A.B. Yehoshua is one of Israel’s leading novelists and a confirmed Zionist. The Israeli right will point out that he is a confirmed dove whose views are therefore, in their eyes, suspect and marginal. However, what is important to me is that Yehoshua is NOT Ilan Pappe. He’s even more centrist than David Grossman or Amos Oz, two other distinguished dovish Israeli writers.
So for Yehoshua to publicly call, in a non-Israeli publication like La Stampa no less, for the U.S. to withdraw its ambassador till the Olmert government gets serious about obeying its obligations to remove West Bank settlements, strikes like a lightning bolt:
In a scathing op-ed published in the Italian daily La Stampa, Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua said George W. Bush should recall the US ambassador to Israel until the Jewish state dismantles all illegal outposts in the West Bank, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.
“If the American president would have really wanted Israel to disassemble the illegal outposts…he would have done better to stay in the White House…” Yehoshua wrote in response to Bush’s recent visit to the Middle East. “He should have recalled his ambassador to Tel Aviv (Richard Jones) for an indefinite period until the outposts were evacuated.
“I can guarantee you that had he acted in this manner, Israel would have promptly dismantled the outposts, and the US administration would thus cement the faith of the Israelis and the Palestinians in the peace process,” he said in the op-ed.
Yehoshua added that Israel was deceiving the international community into focusing solely on the illegal outposts.
“Instead of dealing with (all) of the illegal settlements (in the West Bank), only the illegal outposts are being discussed – this legitimizes the status of (the other) settlements, in which 250,000 Israelis reside,” he said.
Many in Israel will no doubt see this statement as a betrayal. It violates every concept of Zionist sovereignty and self-reliance–the notion being that Israel and the Jewish people need to govern themselves free of interference from any outside source, even a friendly one like the U.S.
There are at least two interesting aspects to Yehoshua’s statement. First, it indicates a desperation on the part of the rational Zionist center-left. It is clear to them that no one in current Israeli politics has the will or interest to do the hard things that need to get done for there to be peace. Under those conditions, a dyed in the wool Zionist like Yehoshua is willing to give voice to heresy and call for direct U.S. interference in Israeli domestic politics.
Second, the statement bespeaks a recognition among those same rational Zionists that now is the time for a settlement. This realization is accompanied by the conviction that losing this opportunity will be much worse than past lost opportunities because the stakes seem higher than they have ever been in terms of the violence that might be unleashed in the event of failure now.
Third, Yehoshua has attacked the U.S. president viewed by many Israelis as possibly the most friendly ever to Israeli to its interests. It takes guts, enormous levels of frustration, and at least an ounce of desperation to engage in such criticism.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, Ynet has omitted Yehoshua’s direct criticism of the Israel lobby. JTA reports that Yehoshua also had this to say:
Yehoshua further described all West Bank settlements as illegal and described the “Jewish lobby” as having “become a powerful tool of influence on Israel’s behalf within the U.S. administration.”
What is important here is that it’s no longer Jimmy Carter or Walt-Mearsheimer attacking the Lobby. It’s now a mainstream Israeli figure like Yehoshua who, as a Zionist, might be seen to have a vested interest in supporting the work of the Lobby.
A hat tip to Sol Salbe for this story. I’m very eager to find a translation of the original Italian article or the Yediot Hebrew coverage to get as close to the original statements made as possible. If anyone knows Italian out there and can find and translate it please let me know.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.