As well as claiming the lives of over 1,000 Palestinian civilians, the war in Gaza has exposed deep fissures within Israeli society too. Adam LeBor reports on how the bloodshed has further radicalised IsraeI’s Arabs (currently around 20 per cent of the country’s population). But the last thing they want is to become part of a Palestinian state, he says; instead, many of their leaders are calling for Israel to cease being a Jewish state, and become a “state for all citizens”—with a new name, anthem and flag.
Arab Israelis, however, are just one of many “tribes” causing problems in the increasingly divided and dysfunctional state of Israel, writes John Lloyd. He hears from the country’s leading thinkers about how the threats from within Israel pose a greater threat to its existence than those from outside. Bernard Avishai also picks up on this theme, arguing that Israelis and Palestinians are more at war with themselves than each other. If President Obama is to make any difference in the middle east, Avishai argues, he must understand and exploit the divisions between the hardline and more moderate camps on both sides, and force them to work together. Israel’s leaders, he adds, must be forced into a “panic” that American support is no longer unconditional, but contingent on certain behaviour, like reigning in West Bank settlers.
Meanwhile, Tony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, heralds the long-awaited birth of J Street—a new, liberal American Jewish lobby. In particular, he notes J Street’s strong criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza as both a bold and a risky move. In electing Obama, though, the American public—Jewish or otherwise—have suggested their growing fatigue with Israel’s wars. And, Lerman notes, it’s about time they had a lobby to support them.