Israel's two futures
"A classic Socialists vs. Revisionists rematch."
As Saint-Just put it, “he who makes half a revolution digs his own grave.”
You can’t postpone a coup. You can’t even plan a half-coup. And one good mark of someone who will lose is that he has no idea what he would do if he won. Netanyahu was pressured into attacking the Israeli judiciary; it was not his idea in the beginning; he paused, which means he failed; he will need a better rabbit to pull out of his hat.
The civil conflict in Israel is now nakedly a conflict between oligarchy (which calls itself “democracy”) and democracy (which the oligarchy calls “autocracy.”) Do voters control the government thorough their elected officials? Or is power the permanent property of prestigious institutions?
This question, like so many of the 20th century’s lies, can now in Israel no longer be finessed. Indeed, so much about the way the world works is growing hard to finesse:
In normal times, the standard line for a White House—whether Democratic or Republican—is that Washington does not interfere in the internal politics of its allies.
That has never truly been the case; it interferes all the time, usually behind the scenes. But in this case, Mr. Biden and his advisers dropped all pretenses…
The writer of this story is one David E. Sanger, who joined the Times in… 1982. Those, I guess, were normal times? With normal… pretenses?
I like a game of pretend as much as the next parent. When the affairs of billions of human beings are being decided by pretenses—which David Sanger, for his whole forty-year career in the beating heart of global power has considered “the standard line”—which has “never truly been the case; it interferes all the time”—well—we wonder: what about this word, allies? Is that too—a pretense? What a sad, false world.
So let us rejoice in the dropping of pretenses. Perhaps they can never be resumed—by Biden and Netanyahu alike. We can only hope! Carlyle said it, 175 years ago: “at all costs, it is to be prayed by all men that Shams may cease.”
If it is a sham, a pretense, that Israel is an ally of the USG, and in reality Israel is in fact a satellite of the USG—even the contest between Israeli institutions and Israeli politics is a pretense. Only one side in this contest is in any sense local.
Since the Israeli institutional oligarchy, or “civil society,” is a mere arm of American “civil society”—a Hebrew-speaking arm, an arm whose mothers mainly squeezed them out on the coast of the Mediterranean and not the Pacific—but, despite their accents, GPS coordinates of the delivery room, and even a slight tendency to brashness—Israel’s historical Ashkenazi ruling class is culturally American. Understandably, these people feel they are the best people in Israel and deserve to rule it.
Therefore, the cold civil war in Israel is a local rebellion against a world empire—with the Ashkenazis, people like me or at least like my dad (Wikipedia has just had a moment and decided to describe me as “an American neo-nazi”—while I do hope someone will do something about that, it does let me use that awful laugh-line about “putting the Nazi back in Ashkenazi”)—in the unlovely role of quislings.
Personally, I am conflicted. There is no doubt that the 20th-century oligarchy is awful and deteriorating. But 21st-century democracy could be even worse. Also, my people, including the WASPs on the other side, are the best people in the world—culturally, genetically, the whole bit. (I’m not a “neo-nazi,” but I am an ethnocentric Mischling.)
Whereas the rest of the Jews in Israel—seem strange to me. I do like them in theory. But they are very foreign to me and most Americans. Often, they do not even speak English. I do not instinctively feel friendly toward Mizrahi Jews; nor do they look much like me, a crude but effective metric of genetic distance; nor do they share many of the traits of Ashkenazi DNA; nor am I halachically, culturally or religiously Jewish.
On the other hand, these Jews are patriots and their enemies are American quislings. On the other hand, everyone cool is and has to be an American quisling—deal with it. In any case, it is not the best force that wins, but always the strongest. There is no doubt which of the two is stronger—for now.
Israel’s two futures
These two kinds of Israelis are just different kinds of people—far more different than Republicans and Democrats. Unless one of these groups submits to the other, they are not going to be able to peacefully share a state.