Tom Friedman on Israel

I’ll take time to read anything written by Tom Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, author, and TV pundit. He’s thoughtful, insightful — he always makes me think. He’s been writing for a long time, and following Israel for a long time.

In his latest NY Times piece, he calls Trump “Netanyahu’s chump.”

Here’s Friedman’s take on John Kerry’s impassioned defense of the U.S. abstention around the U.N. vote to condemn the Israeli settlements:

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a bi-national Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character.”

Those of you who know me personally know that my late husband Jerry was Jewish, and that our Klainer relatives are Jewish and care passionately about Israel. I have Jewish friends who do too, and because I love all of them I care a great deal about Israel too. I understand that at a very deep level Israel is a homeland for all Jews, a refuge, a place where they can never be turned out as happened in so many European countries during World War II.

And yet I’m conflicted. I unequivocally supported the Israel of David ben Gurion and Golda Meier, but Bibi Netanyahu and the Israel of today are very different. There is apparently some fond wish on the part of the Israeli settler movement that Israel can annex the West Bank and force the Palestinians who live there into Jordan. Gaza can be given to Egypt. Voila! They would have their dream: an Israel for Jews, with no Palestinians present.

That’s not going to happen. Palestinians are as deeply connected to that small patch of land as are Israelis.

What U.S. policy has done for many years is keep alive the fiction of a two-state solution, to keep Palestinian rage at a manageable level. Now that fiction is being exposed, and Trump and Netanyahu will push it even further if the U.S. embassy is moved to Jerusalem. Israel thinks, evidently, that it can exert military control over the 4.5 million Palestinians who live in the occupied territories indefinitely. South Africa held onto its apartheid regime for decades, but even that finally crumbled.

I don’t minimize the complexity of the issue, nor do I think the settlements are the primary cause of the conflict or that stopping them would, in itself, lead to peace. But imposing Israeli military control over 4.5 million seething Palestinians isn’t going to bring peace either. We need some new, creative thinking on how to resolve the impasse of two proud peoples in one small land, and it isn’t going to come from Trump, Netanyahu, or Abbas. Where in the world do we go from here?

2 thoughts on “Tom Friedman on Israel

  1. I read the article yesterday too. It was a a good primer for people who don’t understand the issues or who are totally one-sided in their views. TF is usually on the money!

  2. for Phyllis: TF really is on the money — he explains complex things in a way that the ordinary person can understand and respond to. I’m in the camp of those who believe that Trump giving Netanyahu everything he wants is going to be Israel’s worst nightmare.

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