Western Values

Larison makes the case that Israel doesn’t really have such values anymore:

[Douglas] Murray … says that Israel “takes western values seriously and fights for the survival of those values,” but that seems to be almost exactly the opposite of what has been happening in Israeli politics over the last ten or fifteen years. Some of this may depend on what Murray wants to include as “Western values” and what he thinks it means to “fight” for them, but it would be fair to say that Israel under its last two governments has become increasingly illiberal domestically and even more heavy-handed in its dealings with its immediate neighbors. The occupation has become more entrenched than it was at the turn of the century, and support for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians has dwindled significantly. If Murray is right that this is what being a “Western country” involves, then I suspect most people in the West would rather be something else.

And it’s not getting any better anytime soon. Recent research by Anna Getmansky and Thomas Zeitzoff forecasts that the political upshot of the current conflict will be to move Israel even further to the right:

In research that is forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, we use variation in the range of rockets from Gaza to Israel to estimate the effect of terrorism on voting in the Israeli elections from 2003 through 2009. During this period, the rockets’ range has continuously increased, allowing us to examine what happens to voters who come into the range of rockets from Gaza compared to similar voters who live outside that range. We find that the vote-shares of right-wing parties that typically oppose concessions to Palestinians increase by 2-7 percentage points among voters within range of rockets. We further argue that voters “reward” right-wing incumbents electorally even if rocket range increases while they are in office, because right-wing parties are perceived to be more competent in dealing with security threats. …

So what does the current round of violence mean for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following the recent round of violence? Our research as well as other studies would suggest a pessimistic outcome. Given the increase in the number of Israelis who are within the range of rockets, and the high number of Palestinian casualties, the recent round of fighting is likely to cause individuals on both sides to harden their attitudes towards each other, making a peaceful resolution of the conflict less likely.

And as Keating points out, Netanyahu is actually to the left of the most vocal members of his cabinet:

One aspect of the situation that’s gotten comparatively little attention is that hardline members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet seem to be pushing the Israeli government toward a more aggressive campaign. Netanyahu is hardly pushing for accommodation, but the most aggressive political pushback he’s gotten during this campaign is from the right, not the left. Yesterday, Netanyahu fired his deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, a member of his own Likud party, for saying that the short-lived cease-fire yesterday had humiliated Israel. Netanyahu had faced heavy criticism in the Cabinet for accepting the Egyptian-proposed cease-fire, particularly from Danon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

Meanwhile, Yglesias flags a recent poll suggesting that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians really want two states:

Strikingly, this conclusion that 27 percent of Palestinians and 35 percent of Israelis favor a two-state solution is likely an overstatement of the actual level of popular support. …

[T]he international community’s comforting image of a tragic conflict being driven by misguided extremists on both sides is somewhat obsolete. Mainstream opinion on both sides now shows a decided lack of enthusiasm for foreigners’ favored solution. Which by no means makes a Two-State Solution impossible — public opinion is somewhat malleable, a real peace treaty in the hand might seem more appealing than a hypothetical one, and even in democracies unpopular measures are enacted all the time. But it’s wrong to simply assume that if the current wave of violence dies down, the larger conflict will naturally proceed to resolution.

Perhaps that’s why Bernard Avishai hopes for a major American intervention in the peace talks:

What the Obama Administration seems unable to grasp, or finds inconvenient to admit, is that the peace process cannot just be paused; to say that the parties to the conflict must want peace more than Americans is to condemn them to leaders who, in the short run, benefit from conflict, and hand Americans, and everyone else, an insufferable future. Obama reiterated, this week, that the status quo is unsustainable. But what is he prepared to do about it, other than offer Kerry as a mediator? Kerry must persist in demanding a ceasefire, of course—but, if he gets one, he must seize the moment to finally publish an American plan for a larger peace.

Such a plan, endorsed by all world powers, can at least temporarily redeem Abbas’s leadership by giving hope—what Obama has called a “horizon”—to young Palestinians who, watching Gaza but not only Gaza, are thinking apocalyptically. Netanyahu says he will stop the operation when he can be assured of “quiet,” which sounds reasonable enough. But it is morally reckless to think that peace is the same thing as quiet, which can be purchased, if only temporarily, with intimidation.

Good luck. Read my take on the permanence of the Greater Israel project here.

(Update: A tweet that was briefly live on the post contained an image that was from Lebanon in 2006, not current day Gaza: “Israeli girls write messages such as “to (Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan) Nasrallah with love from Israel and Daniele” on shells destined for targets in southern Lebanon. Photo: Afp Ap”)