Politics is the essence of civilization. It's the way to solve issues via dispute, voting, and compromise without bloodshed.
It need not be dispassionate. Issues are important, and at times pressing. However, it is easy to exaggerate the tensions that erupt, seize headlines, excite threats of retribution, and then disappear when something else gets a turn at the headlines.
It's also the case that well organized societies do not assure a lack of absolute craziness that goes over the edge of civilized dispute into destructive behavior and deadly violence.
We don't lack for examples.
Did Bibi ignite a fire storm of nastiness by that speech in Washington? Or is all the noise nothing more than interparty sloganeering with Democrats sniping at Sheldon Adelson along with loyalty to a President immersed beyond his eyeballs in a region he does not understand and choosing the wrong side in overtures toward a new ally while losing rapport with established players Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as Israel?
Sorting out the mess, and figuring if Bibi's speech did more good than harm goes beyond the adjectives hurled at one another by commentators who are better at writing prose than understanding what happens at any distance from their keyboards.
Michael Oren has added more heat than light with a Wall Street Journal op-ed claiming that Barack Obama has been deliberate in pursuing an anti-Israel agenda. The item produced a swipe at Oren from the US Ambassador to Israel, who described the article as an cheap way to sell books. The head of Oren's own party joined the onslaught. He not only emphasized that Oren's article did not speak for him or his party, but felt it necessary to apologize to the United States for any affront caused by the article.
We may view this as part of the fall out still coming from Bibi's speech in Washington and the campaign against what seems from here to be a mindless overture to the mad mullahs of Iran. We're also left with the question of how Oren got to be appointed Ambassador to the US, then found himself high on a new party's list for the Knesset, but was left by the wayside when it came time to ministerial appointments.
Oren did okay as a writer and public speaker, but his WSJ item suggests that he skipped over the introduction to political science. Claiming to know the intentions of a politician, especially one in as high an office as the US presidency, where dodging and feinting is integral to the game, defies what we've been teaching since Aristotle.
Miri Regev came to politics after an IDF career that peaked as the military spokesperson. She spent several terms as a Likud back bencher in the Knesset, acquiring a reputation as an outspoken populist. Critics charged that she went too far in speaking out against illegal immigrants and in behalf of Israelis suffering where the illegals are heavily concentrated in the poor neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv. Currently she is being criticized as what some claim is a terribly misplaced appointment as Minister of Culture.
The kultufkampf she generated deals with government support of artists, actors, playwrites and their cadre of supporting intellectuals who straddle the line--and often go over it--between intense opposition to Israeli actions with respect to Palestinians and participation in BDS. When Regev said that she would stop the government's financial support of extremists who work against key policies of Israel, the intellectual community screamed censorship. Regev, in turn, along with the Prime Minister and others, retorted that Israeli extremists are free to express what they believe, but that they would have to find financial support from sources other than the government budget.
One of the intellectual stars went several degrees too far in speaking to a public protest against Regev, when he described her and her followers as a "marching herd of beasts chewing straw and stubble."
The subtext of the remark cut to the Israelis of Middle Eastern background, traditional if not strictly religious, who provide much of the support for Likud and Ms Regev.
This produced a blow back from some of Israel's leading intellectuals, including Amos Oz, bright enough to recognize the threat to the society from a small percentage of well coddled intellectuals of European backgrounds insulting a large percentage of the population from Middle Eastern backgrounds already on edge due to feelings of deprivation.
There have been additional rounds, with intellectuals mounting a campaign against censorship that hasn't occurred, occasionally slipping into explicit ethnic epithets, with Ms Regev talking at volume against the hypocrisy of the self-styled intellectual elite.
Uglier things also happen in civilized societies.
Most disturbing recently and hereabouts is the burning of a ancient church overlooking the Sea of Galilee associated with the preaching of Jesus. A Hebrew inscription scrawled on a wall points to Jews of the kind who trash mosques and the property of Arabs, but it may also be the work of Hebrew-literate Muslims taking aim at both Christians and Jews.
Demands for guarding holy places carry only so far in a country with too many to be guarded. Jews also suffer, notably from the defacing of gravestones and attacks in the most ancient of Jewish cemeteries on the Mt of Olives.
Ugliest of all recent events is the white racist who killed African Americans in a South Carolina church. Against the background of deaths of Blacks by cop, this reminds us--along with the church burning in Israel--about the fragility of civilization.
Politics remains as the essential tool to deal with ourselves, but that, too must be guarded from those who go beyond what is tolerable.