I strongly recommend political junkies and philosophy fans take a look at Anat Belitzki's The Stone column in the this morning's New York Times, Making It Explicit in Israel. Excellent piece by an Israeli philosopher about the implications of the stark differences between the incoming government and the way Israel has portrayed its intentions toward the Palestinian community. Not particularly optimistic, except that only by making underlying issues explicit can we begin to deal with them. Perhaps the reason yesterday's solutions do not work is because they never were solutions so much as bromides.
Belitzki is a professor at Quinnipiac University here in the US and at the University of Tel Aviv, and has a record of activism in Israeli civil rights. She references the work of American philosopher Richard Brandom who believes that it is possible to use language to make explicit what is real and implied in our social, cultural and political norms. For example, in Israeli-American dialogue, the two state solution is a given, and we're just discussing means and implementation and guarantees.
Bizetzki says that just isn't true, and that the most recent Israeli election shows that very starkly. She writes:
The government that will be formed this week is the most clearly articulated, narrowest, most right-wing, most religious and most nationalistic government ever assembled in Israel. A combination of the fundamentalist Orthodox clerical parties with the nationalistic chauvinism of the Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett who makes no attempt to hide his annexation plans, has been orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu in no uncertain terms. Along with Likud, Netanyahu’s home, which is the largest party in Israel today, and Kulanu (All of Us – a breakaway of Likud), this whole bloc is unambiguous in its Jewish, nationalistic agenda. (Emphasis added)
She believes that this explosion of truth into what was basically polite lies and cocktail conversation between Israel's leaders and the world was foreshadowed and made inevitable by the two month long attack on Gaza by the Israeli army in July-August 2014. The implicit issues between the US understanding of the agreed path forward -- Two State Solution, Camp David Accords, etc. -- and what Israel's government intends is pretty well illustrated by the odd mis-translation of the name of the operation. Operation "Tsuk Eitan." was announced to the world as Operation "Protective Edge" which has a somewhat defensive tone; she says that a more accurate translation would be "Firm Cliff" which has a vaguer yet more threatening tone. My use of a Google translator resulted in "A Rock" which opens a wide range of possibilities. Perhaps "Perhaps Operation Masada" or "Operation Stoning" would have been more appropriate.
She points out that the objective of the operation shifted a lot -- from stopping rocket fires to destroying tunnels. What is ultimately most telling to me is the casualty figures that she cites. "By the operation’s end, more than 2,100 Gazans were killed, a majority of whom were civilians, around 500 of those children. Seventy-three Israelis were killed during Firm Cliff — almost all of them soldiers." While a comparison to the German destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto may seem overblown, it is in fact just and reasonable under the circumstances. Irony is not necessary humorous or gentle; when it erupts, it tends to be pretty violent.
She goes on to discuss the concepts in Brandom's work of the contrast between implicit meaning in statements versus the explicit reality of actions. There is an obvious disconnect between Netanyahu's expressed belief in the two state solution in 2009 and his actions since that speech. But, Belitzki's point is that the Israeli action in Gaza and the the election point to an altered, more explicit reality. She cites Brandom who wrote "If you can bring it out into the open as something we can discuss and give and ask for reasons for, then these implicit inferences that are curled up in our concepts don’t have power over us anymore. They’ve come into the light of day where we have the power of reasoning about them.”
She concludes that 'Perhaps such reasoning, now in explicit political contexts, might even lead to the power of changing them." I am not quite so optimistic, simply because there are a lot of people in the US and in Israel who mean well, but have a vested interest in assuming that Israel is some western bastion of human rights and equity; there are also those in the US and around the world who have a vested interest in positioning Israel as a cross between Mordor and Stalinist Russia. I don't know that we're capable of resolving that.
However, what is becoming clear is that Israel's default position is one of an apartheid state which is made explicit, fully transparent, should result in some fairly dramatic changes in its situation. Make the reality explicit, visible, transparent and the possibility of change is at least...possible.