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From that point, though, Benn—a left-of-center columnist whose earlier criticism of Obama seemed notable for reflecting Israeli unity on the Egyptian crisis—does manage to mount a curious challenge to Netanyahu. For if the latter’s “predictions come true,” he writes, “and Egypt becomes a new Iran…should [Israel] go back to the strategic situation that prevailed before the peace agreement? Should it prepare for confrontation on all fronts…? Or should it make peace in the east and the north and concentrate its force against a new enemy in the south?”
By “the east and the north” Benn means, of course, the West Bank Palestinians and Syria respectively. In other words, for him, the right response to the crumbling of one “peace” would be—to “make” two more. Despite the facts that: decades of attempts at forging Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace have led nowhere at best and to severe terrorism in Israel at worst; and the present situation in Egypt reveals the fragility of any such “peace” in a fundamentally unstable Middle East.
Benn insists, though, that
peace treaties are not an expression of leftist messianism, as argued by the right wing. Diplomacy is an alternative to force…. If an Islamic republic takes hold in Egypt, Netanyahu will face a reverse situation and will be forced to decide whether to withdraw from the West Bank and the Golan Heights in an effort to stabilize the eastern front and concentrate a deterrent force on the southern front.
It makes perfect arithmetical sense, at least: if you find yourself facing three enemies, why not “stabilize” two of them and have only one? Except that Benn thereby ignores all the painful lessons Israelis have learned about the depth and intransigence of Arab-Muslim rejection and hatred—not to mention the radical strategic precariousness of giving up the West Bank and the Golan; and puts the onus on Netanyahu—that is, on Israel—to make friends, as if the Palestinians and Syria exist only to be courted by Israel and will wilt as soon as it makes a move.
And so the Israeli “right-left” divide endures.
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