'Atlantic' magazine: Is Israel finished?

As Israel prepares to mark its 60th, the respected magazine is keeping the champagne firmly corked.

60th Anniversary 224 (photo credit: Government Press Office)
60th Anniversary 224
(photo credit: Government Press Office)
As Israel prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday, the respected Atlantic Monthly magazine is keeping the champagne firmly corked. Splashed across its forthcoming May front cover is the question, "Is Israel finished?" In his 12-page article, Jeffrey Goldberg, an award-winning journalist and American Jew who made aliya and served in the IDF, asks a series of follow-up questions: "How can Israel survive the next 60 years in a part of the world that gives rise to groups like Hamas? How can Israel flourish if its army cannot defeat small bands of rocketeers? Does the concentration of so many Jews in a claustrophobically small space in the world's most volatile region actually undermine the Jewish people's ability to survive?" "American Jews in particular need to realize that things are tenuous," Goldberg, who didn't choose the article's title, told The Jerusalem Post Friday. "It's good to ask the biggest questions. There's nothing wrong with that." In searching for the answers, Goldberg spoke to a variety of Israeli politicians, writers and activists, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Prompted in particular by the death of left-wing author David Grossman's son Uri in the 2006 Lebanon war, which is a central focus of the piece, Goldberg asked Olmert, "Why is Israel less physically safe for Jews than America?" To which Olmert replied, "Jews are not safer in Israel than they are in other parts of the world, but there is only one place that Jews can fight for their lives as Jews, and that is here." The story also covers what Goldberg considers the threat within - as he sees it, the settler movement's progress in thwarting the will of the majority by making a two-state solution untenable. "I'm worried. You can try to defend yourself as best as possible against the external threat, but you have to be aware of the internal threat as well," he said. "I'm very worried about the 10- to 15-year future of Israel. I'm worried about delegitimization, and delegitimization is a process that Israel can help along." Goldberg's warning rings true to Israeli author and expat Leonard Fein, though he called the Atlantic headline "needlessly inflammatory." "It breaks my heart. I'm desolate, but I think we're blowing it," said the Boston-based Fein, who founded Moment magazine and now serves on the board of Americans for Peace Now. "While I value [Israel's] economic progress and scientific contributions, I am very apprehensive about the next 60 years, and I think it's a perfectly appropriate thing to say at this time, rather than lull ourselves into an American New Year's Eve." And many are saying it, as a slew of articles in the US press have seen Israel's milestone as cause for consternation and critical reflection rather than approbation. "Sixty years is a very significant moment in an adult and a country. Therefore it presents an opportunity and a temptation for friends and foes to analyze, to pontificate, and that's what we're going to find. We're going to find people predicting great things, predicting dire things, asking dire questions," said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, who had seen the Atlantic cover but not yet read the story. "There are fair questions. Israelis are asking them, and friends of Israel are asking them out of love and friendship," he said. "I'm not troubled by good people, caring people, struggling with these questions" as Goldberg has. Foxman noted he had another reason not to be troubled. He recalled marking Israel's 25th anniversary and hearing people asking, "Is Israel going to be there for the 50th?" That's one question that's already been answered.