Rabbi’s Essays

Fevered Dreams
Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and the Art of Unreality

Mordechai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist Movement in Judaism, quoted Franz Kafka (I have never found the original): “There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: impatience and laziness. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of laziness we cannot return. Perhaps, however, there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience, we were driven out; because of impatience, we cannot return.”

When Theodore Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress in 1897, he had two closely linked aims. One was that a Jewish homeland on the soil of ancient Israel would be established in fifty years. The other was that the success of the first would bring about the withering of the conditions that underpinned anti-Semitism in Europe. Herzl’s first aim proved to be remarkably prescient. In November 1947 —fifty years after that first Congress —the U.N. voted a Jewish State into existence. The second expectation; well, anti-Semitism has hardly disappeared, and appears to be a long way from withering away. The central question to ask is: was Herzl simply wrong, or are we being too impatient?

In 2010, many Jews, both in Israel and outside, seem to be opting for the former. Yom HaAtzma’ut [Israel Independence Day] was greeted with as much uneasiness as celebration. People are in a grumpy mood. I would like to examine the dyspepsia; suggest why it is happening, and then question whether it is warranted.

First, anything but a more joyous mood seems odd. Coming into its sixty-second year, the Jewish State is mostly prosperous and peaceful. The economy weathered the world financial crisis of 2008-9 relatively well, and has been growing. Rocket attacks out of Gaza have become more infrequent since the January 2009 military operation in the region. Terror attacks in general are very rare. On the whole, life is good. The less-than-sunny disposition appears to arise from an unnatural pessimism; a tendency to notice that with every silver lining there is a cloud.

Actually, the current mood is better summed up by the classic joke of receiving a telegram with the message: “Start worrying now — letter to follow.” The current good times somehow feel like a mirage; the calm before the storm. There are two reasons for this assessment: Iran and U.S.-Israel relations. I believe the first is truly worrisome. The second is nonsense.


Sometime in the future, Iran will not be a particularly knotty problem for either Israel or the rest of the world. The really big problem is how to get from now until then without experiencing a catastrophe. For a whole variety of reasons, Iran is truly dangerous right now.

I do not wish to engage in any extensive analysis. Rather, here are some salient points. As Persia, it is a very ancient civilization, but has not had any regional significance in over 2300 years. It is one of only three predominantly non-Arab nations in the Middle East (Israel and Turkey are the others). It is a Shi’ite Muslim country where the overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunni. Further, it is a confessional state that gives dominant political power to a religious authority. And, of course, it is working on becoming a nuclear power. Put all this together, and you have a volatile and uncomfortably unpredictable society.

As non-Arab and Shiite, Iran has no natural standing in the Middle East. This marginality also feeds into a sort of bitterness born out of both the faded glory of a Persian Empire, and a theological position that wishes to raise Shiite thought to a dominant place in Islam. As a result, Iran has continuously asserted itself into the affairs of the region, particularly with its support of Hamas and Hizb’allah, much to the consternation of Egypt, the largest Arab nation, and Saudi Arabia, the most assertive protector of Sunni Islam.

The tension between Iran and the rest of the Arab Middle East is systemic, and mostly not dependent on the political orientation of any side. The situation is made worse, however, by the current crisis overtaking Iran’s political system. The 1979 Islamic revolution that swept out a corrupt and dictatorial Shah has now begun to run out of steam. The revolution set up a limited democracy in which political parties could compete for administrative leadership, but only within the bounds established by the unchallenged authority of a clerical council. The system permitted the rise of a reform movement in the 1990s, but not reformist enough.

In June 2009, a broadly unpopular Mahmud Ahmadinejad was re-elected under highly dubious election circumstances. Large-scale demonstrations in opposition have been put down, but it is extremely doubtful that the level of discontent felt through the Iranian electorate has dissipated. Iran is clearly going through a political transformation. A Canadian Muslim political scientist, Nader Hashemi, has drawn an intriguing parallel between the current upheaval, the England of the 1600s, when a 40-year interregnum of the Puritans served as the medium for a change from autocratic monarchy to a secular democracy.

I think Hashemi is correct in that the dynamics are in place for Iran to follow the same route that Great Britain did about 350 years ago. This change is not taking place overnight. The fraudulent elections of 2009 might be seen as a watershed in this second Iranian revolution, but it might be years before the transformation is complete. In the meantime, a beleaguered old guard is going to be trying to hold onto power. The nation’s nuclear ambitions are probably born out of a sense of national pride and honor the cuts across all political boundaries. The danger created by those ambitions arises from the level of desperation felt by an unpopular and increasingly illegitimate leadership.

