At last night’s press conference, Barack Obama made some news by conceding that the rise of a Netanyahu-Lieberman administration in Israel was not making the prospects for peace any better. That’s true enough, but it’s worth recalling that it’s not as if the previous Kadima-Labor government was really going the extra mile to show its commitment to a just resolution of the problem. The rise of the far-right in electoral politics reflects a general — and quite ugly — rightward turn in Israel more generally. Take this story, for example:
In testimony reported by Israeli news media and in interviews with The Times, Gaza veterans said rabbis advised army units to show the enemy no mercy and called for resettlement of the Palestinian enclave by Jews.
“The rabbis were all over, in every unit,” said Yehuda Shaul, a retired army officer whose human rights group, Breaking the Silence, has taken testimony from dozens of Gaza veterans. “It was quite well organized.”
The army, which conscripts almost every Israeli Jew at 18, has been dominated for most of its history by secular officers. But over the last 15 years, as secular Israelis have soured on the occupation of Palestinian territory, religious nationalists have taken over senior positions in elite combat brigades.
With them have come hundreds of volunteer rabbis, who teach at pre-military academies for religious youths and serve side by side with the troops.
Needless to say, the parallel growth in strength of the religious nationalists of Hamas doesn’t help matters either. Indeed, these two groups have been in a mutually beneficial embrace, both rising to power in their respective societies as both sink further into the mire. My hope would be that we can turn this trend around, but it may not be possible and the United States might have to ask itself what kind of relationship it can have with a country where this sort of doctrine is put forward in official settings.