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The Leftist Fantasy of an Israeli Theocracy Gets Hysterical

Posted on January 7 2011 2:00 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel

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Future Mideast reporter for The Atlantic?

In 2008, the Westminster City Council passed legislation banning sandwich boards. The end was truly nigh for the classic sandwich board-bearing man proclaiming the imminence of the apocalypse.

You had to feel for a guy who lost the opportunity to do what he considered an important job. But just as the boy who cried wolf, the “end is nigh” sandwich board man warned of disaster too consistently to have any credibility.

The slew of leftist commentators on Israel remind me of the man wearing the sandwich board. Instead of “the end is nigh,” however, we are treated to a constant refrain of “the end of Israel’s democracy is nigh.”

I think this movement may have jumped the shark with Sefi Rachlevsky’s January 5, 2010 column in Haaretz, prompted by the recent discovery of a deepwater natural gas field in Israel. Rachlevsky writes:

Now, with God’s gift of gas to his obstinate people, it is possible to move in the opposite direction: from Jerusalem to Saudi Arabia.

And the ‘gentiles’? They wouldn’t dare fly in the face of the racist superpower with its incipient natural gas.

Israel seems to have two great options to choose from: One is to be like Saudi Arabia, which has a religious and racist domestic regime that subsidizes messianists and government corruption and which maintains a foreign policy perceived as pragmatic; the second possibility, to resemble Iran, is more likely, as domestically its regime is similar to Saudi Arabia’s, while it maintains a more aggressive and adversarial foreign policy.

Those are the two options: Iran or Saudi Arabia. To Rachlevsky, the “racist” Jews were only angling for dollars–you know those crafty Jews. Now that the Jewish state can be independently wealthy, her true nature will come to the surface.

But there is hope. Over at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg introduces us to a third possibility for Israel’s foreign policy. Part of what worries Goldberg are “the million or so recent immigrants from Russia, who support, in distressing numbers, the Putin-like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the ‘Israel is Our Home’ party.”

This is an extraordinary slur–that Lieberman is like Vladimir Putin. But Goldberg is obviously entitled to his opinion. So there you have your three options for where Israel’s foreign policy will go: Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Putin’s Russia. Rachlevsky has laid out what the Iran and Saudi “Israels” would look like, and here is Goldberg’s vision of Avigdor Putin’s Israel:

Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then?

Now, it’s important to note here that there are of course real concerns over how Israel should protect its character as a Jewish and democratic state. Goldberg has–not that he needs me to say this, of course–a deep and abiding love for the state of Israel, which is expressed in much of his writing. Andrew Sullivan (whose writing does not express a deep and abiding love for Israel) piled on, having found possibly the only remaining common ground between himself and Goldberg on Israel:

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