Predicting the impossible

The art of prediction: A 1953 baseball card features Yogi Berra (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The art of prediction: A 1953 baseball card features Yogi Berra
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
‘Predicting is hard. Especially about the future.”
Thus spake that great American sage, Yogi Berra. With all due respect and fond memories (and may they have next-world-class baseball in heaven), Yogi was wrong. Predicting is easy. Everybody does it.
But getting it right – that’s another matter. And getting it right in a way that people can use – call it “actionable prophecy” – that’s a separate art entirely.
Let’s talk about it and see.
I predict that no matter who wins the American presidency and the Congress, 2017 will be a difficult and decisive year for Israeli-American relations. The money will keep coming. At least for a while. But the long-range forecast is dour and uncertain. This very uncertainty offers a special opportunity to those of us who hold dual citizenship, who wish both our nations friendship and success and who’ve grown tired of the self-righteous, ineffective, histrionic pap that passes for the “defense” of Israel in the United States by Israel and by Israel’s American supporters.
We start with the obvious.
America is not turning against Israel. America is turning away from Israel. In some ways, that’s worse. Enemies you can deal with. But mass indifference? An indifference that’s been building for decades and shows no signs of abating?
Perhaps it could not have been otherwise. The glory days had to end; they always do. And Israel as an established entity has its ugly side. So let’s work with what is.
Anti-Semitism is back. In truth, it never went away. All that has changed, a hideous change, is that the Internet has linked and empowered people who otherwise might have stayed under their rocks. Israel also empowers Jew-haters. When Prime Minister Netanyahu cast Israel’s lot with the religious Right and the Republican Party, he did more than alienate those Americans for whom the religious Right and conservatism mean intolerance, bigotry and worse. He also energized the anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism that has long been part of America’s political Left.
The phrase “self-hating Jew,” like “anti-Semite,” should be used only sparingly, to denote a genuine psychopathology; otherwise, it drains it of meaning. But if you’re looking for self-hating Jews, the American Left, what’s left of it, is not a bad place to start.
Now, there’s no arguing with such types. Concentrate instead on delivering your message to those willing to receive it and able to understand it.
And this be the message:
Today, in the war (so far, a pathetically one-sided affair) of Islamism contra mundum, the strategic center of gravity is not territory. It’s people – specifically, the millions of Muslims now resident in and flooding into Europe and North America. The Palestinian-Israeli front may be life-and-death to those involved, but globally it’s now a secondary, maybe even a tertiary, matter.
Israel can’t retreat. Roughly 800,000 Jewish Israelis – one in six – now live outside the pre- 1967 borders: 400,000 in the territories, the rest in Greater Jerusalem and on the Golan Heights. No government could uproot that many people. And acceptance of total Palestinian independence would most likely occasion civil war.
Nor can the Palestinians make peace. Who could deliver it? And how long would anything resembling a democratic state last?
Nor does the Arab world want an independent Palestine. It never really has. And in recent weeks, various Arab and Egyptian government pronouncements have made that clear. The common enemy is now Islamism. An independent Palestine would likely become just another ISIS/al-Qaida/whatever’s next franchise.
And therein lies the opportunity. Imagine, instead of two states as an immediate goal, the slow, steady melding of Arab and Israeli interests, to include a regional approach to Palestine, economically based. Imagine something akin to the old European Steel and Coal Community, but armed; a well-regulated first step toward greater integration. Israel and the territories are already tightly linked economically. Why not build on that to include Jordan (also already tightly linked to both) and Egypt, perhaps ultimately Gaza? And why not, for starters, end the exploitation of Palestinian day labor?
A new Palestinian leadership, perhaps a new generation, would have to come to power to give this any chance. But why not? Perhaps someday a generation of young Palestinian politiques will choose not to live their lives as their parents have and to want something better for their people.
Perhaps the process is already under way.
So perhaps this might be a good message for Americans in Israel to start sending back to the Old Country – that the Palestinian-Israeli situation, currently little more than a global sideshow, might yield regional benefits that might in turn put a bit more tunk in the global struggle (insofar as anybody’s really struggling) against Islamism. Enough with all the Judeo-centric and Israeli-centric self-justification. This is something that might, just might, benefit the world.
So give it time, America. Let Bibi at least have a shot.
And keep John Kerry home.
Next: “These are the times that fry men’s souls.”