Demonstrating that, as far as the Middle East peace process is concerned, America remains the indispensable nation, President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March has helped set the stage for a new effort to get Israelis and Palestinians talking. The central challenge now is to rebuild some trust between the political leaderships and begin moving towards talks aimed at creating ‘two states for two peoples.’
There is, one presumes, not an unlimited supply of such opportunities. So it is fitting that most of the contributions to Fathom 3 can be read as reflections on how the parties can seize this one, and the obstacles they will have to overcome to do so.
Michael Herzog, Meir Kraus and Ahron Bregman draw on deep wells of experience to point out the lessons that can be learnt from previous peace efforts. Herzog, a former chief of staff to four former ministers of defence, as well as serving as a special envoy on the peace process, warns that peace making today requires, for now at least, incremental measures to rebuild trust. Meir Kraus, Director of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, proposes a cosmopolitan vision for Jerusalem as a shared city and a world centre of history and spirituality, and suggests an approach able to realise that vision: partnership, dialogue and creative thinking about sovereignty. Bregman, author of The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs, reviews The Peace Puzzle, a survey of the successes and failures of US diplomacy in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace since 1989.
Mapping the immense changes unleashed by the upheavals in the Arab world, and judging their profound impact on the regional political and security environment – a critical factor shaping all peace-making efforts – is the focus of Shashank Joshi, Richard Perle and Eric Trager. Joshi of RUSI assesses Obama’s success in facilitating a rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, and urges caution: repairing relations will not lead to the restoration of the old closeness any time soon. Richard Perle, the former senior US defence strategist in the George W. Bush administration and leading conservative thinker, makes an impassioned plea for the West to be willing ‘to contemplate the full range of interventions of which we are capable’ in the region. He argues that ‘if we don’t consider seriously all interventions short of force, we will be left only with force or acquiescence.’ Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes in praise of Alison Pargeter’s sober account of the actual ideological vision of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is some way from the fond imaginings of many Western politicians, and which is now, Trager reminds us, at violent odds with an Egyptian society ‘increasingly in rebellion against its reign.’
Policy makers often fail to appreciate the tremendous power of intellectuals and global civil society in shaping the frameworks and assumptions within which the media reports the region and governments make policy. Fathom is determined not to make that mistake. In this issue Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor maps the influence on some NGOs of the ‘Durban agenda’ that aims to turn Israel into a pariah state, whilst moral philosopher Eve Garrard analyses the emotional pleasures provided by anti-Semitism to its adherents. The two intellectual maladies highlighted by these pieces are major obstacles to creating the culture of mutual recognition needed by both parties if they are to sustain the excruciating compromises required by a final status agreement.
Our film reviewer Yair Raveh, in what can be read as a riposte to another intellectual malady – the charge that all talk of gay-friendly Israeli culture is pink-washing – writes about the history of gay cinema in Israel, claiming that while it has been hitherto more mainstream and gay than subversive and queer, that may be about to change. And Robert Fine reviews another book from the excellent Jewish Lives series from Yale, Shmule Feiner’s biography of Moses Mendelssohn. He finds in Mendelssohn’s resistance to social prejudice against Jews, even when it came from within the well-meaning liberal enlightenment, a sensibility that should speak to us today.
How prepared is Israel to rise to these challenges and to make the ‘historic compromise’ which – provided there is a Palestinian partner willing to cede recognition and security to the Jewish state – Prime Minister Netanyahu promised from the podium of the Knesset on the eve of President Obama’s visit? That question is explored by new MK and social protest leader Stav Shaffir in a spirited call to reclaim Zionism. Tal Harris of One Voice Israel argues that the chances of the new Knesset fulfilling its promise of ‘new politics’ will depend upon its ability to get rid of the old occupation, while the Israeli academic Alexander Yakobson invites us to be encouraged by polling evidence of a gulf between the sentiments of many Israeli Arabs and the radical discourse of their leaders. The renowned political thinker Michael Walzer discusses with Alan Johnson some of the rich democratic resources he and his co-editors have been mining from the ‘Jewish political tradition’ in an ambitious multi-volume intellectual project at Yale University Press. Finally, we are delighted to offer to subscribers to our free app, Toby’s Greene’s revealing video interview with Dror Moreh, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers. Under tough questioning from Greene, Moreh explains why he made a film about the views of the last six heads of the Israeli security service, the Shin Bet, and defends his film against criticism.The Editors