanent, internationally-recognized borders that more-or-less adhere to the 1967 border. Unlike Andrew, I believe that Israel has tried to free itself from ruling these Palestinians (the pull-out from Gaza is an example, as is Ehud Olmert's recent, unanswered offer to the Palestinians to pull out from virtually 100 percent of the West Bank). But the reality remains: It will be very dangerous for Israel to engineer this pull-back, but it will be, over time, fatal for it to stay in the West Bank.

(Photo: Avigdor Lieberman by Uriel Sinai/Getty.)

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