|Last update - 13:52
|Israel's leaders have forgotten Herzl's
|By Carlo Strenger
|Tags: Jewish World, Israel news
|Israel must choose
between either holy places and East Jerusalem, or peace and
During Israel's 62nd Independence Day
celebrations this week, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin went out
of his way to make clear that Israel does not intend to
compromise on Jerusalem.
Rivlin was very outspoken,
and said that Israel would not apologize for conquering
various parts of Jerusalem, and for holding on to its sacred
In the background of the ceremony shined a
huge projection showing the famous photograph in which
Theodore Herzl looks out over the Rhine River at the occasion
of the first Zionist congress in Basel.
this image behind him, Rivlin spoke of how Israel must
continue Herzl's dream. He also spoke of the weakness of those
who are willing to partition Jerusalem, calling those who
support such a move 'galuti' - the stereotype of the cringing
Diaspora Jew who tries to please the gentiles, in contrast
with manly patriotism.
I wonder when Rivlin last read
Herzl. So let's first get the history clear. Herzl's
overriding goal was to solve what was at him time called the
Herzl wanted Jews to have a
sovereign state of their own. As opposed to Rivlin, Herzl very
much believed in diplomacy and his impact on the Zionist
movement was primarily a combination of his visionary and
diplomatic abilities. Herzl also set a constructive and
cooperative relationship between Jews and Arabs as a
centerpiece in his depiction of the new Jewish state in his
Herzl believed that Israel needed
to adhere to the ideal of liberal democracy and dreamt of the
future Jewish state as a progressive country; his vision was
forward-looking rather than preoccupied with symbols of the
Rivlin is basically a believer in democracy; I
have no doubt about that. He invited those who do not identify
with the Zionist dream to be part of the country. For some
reason, Rivlin found it inappropriate to simply name these
invitees as Israeli Arabs ? though it was obvious to whom he
Rivlin is trying to have it both ways.
He doesn't see that it is impossible to have your cake and eat
it, too. It will be either democracy or the settlements;
either peace or East Jerusalem.
That much Rivlin could
have gathered from listening to Defense Minister Barak, who,
in ceremonies leading up to Yom Ha'atzmaut repeated time and
again that the occupation must stop, that we must choose
between the settlements and Israel as both a Jewish and a
democratic state. But maybe Barak is too galuti for Rivlin?s
taste, too - even though he is the most decorated officer in
the history of the Israel Defense Forces.
repeated the mantra that Jerusalem will never again be
partitioned. But he is just perpetuating a myth: Jerusalem is
partitioned de facto. Rivlin says that Jews and Arabs
shouldn't live in segregated neighborhoods. Does he mean that
Palestinians should be evicted from their homes in Sheikh
Jarrah in favor of settlers? Is that the type of coexistence
that he advocates? Does he seriously think that this is what
will make Arabs identify with the State of Israel?
background of all these declarations is, of course, the open
conflict with the Obama administration, and the right-wingers
both in Israel and the U.S. who accused the president of
perpetuating this conflict.
Before Obama entered
office, they say, Israel and the U.S. saw things the same way;
there was harmony, and Israel could do as it pleased.
This view is incredibly short-sighted: the
international community - including the U.S. - long ago made
up its mind that the two-state solution needs to be
implemented. It has never accepted Israel's annexation of East
Jerusalem, and even George W. Bush - who Netanyahu and Rivlin
miss sorely - would not move the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem
to Tel Aviv. And it was during the Bush Administration that
two leading political scientists, Walt and Mearsheimer,
questioned unconditional U.S. support of Israeli policies and
argued it to be against U.S. interests.
repeated assertions that he really knows the U.S., and that
when push comes to shove the U.S. will unconditionally stand
behind Israel no matter what it does, is quite simply wrong.
Rivlin's declaration that Israel needs to be strong
and stick to its values is simple-minded, because two of these
values conflict. Israel will have to choose between the holy
places and East Jerusalem on the one hand, and peace and
democracy on the other hand. Rivlin will have to choose
between Herzl and the Zionist revisionist Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Herzl believed in cooperation; he believed in multiculturalism
long before the word was even invented. And yes, Herzl
believed in diplomacy: He didn't think that the Jewish state
should or could be in constant confrontation with its
Jabotinsky believed in power. He thought
that indeed Jews needed to become 'manly'; that Jews needed to
learn reliance on guns rather than on diplomacy. It is true:
Jabotinsky was torn between militarism and a strong liberal
streak in his mental outfit. So, I believe, is Reuven Rivlin;
I have no doubt that he wants Israel to be a true democracy.
But, like Jabotinsky, when the moment of truth comes, Rivlin's
nationalist streak wins over his belief in liberal democracy.
I believe that most Jews around the globe are deeply
committed to democracy. Recent polls show that most U.S. Jews
continue to support Obama, including his policies towards
Israel. They do so, because they think that in the long run,
Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state depends on
implementing the two-state solution, and they know that time
is running out.
I call upon the rather silent majority
of liberal U.S. Jewry not to be afraid any longer to speak its
mind. Don't let the vocal minority of the right tell you that
you need to choose between being pro-Israel or pro-peace. J
Street is right: you can be both. And don't forget that
Herzl's vision is on your side and not on that of the