U.S.-Israel Relations

In the spring (2010), Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, ventured that Israel and America were undergoing its worst crisis in thirty-five years. He quickly backtracked on that assessment, but the perception remains (and perception is so often reality!)

Oren was responding to the flap that arose when Israel’s Interior Minister announced a controversial expansion of a Jewish neighborhood in East (predominantly Arab) Jerusalem, just as Vice-President Biden was arriving for a state visit. That event is a vertex stemming out of relatively independent policies and considerations emanating from Jerusalem and Washington. We will consider Jerusalem later.

Suspicion regarding the Obama Administration’s attitude toward Israel arose relatively early in the presidential campaign. Even as Obama sought the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton, there were attacks on his perceived softness toward support of the Jewish State. Some of the concerns were the natural preference for the known (Clinton, whose bone fides regarding Israel were generally considered exemplary) over the unknown. Some of it was political posturing; attempting to gain more support for Clinton, and later McCain, by sowing concern regarding Obama. Finally, there were the pernicious attacks with the dark hints of Obama being a Muslim or a closet anti-Semite.

Needless to say, Obama survived both the attacks and the doubts, winning significant Jewish support in the primaries, and about 80% of the Jewish vote in the general election. He made Hillary Clinton his Secretary of State, and Rahm Emanuel, who had actually volunteered for the IDF (Israeli Army), his Chief-of-Staff. The White House is littered with staff and policy advisors who have a long track record in support of Israel’s interests, yet nevertheless the attacks and the doubts have persisted.

The reasons for this unease remain mostly the same as during the campaign. Obama. Some observers still do not know or are confident about what the Administration’s foreign policy doctrines are, with respect to the Middle East and everywhere else. Obama’s studied caution and even-handedness just make them nervous. There is also the permanent campaign. Republican supporters will challenge the current President on virtually everything, and his handling of Israel-Arab affairs is certainly not off-limits. And then there are the pernicious attacks: Obama as pro-Arab, anti-Israel, secret Muslim, closet anti-Semite.

Finally, we may add the real tension that exists between a liberal American President and a conservative Israeli Prime Minister. Obama and Netanyahu are not on the same page. Such tensions have occurred in the past: Eisenhower with Ben Gurion over the 1957 Sinai campaign, Ford with Rabin, Carter with Begin, Bush (the elder) with Shamir, and Clinton with Netanyahu the first time around. The immediate interests of Israel and U.S. do not always align. In the past, however, the stress never came near to upsetting a fundamental level of mutuality and cooperation. I have described it in the past. The components for this alignment are:

  • Christian Zionism. A large majority of American Christians believe it is appropriate for Israel (the Holyland) to be in the hands of Jews. For some, this is a messianic belief, but for most, it is their reading of God’s will regarding the Jews.
  • Stable democracy. The U.S. prefers to deal with stable governments. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has always been preferred to Syria and Iraq, not only on the grounds of oil, but also because the House of Saud is firmly in control of the nation. Israel is even more stable, being the only nation in the Middle East to effect peaceful transfers of authority among political rivals.
  • The State of Israel is therefore both politically popular and strategically valuable. It would take a conflict of interests considerably greater than the current flare-up in order to damage the fundamental alliance between the two states. In the grand scheme of things, it should be a tempest in a teapot, but given the dysfunctions of the Israel political system and the toxic partisanship in the U.S., there are some serious concerns to consider. Let me return to Israel and the problem of Netanyahu —both what he faces and who he is —and then back to the U.S., or more properly the future of Zionism.

Israel and the Camel

You know the old line: a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Israel’s political system is a camel; worse, it is a very old and seriously antiquated camel. Here is a primer on Israeli politics.

The State of Israel was born politically out of the World Zionist Congress. The Congress created a system by which voting delegates to the Congress were designated by proportional voting. When the Jewish State was born, individual parties were invited to create a list of candidates to sit in the Knesset. On Election Day, voters would vote for a single party. All the votes would be counted up, and seats in the Knesset would then be apportioned according to the percentage of votes a party had garnered. Thus, if Party A received 50% of the total votes, it would be able to sit the first 60 candidates (one-half of the 120-seat legislature) on its list.

