Book Review: Can Israel Survive?

| Fri Sep. 2, 2011 2:00 PM EDT
A border wall between Israel and the West Bank.

Can Israel survive? It's a question that used to be asked with the threat of hostile neighbors and Palestinian terrorists in mind. Today, more often than not, it refers to the country's viability amidst an intransigent right-wing government, a peace process going nowhere, an impending demographics crisis, seemingly imminent UN recognition of a Palestinian state—and maybe Iran.

These latter concerns dominate Hirsh Goodman's thoughtful new book, The Anatomy of Israel's Survival, which hits bookshelves next week. A longtime Israeli journalist who's lived through at least five wars, two intifadas, and too many failed peace initiatives to keep track of, Hirsh counts as something of a rare breed among Israeli intellectuals these days: an optimist.

As Goodman runs through the list of threats to Israel, the source of his bright attitude isn't immediately apparent. Iran represents an existential threat. Gaza is a "mini-Iran." Israel's 5.7 million Jews are about to be overtaken by the 5.4 million Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories.

Goodman, meanwhile, has nothing but stinging criticisms for Israel's leaders since the 1967 Six-Day War. He calls Golda Meir "one of Israel's most myopic leaders ever," Benjamin Netanyahu's first stint in office in the late '90s "a disaster," and Netanyahu's successor Ehud Barak "like Midas in reverse" for squandering major peace talks with both Syria and the Palestinians.

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