Malkin Award Nominee, Ctd

May 2 2012 @ 2:00pm

A reader writes:

I am very much a sympathizer to the Palestinian cause, and an ardent supporter of the two-state solution. Yet I do want to defend Moshe Arens, the Haaretz columnist and former Israeli Defense Minister you gave a Malkin Award. Yes, for Arens to analogize the evacuation of Jewish settlers to the internment of Japanese-Americans is off-base. But his basic point is correct – the settlers in Gush Katif violated no law. 

And there is some important context here: Arens is a "Greater Israel" supporter, who favors annexing the West Bank. Unlike most of the Israeli Right, however – and unlike most AIPAC-types in the U.S. – he's intellectually honest about it. He favors granting Palestinians full citizenship rights, and concedes that successive Israeli governments have failed to adequately provide for their existing Muslim population, something he says needs to change. (See more discussion here and here.)

The qualifier here is that he seems to favor Gaza reverting to Egypt, and argues that the Palestinian population of the West Bank is only 1.5 million (the actual WB population is a figure of some dispute), meaning his vision would still leave Jews the majority. But give him credit for at least embracing citizenship for Palestinians under Israeli-controlled territory.

Another is on the same page:

I'm a lefty in both American and Israeli matters, but I can't agree with lumping Moshe Arens in with Malkin and company. He was a former Defense Minister of the Israel government, and Ha'Aretz is the NYT of Israel – the national, center-left, intellectually serious paper. Moshe Arens is a right-winger, but not an ideological extremist by any means.  In other words, when Moshe Arens says something, an intelligent leftist pays attention, just as most center-left Democrats in the US pay attention when Colin Powell or William Cohen or Robert Gates says something important.

Arens is saying something important here: that how Israel disengages from the territories has to be factored into the peace process. The government has to talk with the settlers – most of whom are non-ideological – to make its case, ask for support, and resort to force as a last resort, so that the whole process doesn't implode when the Israeli political center can't stomach the sight of the IDF forcing Jews from their homes. That image – forcing Jews from their homes – is complicated, powerful and full of history. You might want the settlers gone from the West Bank (I do, too), but how it happens is just as important as that it happen.

Sometimes we do well to pay attention to those on the other side of the political spectrum; they might be saying something we need to hear.