addressing the divide
- The Decisive Divide
- The Dove-Hawk Divide
- The Dichotomous Policy Implications
defining the decisive divide
Israel is a nation of many conflicting views and contrasting hues—radical secularism alongside religious orthodoxy; stern eastern traditionalism adjacent to indulgent western hedonism; socialist egalitarianism juxtaposed to free wheeling market enterprise; the customs of the Baltic abutting the norms of the Mughrab…
In general, these are lines of dissension that infuse a vibrancy and vitality into Israeli society and imbue it with a remarkable resilience.
There is, however, one divide that has had—and is having—a devastating effect on the country. It a divide that threatens to undermine the very fabric of its society and hopelessly distort the conduct of its national policy. This is the divide over the issues of land and of borders. It is the divide between:
- those who believe Israel should offer territorial concessions in the quest for regional peace—and those who do not;
- those who believe in the two-state solution—and those who do not.
It is a divide that is usually portrayed as a one between Left and Right.
This however is an unfortunate, misleadingly and detrimental characterization.
It is misleading since the divide is one that cuts across the usual barriers that differentiate between Left and Right. Indeed, on both sides of divide there may be secular hedonists or devout ascetics; on both sides, some condone gay marriage while others condemn it. On either side, there are those who see abortion as a legitimate option and those see it as an inadmissible sin; those who favor state intervention in the market place and those who abhor it...
It is detrimental because it implies a fundamental divide over general belief and value systems when in fact this is not true. It exaggerates lines of dissension and intensifies the sense alienation between groups that, in fact, are separated by much less that might prima facie be inferred by such a characterization. It blurs the existence of commonalties and conflates differences where, in fact, none may exist.
It would be far more accurate and appropriate to characterize the schism as a divide between Hawks, on the one hand, and Doves, on the other.
Clarifying the Dove-Hawk Divide
The divide between Israeli Doves and Israeli Hawks is not that the one desires peace while the other advocates war. Both Hawks and Doves in Israel desire peace.
The fundamental divide between them is this: The Doves believe that adversaries can be coaxed into making peace by means of a concessionary policy of compromise and goodwill gestures. By contrast, the Hawks believe that adversaries must be deterred from making war by adopting an uncompromisingly resolute policy of rejection of any appeasement or concessions.
So, in fact, the divide is not over the desired outcome i.e. what to achieve, but over the preferred process i.e. how to achieve it.
There is historical precedent to support both schools of thought in different contexts. However for Israel, given its geo-strategic and geo-political location in the Middle East, the crucial—indeed existential— question is this: Which is the appropriate approach for it to adopt for its national policy?
Perversely, this is the one issue on which there should be no dispute among Israelis, whether they subscribe to a vision of an ultra-Orthodox religious state governed by ancient "Halachic" laws; or a vision of a post Zionist secular "state of all its citizens" governed by the laws of liberal democracy.
For one thing should be made crystal clear. Situated as it is in an area permeated by forces of political tyranny and Islamist theocracy who reject its very right to exist, Israel will remain neither Jewish nor democratic from within—unless it is secure against the dangers from without. And a precondition for such security against outside threat is defensible borders—and defensible at a bearable economic cost.
The adoption of the correct policy approach is a matter of utmost significance—for the choice of an inappropriate course could have catastrophic results for Israel, the region and the world—as it has in the past.
There are times when a willingness to concede and compromise is not only self-obstructive, it can well be self-destructive—as reflected in the following two quotes from two very different men: The one did much to defy and defeat tyranny; the other, well aware of its nature, warned against any attempt to appease tyranny with compromise and concessions.
…if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with the all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival
W.S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm p. 312
The [German] decision to fight is implacable. ... I am certain that even if the Germans were given more than they ask for they will attack just the same...
Count G. Galeazzo Ciano, The Ciano Diaries 1939 -1943, p.119
The Doves will ignore the implications of such observations at their peril.
The dichotomous policy implications of the divide
The resolution of the dispute between those on either side of the divide cannot be achieved by adopting some sort of hybrid approach incorporating certain elements of both approaches. For these will not serve to complement each other, but only to neutralize each other. If one approach is fundamentally flawed, its incorporation—even partially—can only serve to undermine the efficacy of the countervailing policy.
The divide will not be spanned by compromising with those on the other side, but by convincing them. It can only be spanned by patient persuasion of one side that their goals, largely shared by those on the other side of the divide, will be best achieved by foregoing positions they previously held.
The recognition that the choice must be a dichotomous one is not necessarily indicative of an extremist approach. Rather, it may be the inevitable consequence of a judicious analysis of the conditions in which that choice is to be made.
Indeed, history is replete with tragic examples of where dovish concessions have only served to whet, rather than satiate, the appetite of tyrants; to amplify, rather than attenuate, their demands; to arouse, rather than appease them.
This is a divide that can only be spanned by the exercise of unflinching intellectual integrity and authentic goodwill; by the willingness to put aside considerations of personal and professional prestige and to admit error and forgo preferred dogma.
It is a divide that must be resolved by an honest appraisal of facts and sober evaluation of evidence. This must incorporate a dispassionate assessment of past precedents and a prudent projection of probable future results that the adoption of either of the proposed approaches is likely to produce.
The past precedents are undeniable. At the start of Oslo process in the days of heady optimism and lofty vision, the proponents—the Doves—promised that the new policy of compromise and concession would herald a myriad of benefits; while the opponents— the Hawks—warned that it would bring a multitude of dangers.
Today—nearly two decades later—the prevailing realities are almost an exact reflection of the ominous prognoses of the Hawks and almost the exact antithesis of the optimistic forecasts of the Doves. Indeed, there is not one promise of benefits that has been fulfilled. By contrast, there has not been one warning of danger that has not proved true.
Surely, this should be sufficient to cause all fair-minded Doves who are genuinely mindful of Israeli security and well-being, to have second thoughts; to reassess the validity of their approach; to reconsider the wisdom of adhering to a political process that has proved such a resounding failure—a failure which many claim was predictable and which many did in fact predict; to concede the possibility that their ideological adversaries may be right.
Such a reassessment is crucial, since the current divide over the Palestinian question essentially cripples the nation's ability to respond effectively to the diplomatic siege to which it is subjected; a siege which is in no small measure due to the acrimony which the divide has generated.