Once the allocation had been completed, the organization of the government would commence in a parliamentary fashion. The head of the list garnering the largest percentage of votes would be called up to create the government; that is, become Prime Minister and assign portfolios for the heads of the various departments making up governmental administration. The parties themselves would be organized around certain political values, or focused single issues, or the personality and charisma of a particular leader. There are virtually no constraints, either systemic or pragmatic, on party formation. After all, a relatively small percentage of the vote (currently 2%) can assure at least one seat in the Knesset.

Due in good part to the proliferation of parties, no single faction has ever been popular enough to earn the 51% of the total vote in order to create a government out of members of its own list. Once Election Day has come and gone, therefore, the party with the largest share must carry on coalition talks in order create a unit controlling 61 votes (and preferably much more) in Knesset. This effort is accomplished by parceling Ministerial portfolios to the heads of smaller lists. The government, once formed, can stay in power for up to four years. It can, of course, call for a general election earlier. It can also fall apart if a coalition partner (or two) decides to pull out, dropping support for the government to under 60 votes.

In addition to Prime Minister, the three most important cabinet positions are Foreign, Defense and Treasury Ministers. Ideally the PM would like to have his (her) party control all the major portfolios. Handing out, say, Defense, to the head of a rival party’s list in order to bring that party into the coalition, risks losing control of that Department. If the Prime Minister attempts to dictate to the Defense Minister, the latter might simply take his (her) seats in the coalition and leave, potentially bringing down the entire government. When the Prime Minister’s party is dominant, holding 40 seats or more, the PM has a great deal of leverage to hold all the ministries in line. Dropping below 40 seats requires increasing political acumen and skill in order to make the government work.

Netanyahu’s Likkud party only holds 27 seats. In order to put together a working government, he had to hand out over 30 portfolios —and unprecedented large cabinet —and give the heads of Defense and the Foreign Ministry to coalition partners. Holding together such a large and unwieldy operation clearly requires great leadership resources. Netanyahu is nowhere near up for the task. The incident of the announcement of expansion of Jewish residences in East Jerusalem is a case in point. The announcement was made by the Interior Minister, a member of Shas, one of the Orthodox religious parties. Shas has been pressing to maintain its support among Israel’s Sephardi population, its natural constituency, and the Interior Minister regarded pushing to the increase in Jerusalem housing as a way of reasserting its popularity. He was clearly oblivious to the insensitivity of the timing of the announcement, and Netanyahu clearly did not have the skill or the political power to head it off.

Netanyahu’s leanings are more right-wing than left, but he is no hard-line ideologue. It is not his politics that exacerbate the tensions besetting Israel’s problems with the U.S. (and much of the rest of the world), it is the fact that he is no way near capable of dealing with an already difficult task. As a person, he reminds of the character of the father (played by Jeff Daniels) in the movie, “The Squid and the Whale.” He is articulate, erudite, worldly, and completely hollow; a person whose visions extend only as far as the nearest mirror.

You might guess that I do not have a very high opinion of Mr. Netanyahu. Make no mistake about it; holding together a working government in Israel’s fractured political system is a daunting prospect for any leader. I just think that the current Prime Minister is not merely up to the task, but is probably not up to any task. When I spent time in Israel right after the last election, a number of acquaintances confided that either they had actually voted for Likkud or welcomed a Likkud-led coalition. They felt that “only Nixon could go to China.” After all, Menahem Begin, founder of Likkud, had made peace with Egypt and withdrew from the Sinai. Hardliner Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of the Gaza. What liberal Labor-led governments could not do in order to conclude a peaceful arrangement with Israel’s neighbors, right-wing governments could.

Begin and Sharon were indeed Nixons. So far, Netanyahu has been more a Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan. As Presidents, they were immobilized in the face of the crisis of slavery and the South. All they could was “kick the can down the road,” leaving the issue —increasingly intractable —to be solved in a costly and bloody fashion under Lincoln.

I could be wrong. Secret negotiations are the norm in the Middle East, and maybe the Israeli government is indeed working out something with Syria. A deal regarding the Golan Heights and formal recognition is more likely than a Palestinian State. This could be in the works, but I doubt it. Much more likely, Netanyahu will continue to kick the can down the road, and leave it to some future government to deal with the difficult tasks of compromise and reconciliation.

