Two Minutes to Armageddon (Extract)

Extract from an article in Issue 24, March 16, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. I couldn't feel worse. I feel as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini. How is it possible that 15 percent of Israelis voted for a man who is so dangerously demagogic and deeply unkind as Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman? I understand peace has been so long in coming and that Palestinians have done stupid things: electing Hamas, tossing rockets into Israel, mocking those of us who thought that leaving Gaza might be a fine first step. I understand the despair and the frustration and the need to jump around waving one's sword in the air, slicing up whatever clouds appear in the sky. But Jews should know that stirring up hatred, group against group, is always a bad idea. The malevolent Erlkonig is applauding. The multiple enemies of the Jews, who are as countless as the dust in the air, are celebrating: "See, the Jews are no better than us. We don't have to agitate against them. They will bring the roof down on their heads all by themselves." The settlers, who will not be removed without violence and possibly civil war, must be encouraged by the election results. The Arabs in Israel, who have been hoping for an improved life, those who consider themselves Israeli and who have not been bombing their neighbors, must despair for the future of their children. If there were a peace clock sitting high on top of Mt. Ararat, the hands would show two minutes to Armageddon, which I know is fine with some people, just not most of us, not the majority of American Jews who had high hopes that, within our lifetimes, Israel would flourish, live in peace with its neighbors and be a beacon of light for the world. I know about those intractable neighbors, who are so conveniently intractable that their Israeli partners-in-perpetual-animosity will always have a complaint, a legitimate complaint. We here in America are waiting as of this writing for a government to emerge in Jerusalem and most of us keep on hoping that its shape will not preclude the peace process, will not doom a two-state solution, will not destroy the hope that our new President brings to the table. As American Jews without a vote in Israel, we can't do more than point out what many Israelis understand: Solve this problem or the Jewish state will disappear in a tsunami of Palestinian births; or it will become a theocracy, a thugocracy, an apartheid, anti-democratic state that will then disappear in a wave of world anger. There is nothing normal about a state that cannot tolerate a minority within its borders and treat them as it would have wished its people to have been treated in the centuries of Diaspora life. I would call it pathological that Israel is listening to leaders who don't understand that the entire West Bank cannot belong to Israel without making it a pariah nation, without violating the spirit of the Torah, and the scared memory of the Jewish people. Contributing editor Anne Roiphe is a novelist and journalist living in New York. Extract from an article in Issue 24, March 16, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.