I’m sure there have been plenty of smiles and high-fives over at J Street headquarters in recent weeks. At the offices of Amnesty International and Jewish Voice for Peace, too, they’re probably almost giddy.
Israel is being denounced on op-ed pages and in the halls of the United Nations for its actions on the Gaza border, and there’s nothing like a hearty round of international Israel-bashing to cheer the hearts of the J Streeters and their ilk.
But they may be celebrating just a bit too soon.
Because while Israel’s critics think that the Gaza situation will prove to be Israel’s undoing, it’s much more likely that Gaza will lead to yet another stinging defeat for the J Street crowd.
Those who sit on the Upper West Side or on the banks of the Potomac, dreaming of the creation of a Palestinian state, tend to spend too much time reading The New York Times and The Washington Post, and watching MSNBC. In their little bubble, they genuinely believe that an article in the Times or a segment on MSNBC determines the direction that the world will take. That’s what’ important to them, so they assume it must be important to everyone else, too.
But not to Israelis. Not by a long shot.
Columnists and TV’s talking heads have zero impact on Israel’s policies. Nasty articles in the Times and Post, and wildly distorted news clips on MSNBC are of no consequence at all. The people who determine Israel’s future are the voters of Israel. And Gaza is driving them further and further away from the positions that J Street and its comrades advocate.
Not that Israel’s citizens are all longtime doves who are now becoming hawks. In fact, the Israeli electorate has preferred nationalist candidates over their concessionist rivals consistently since 1977. The only non-Likud candidates who have been elected prime minister since then (Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon) campaigned on platforms that were against Palestinian statehood.
Still, there are many middle-of-the-road Israelis who in theory could be persuaded to vote for either of Israel’s largest parties. And Gaza is driving them into the nationalist camp.
Here’s why. For years, the debate over the future of Gaza was a theoretical one. The Israeli left—cheered on by the American Jewish left—claimed that if Israel withdrew, then the Palestinians of Gaza would live in peace in with the Jewish state.
The Israeli right argued that the Gazans would never be satisfied with Gaza. And the right predicted that if Israel surrendered Gaza and the Palestinians continued to attack Israel, the international community would find ways to excuse and justify the attacks.
The debate was all theoretical, of course. There was no way to know, in advance, what would happen if Israel withdrew from Gaza, unless it withdrew. So, it did. And now Israel’s citizens see what has happened.
Thanks to the miracle of video cameras, Israeli voters watch the Gaza mobs every day, in real time. The Washington Post may call the firebomb-throwers “largely peaceful,” J Street may accuse Israeli soldiers of being trigger-happy, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may claim that Israel is mistreating innocent Palestinian demonstrators. But Israel’s citizens—Israel’s voters—can see the truth with their own eyes.
They see Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails. They see them sending flaming kites to set Israel’s fields on fire. They see the mobs surging to the fence. And they see how—just as the pessimists predicted—the left is excusing and rationalizing and justifying the firebombers. They see, more clearly now than ever before, that no matter how extreme and violent the Palestinians act, the left will defend them. No matter how many concessions that Israel makes, the Palestinians will demand more, and their American cheerleaders will echo their demands.
So, go ahead, J Streeters—cheer the chorus of anti-Israel criticism. Enjoy the Israel-bashing headlines while you can. The last laugh will be on you. Sometime in the next two years, Israel’s voters will go the polls. And their votes will be based on the reality unfolding before their eyes—the reality of unrelenting Palestinian hatred and extremism that you have tried, but failed, to hide from them.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.