The Politics of Time (I)

From the start of his administration, Obama has been determined to re-order the U.S.’s relationship with the Middle East. He has been drawing down troops in Iraq, continuing a carrot-and-stick approach to Iran, and assigned George Mitchell to be the American envoy charged with mediating talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority (PA). Mitchell is noted for his successful brokering of an accord among Great Britain, Ireland, and the Protestant and Catholic factions in Northern Ireland.

Although there was a marked switch to uses of diplomacy and cooperation in the last two years of the Bush Administration, American standing in the Muslim and Arab world had been quite low, and the White House recognized that it had to build up its bona fides among the Palestinians and their supporters in order to have any possibility of success. Thus, it utilized a “both-and” approach; vocal and repeated reaffirmation of its special relation with Israel, and pressing the Jewish State to restrain growth of settlements in the West Bank.

This task has been complicated by another set of obstacles. There is Netanyahu’s unwillingness and inability to push his coalition forward. There is also the divisions and overall weakness of Mahmud Abbas as President of the PA. Actually, Abbas, and particularly his Prime Minister, Salim Fayyad, have had a measure of success in raising the economic and material well-being of West Bank Palestinians. The rampant corruption and inefficiency of the Authority during the Arafat years has been reduced dramatically. As the West Bank has increasingly withdrawn from being a staging area for attacks on Israel, the Israelis have increasingly withdrawn their own presence. Security checkpoints have been reduced, thus facilitating easier movement of workers and goods.

While this turnaround in the standard-of-living for West Bank Palestinians has been a positive development, the Palestinians as a whole remain deeply divided. In January 2006, Palestinians voted Hamas-backed delegates into a majority of the PA Assembly. Mahmud Abbas, leader of the formerly dominant Fatah faction (Yasir Arafat’s party), however remained President. Given the worldwide negative reaction to Hamas’ success, Abbas sought to maintain control and defiantly appointed the Fatah-backed Fayyad to be Prime Minister. In 2007, a mini-civil war broke out in Gaza, and Hamas forces thoroughly defeated Fatah militia. Ever since, Hamas has remained in control of Gaza, and PA has been limited to the West Bank. All efforts at creating a rapprochement between the two factions and regions (mostly attempted by Egypt) have failed so far. Hamas continues to be for the most part an international pariah, and Abbas is treated as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians for purposes of negotiations with Israel. At this point, however, he is either unwilling or unable (or both!) to engage in a process that requires compromise.

Thus, we arrive at a point in history in which the U.S. is willing to spend domestic and international capital toward brokering a stable arrangement between Israel and Palestine, and the two principal parties have neither the ability nor the will to participate in a serious fashion. One can make a reasonable argument that the White House should basically do nothing.

The conventional wisdom is that time is not on Israel’s side, and therefore it is better for it to work out an agreement with its neighbors sooner than later. This argument is based principally on demographics: the number of Arabs is growing much faster than the Jews. In due time, the former will represent a majority of the total population of the region (Israel plus West Bank and Gaza). Either security concerns or democratic considerations or both will swamp the Jewish State economically and politically.

Not taken into account in this contention are counter indicators. First, Israel as the Jewish State, has been increasingly accepted as a political fact in the world. In the mid-70s, it could count on only a handful of nations for recognition. In 1977, with President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, the largest Arab nation, Egypt, acknowledged that, after 30 years, the Jewish State was not going to disappear soon. By 2002, Saudi Arabia, while not extending formal diplomatic recognition, nonetheless publicly stated its acceptance of the State of Israel within the 1949 UN Armistice borders. Today, only Iran regularly disputes its continued existence.

Israel, of course, continues to be condemned in international forums, and the rights of Palestinians are promoted around the world. The overwhelming majority of it is toothless rhetoric. The old joke —the Arabs are prepared to fight Israel to the last drop of Palestinian blood —tends to hold true. The sheer weight of time has been working in Israel’s favor. Today, the Jewish State as established at the end of the 1948 War of Independence, is taken for granted. In another generation, an expanded if not unified Jerusalem, and the large built up settlements of Ma’alei Adumim and the Efrat bloc, might well be accepted as part of Israel as well.

The Politics of Time (II)

Then again, one can cogently argue that time is on no-one’s side. Even if within the international arena, Israel’s normative status is increasingly taken for granted, it still is saddled with the domestic problem of resolving how to maintain being a Jewish State with a proportionally growing Arab population.

