Among the themes apparent in the responses to my notes are the following.
- With a little effort, it's possible to find a solution for the misery of the Palestinians and their failure to agree on the details of two states. Israel should try harder. Several of my correspondents have offered their suggestions, most of which deserve a place on library shelves already groaning with good ideas.
- Israel is being screwed by evil and insensitive officials of other countries. This sometimes comes along with assertions that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or somewhere else outside of the US, is holding office illegally, really is a Muslim and an anti-Semite. Indictments include his former pastor, various gestures of respect when meeting with Muslim officials, and a less than enthusiastic camaraderie with Benyamin Netanyahu.
- Israel should be more forthright and aggressive. Among those who shun concessions or accommodation is the value of a major military action, which will chase Palestinians out of the West Bank and maybe Israel. They can go to Lebanon or Jordan, or join the stream of Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, Afghans, and other Muslims to Europe.
- Israelis are too timid to demand justice. Jews never had received the respect they deserve. Israelis should insist upon it.
- Coexistence is impossible. All Arabs hate Jews. If reality is not clear enough, perhaps some exaggeration, creativity, or outright lies will fill the void. My note about accommodations between most Jews and most Palestinians/Israeli Arabs brought forth a claim that the French Hill supermarket "fired most of the arab workers because those workers proclaimed on facebook that they support stabbing attacks against Jews and considered doing them as well. Just a thought to dispel the fantasy of peaceful coexistence." I checked with Varda, who does our shopping there, and she said it sounded fishy. A telephone call to the supermarket manager produced a firm denial.
I learned long ago, and taught in various courses about policymaking and administration that satisficing is usually better than optimizing. Good enough is better than striving for the perfect, especially when there are constraints on the way from the good to what appears to be better.
Satisfactory for Israel is pretty damned good. Jewish history suggests it's the best we've ever had. Varda's father said the same about Dusseldorf in the 1920s, but we should ponder the differences. Now the Jews have their own country, with a military capacity that has proved itself, a vibrant economy, and an ability to achieve accommodations with a number of countries despite tensions or hostility. There is more under the surface than acknowledged publicly.
Americans--both folks who read my notes and officials who have never heard of me--demand that Israelis do better by the Palestinians or the Arab minority within Israel. Some also focus on shortcomings of Israeli social policies for all its people, i.e., Jews as well as others.
The assertions are easy to express, especially by Americans who think of their country as an ideal, or powerful enough to dictate to others.
The truth is that the US has the worst social indicators of any western democracy, using that term to include the countries of Western Europe, Israel, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. A great assertion of American pride is necessary to find excuses for that country's standing on health, violence, and social-economic inequality, or the mess contributed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, an iconic agreement with Iran still to be tested, with Iranians interpreting the agreement differently than their partners.
Several American correspondents have claimed that the poor indicators reflect the presence of illegal immigrants, Blacks, and the eating habits of poor, fat, Whites. Maybe, but all countries have problematic populations. The US record with respect to African Americans, during the 150 years since Emancipation or nearly 60 years since the onset of concern for civil rights isn't anything to be proud of. And the skills of American advertisers have worsened, rather than dealt with the way so many Americans eat themselves to poor health.
Minorities tend to score lower on social indicators in many countries. Also in Israel. However, on some crucial health indicators, the Israeli Arab minority scores higher than the US White majority, and lots higher than US minorities.
One can find better social indicators than Israel's in Western European countries at the top of the economic heap, but those may change under a wave of Muslim migrants
Israel's accomplishments look even better when viewed in the context of the hostility that surrounds us.
It ranges from Muslim rejectionism to an historic White House policy of relegating Israel to a servant of US interests.
Prime Minister Netanyahu flubbed his assertions about the Grand Mufti and the Holocaust, but his lack of historical accuracy is not looking all that bad in light of the present Grand Mufti's assertions that Haram al Sharif always was a Muslim shrine, and that Jews never had a Temple on the site.
For those who wonder about the facts, and are wary of the many convincing details in the Hebrew Bible, support comes from the New Testament, Babylonian and Persian records, writings of ancient Greeks, Romans, and Jews, as well as the iconic frieze on the Arch of Titus.
In the light of such abject nonsense from a Muslim claimant to religious leadership, repeated to me with certainty by a Muslim friend with a university education, it is difficult to restrain one's perception of intellectual barbarity, and to keep from joining those who would clean the Temple Mount and its environs of Muslims, extending perhaps to the borders of the Land of Israel.
When in such a mood, one wonders if it isn't time for the entire Israeli governing coalition, along with Jews who wish to join them, to conduct a full cycle of daily prayer on the Temple Mount, surrounded by enough fire power to keep Muslims at bay, and a public relations campaign to counter what would come from Christians and Jews concerned about moderation.
Yet realism should soon take over.
It is the fate of Jews to live alongside those who hate us, dismiss us as insignificant, and do what they can to diminish or even liquidate us. We're not likely to change conditions traced back more than two millennia.
Now we have it good here and elsewhere, substantially better than those who deny our legitimacy, and better even than those who claim to be protecting us.
Realism requires that we swallow our pride, don't rock the boats that bring us some goodies, and continue to do what else is necessary to maintain the good life.
No one should expect to receive all demands, and not even all those considered important. Disappointment is inherent where all can demand, interests and values differ and clash, and resources are limited.
Throughout my career, at the Hebrew University and on other distinguished campuses, I taught that a cardinal rule of politics is that all must eat some shit. Mother would have washed my mouth with soap for such language, but no student ever threatened.
The question is, how much?