The Grim Truth?


John Mearsheimer outlines what he regrets is the likely future for Israel/Palestine if we do not get a new peace deal under this president:

The story I will tell is straightforward.  Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans -- to include many American Jews -- Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank.  Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy.  Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a "Greater Israel," which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.  Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term.  In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens.  In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.

It makes for a depressingly convincing read. The Palestinians remain too divided to deliver much in the time period necessary (soon); the Israeli government, whatever it says, is obviously committed to controlling all of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem indefinitely; the US Congress does what AIPAC tells it to and will prevent any aid or loan guarantee pressure on Israel; a huge Christianist Zionist population in America wants Greater Israel almost as much as the settlers themselves (see: Palin, S. and Scheuneman, R.); liberal American Jews have finessed the anguished position of being against settlements but against any serious attempt to stop them; and by now, the settlements themselves are so entrenched it might take something close to an Israeli civil war or mutiny in the IDF to remove them.

So given that there's no real way to stop the emergence of a de facto apartheid state, and assuming that Israel will not engage in massive ethnic cleansing, what will happen in the future? Mearsheimer:

The critical question is: what will happen to those Jews who comprise the great ambivalent middle once it is clear to them that Israel is a full-fledged apartheid state and that facts on the ground have made a two-state solution impossible?  Will they side with the new Afrikaners and defend apartheid Israel, or will they ally with the righteous Jews and call for making Greater Israel a true democracy?  Or will they sit silently on the sidelines?

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel but will either keep quiet or side with the righteous Jews against the new Afrikaners, who will become increasingly marginalized over time.  And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel's racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.

At that point, with the Likudnik right marginalized, and the ambivalent middle increasingly distressed by a more clearly apartheid system, what will happen? Mearsheimer sees a bi-national democracy achieved through Palestinians winning the international argument that a non-Jewish Israel is preferable to an apartheid Israel. He urges non-violence in such a situation.

This is where he loses me. I suspect he is being far too sanguine about the possibilities of a mature, non-violent Palestinian movement that uses its democratic majority for fruitful and non-violent and non-anti-Semitic ends. But I also suspect that his analysis of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby in Washington is accurate: Israel will gladly sleepwalk into international pariahdom (which will only confirm its rectitude for Podhoretz et al.), become a prison for a majority of its population, lose its soul in the brutality such a state would necessitate and see large flights of secular Jews from its population and an increase in religious fanaticism among those who remain.

One wonders if it isn't already too late to prevent this. But those who want Israel to survive and prosper as a Jewish state must surely hope so. I suspect that the only major political "ism" of the nineteenth century to survive intact in the twenty-first is in grave danger of dying.

Israel's only hope is Obama. But when he holds the mirror up to them, it cracks.

(Photo: a young religious settler on the West Bank. By Uriel Sinai/Getty.)