I think the notion of a population time bomb is overstated. Economically driven out-migration will somewhat moderate Palestinian population growth. The overall social stability of the region, however, will just become more fragile. Palestinians do not mix well into other Arab nations. Radicalism simply increases, and with it the increasing likelihood of mini-wars such as 2006’s encounter with Lebanon’s Hizb’allah, 2008-9’s operation against Hamas in Gaza. Israel, I believe, is in little danger of being seriously harmed by these blow-ups —casualties ran about 10-1 against in Arab losses —but each one of them is upsetting to all of the world’s powers, Europe, Russia, China and the U.S. in particular. It is very important to keep in mind that Israel’s political stability is a fundamental factor in maintaining a close relationship with the United States. That factor is greatly squandered if Israel’s policies are perceived as a root cause in regional instability.

When time is no advantage to either the Palestinians or the Israelis, the two sides can either choose to move toward reconciliation, compromise and the creation of a regional entity that is most in both their interests. Or each side can determine to hold out in the hope and expectation that the other will have to cave in before they do. This latter choice is overwhelmingly preferred, both by the two sides and their international supporters.

In the movie, The Magnificent Seven, the ironic gunslinger played by Steve McQueen tells a story about a fellow who jumps off the roof of a ten-story building. As he passes the windows of each floor, people can hear him saying “So far, so good!”

Both Israelis and Palestinians view the circumstances of their opponents as unsustainable. In another few years, a decade or two at the most, and the other side will simply disappear. The possibility that both are hurtling toward a crash is completely discounted. Hey, so far, so good!

From the point of view of both Palestinians and their supporters, they have been handed a raw deal. Beginning in the 1880s, Jewish settlers from Europe began to move into Palestine, initially buying up marginal lands (swampy tracts near the Mediterranean coast), and then more productive land from absentee owners. Long-time tenant farmers and shepherds found themselves being pushed out of. Efforts at fighting back —uprisings principally in Hebron —were violent but ineffective. By 1947, approximately 40% of British mandate of Palestine (west of the Jordan River; the east having been ceded to the Hashemite royal family) was firmly in Jewish lands. With the Israel War of Independence, the Jewish portion of Palestine had grown to near 75%. After the 1967 War, it was 100%.

The indigenous Arab residents of the land did nothing wrong in any moral sense to lose their land; they did nothing right either. For centuries, Muslim theology had sustained an attitude of justified control of all land inhabited by Muslims. They were obligated to be tolerant to non-Muslim residents (unless they were heretics or idolators), but those residents had to know that they were subjugated to Muslim rule. And during all those centuries, Jews also adhered to a theology that it was God’s will that they be exiled —either physically or spiritually —from their land, until God determined that the time for the ingathering of the exiles had come. Hence, Jews substantially submitted to Muslim rule.

Zionism upended this arrangement. Jews were no longer waiting for a signal from God. The Zionist movement, however, was wholly encapsulated within Europe, and the Jewish response was to a secularized Christian world. Both Islam and the Arabs were bracketed out of its doctrines and programs. Indeed, when Herzl came to Jerusalem in order to lay political groundwork for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, he specifically came to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm, who was the patron of a deteriorating Ottoman Empire. With only a few notable exceptions (Ahad Ha’am, chief among them), Zionists gave no thought to the upheaval their project was causing among the local population.

At the same time, that local population never came to grips with the profound change in Muslim-Jewish relations represented by Zionism. Jews were simply not willing to be subjugated, no matter how benign (and it was hardly truly benign). To this day (2010), the overwhelming majority of Palestinians and their supporters throughout the world remain willfully blind to the important changes that have occurred since the mid-nineteenth century. These changes have undoubtedly been a massive challenge in radically altering the centuries of socially reality. Yet, the very resistance has simply moved the Palestinians to greater marginality in their own land.

At every turn, they grasp at conceptual straws: charges that the Jews are merely colonists, and that their connection to the land is based on self-serving myth. They decry Zionist state-building —its fundraising, political lobbying and establishing institutions —as somehow venal, usually clinging to the mostly anti-Semitic notions of Jews wielding vast conspiratorial powers in order to accomplish their aims. In essence, they resort to anything and everything, except taking responsibility for their inflexibility and indolence in the face of the demands history was placing on them. The Palestinians will never achieve even their most modest aspirations until they are willing to play the hand that has been dealt them.

The Future of Zionism

Israeli Jews and their supporters are also given to a similar dream: that they will wake up some morning and the Palestinians will be gone. At the end of the day, however, Israel will be residing in the midst of a mostly Arab, mostly Muslim region. Moreover, at the end of the day, a significant portion of the citizens of the Jewish State will not be Jewish. These are, in my opinion, two unavoidable realities.

Let me be clear: nothing substantial regarding a final resolution of a just and stable peace between Israel and her neighbors can take place until the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular come to grips with the reality of an independent Jewish population who have an indigenous relationship with the land on which they reside. They might not like it, but the pre-Zionist asymmetric relationship between Muslim and Jew is gone forever. The past will not return, and short of wholesale self-destruction, Arabs will not be able to dislodge Jews from the land. Until Palestinians and their supporters make peace with this fundamental change in history, all negotiations, all compromises, all “risks for peace” will only be temporary and partial.

Israelis therefore have no choice but to wait for the change; but waiting is not equivalent to doing nothing. Palestinian national aspirations have to be acknowledged, not as a matter of some form of transcendent justice, but rather as a pragmatic reality. The West Bank and Gaza, and large neighborhoods of greater Jerusalem are Palestinian, and they are not going to pick up and leave. Israel’s well-being is dependent at least in part on a feeling of well-being by the Palestinians. Currently, ongoing military presence, intrusive checkpoints and expanding settlements do nothing to give even the most accommodating Palestinians peace of mind.

The broad outline of a stable solution to the conflict is well-known, and it is going to include the dismantling of Israeli Jewish settlements, some that were established over thirty years ago. The solution is not around the corner; it could be a decade or a generation or even longer in coming. It is not, however, going to be very different from what can be envisioned right now. Inevitably, the government is going to have to make affirmative moves in order to prepare for what must take place.

It would be nice if these actions came sooner rather than later. I have little doubt that the Obama Administration is currently try to nuzzle (not shove, not even push) Netanyahu in that direction. In the near term it will fail for reasons I outlined above. At some point, I am confident, an Israeli administration will respond, just as sometime afterward a Palestinian government will give up on its dream that the Jews will go away. The critical question, then, is what do we —you and I —do in the meantime?

The greatest danger to Israel, and perhaps to the Jewish people, in my estimation, is not anti-Semitism or Islamic radicalism. It is post-Zionism: an attitude found both within Israel and outside, that tends to separate Israelis from Jews. Post-Zionism, as the term implies, suggests that Zionism, as a movement and ideology, essentially ended with the founding of the State. Thus today, one can talk about Israeli interests and Jewish concerns as two separate entities. Post-Zionism frees Israelis to discuss and deal with matters of state without concerning themselves about the concerns and interests of world Jewry. And it free Jews living outside of Israel to explore modes of Jewish expression and identity that is completely independent of the land.

I do not think I need to map out the dangers inherent in a circumstance in which Israel and the rest of world Jewry drift apart. It is rather important to understand why this development might be occurring. For this, I return to the beginning: the matter of impatience.

Some Israelis are dismayed by the persistence of Jews to remain Jews in places outside of Israel. The founding of the State, they believe was to obviate the need of Jews to live anywhere else. For a while, Israelis could look at this “stubbornness” as a sort of willful blindness to the inherent fragility of Jewish survival in a non-Jewish society. In the past twenty years, anti-Jewish sentiment whereby the Jew was identified in the society as the eternal “Other” has receded dramatically. Even Israelis can see that Jews can live in relative safety and self-confidence in many places throughout the world. And so, the post-Zionist Israeli has simply given up: there are Jews who are primarily Israeli, and there are Jews who will never be Israeli, and one need not be particularly concerned about the other.

Among world Jewry, much of the same dynamic works. Living in relative safety and comfort, with opportunities to pursue one’s Jewish religious or cultural interests with almost no restraints, Jews feel exhausted by the efforts to defend and support a nation that is wealthy and powerful and does not really need much help from abroad. Israel’s problems with its neighbors —its constant security concerns that lead it to put so many social and physical constraints on a truculent Palestinian community —appear to be endless and intractable. The post-Zionists can conclude that Israel’s problems are their own to work out, and that their primary concern is the development and maintenance of the Jewish community in which they live.

Post-Zionism arises out of impatience, and leads to a form of despair; not for oneself —I am fine! —but rather for the other side. I contend that Israel yet needs world Jewry, and Jews need to be connected to the Land. This is not a reasoned argument. It is rather an existential stance; the totality of a Jewish identity that refuses to consider anything Jewish alien to me. Ultimately, it is a counsel against impatience. Impatience pushed us out of the Garden of Eden, and prevents our return.