Israel

The Will to Prevail

By Danny Danon

Palgrave Macmillan. 240 pp. $26

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Reviewed by Paul Jablow


This probably won't be listed among books about the presidential campaign, but it should be.

Danny Danon is deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and this is a straightforward case for aligning U.S. policy toward Israel more closely with that of the Likud government and - between the lines - for electing Mitt Romney president.

The Republican candidate is not mentioned by name, but President Obama is repeatedly blamed for prickly relations with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime Romney friend. Forget Defense Minister Ehud Barak's statement that Obama is doing more for Israeli security than any American president he can recall. Forget American-Israeli cooperation in computer attacks on Iran's nuclear program. Forget willingness to use deadly force against al-Qaeda targets.

"This administration," Danon writes, "seems not to understand the Arab mind."

Danon's argument is simple: About 40 years of U.S. attempts by Obama and previous presidents to broker a peace in the Mideast that includes a Palestinian state have failed and should be abandoned. "Being a member of a group," he writes, "does not ipso facto mean you should have a state." He proposes, instead, a "three-state solution. This would entail a regional agreement with Jordan, Egypt, and Israel that would give Palestinians land and other rights across these areas - not land to form a distinct Palestinian state."

Gaza and the West Bank would be formally annexed by Israel. And whatever "other rights" the Palestinians remaining within the borders of Israel would have, they would be less than those of Israeli citizens, who could end up being in the minority.

This does not bother Danon, who exudes contempt for Islam in general and the Palestinians in particular. His recounting of Palestinian violence - real and threatened - against Israel is thorough and detailed and dismisses the idea that any sort of rational leadership could ever emerge from that population. Or that any Palestinian state, wherever located and however structured, would not be a military threat to Israel.

It brings to mind the old Doonesbury cartoon in which a caricatured Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin refers to Palestinian infants as "baby terrorists."

In the area of U.S. policy, Danon treads on trickier ground. "Israel fares better," he writes, "when she makes decisions based on her own best interests and not on the wants and needs of the U.S. government."

Fair enough. But that cuts both ways. When you are receiving about $3 billion a year in military aid alone, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to ask that it come in the form of a blank check. So Danon needs to make the very difficult case that any actions Israel takes on its own behalf are by definition in American interests as well: "History shows that when we act on our own, according to our own best interests, the results are not only better for Israel, but for world peace as a whole."

The book does include a valuable quick-read history of American policy toward Israel and Palestine in the 20th century. There is, for example, a much-needed reminder of how the United States in general, and Franklin D. Roosevelt in particular, could have done far more to save European Jews in the Holocaust, with steps ranging from admitting Jewish immigrants in the years when Hitler was willing to permit it to bombing the death camps.

And Danon reminds us that no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict could ever be sufficient to bring peace to the region. It's the West in general that inflames Islamic radicals, not Israel.

He also includes some questionable analogies. The success of the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor despite overwhelming international opposition is described as "key in thinking about Iran today."

Forget that destroying Iraq's nuclear capability was far easier militarily that doing the same would be in Iran. And, yes, forget that the Arab Spring - misnamed or not - has made the political landscape in the Mideast far trickier and more volatile than it was in the dictator-rich Mideast of 30 years ago.

The book's overall tone is decidedly messianic, a strange blend of overweening confidence and siege mentality.

"The Jews," Danon writes, "have always acted as a barometer of evil. Throughout history the Jews have been the 'canary in the coal mine' that shows true evil and hatred as it truly is. The Arab rejectionism is the latest in a long line of people, movements and ideologies that have spread their destruction around the world, but have always begun with the Jews."

But overall, the book - with its fall release date and crossed American and Israeli flags on the cover - is primarily a campaign document.

"We . . . understand the necessity of shaping our fate by our own hands," the author says. "If we have to pay a price with the United Nations, the European Union and the United States, so be it."

If Danon has his way, however, as far as the United States is concerned, there will under no circumstances be a price.

Paul Jablow, a former Inquirer reporter and editor, freelances from Bryn Mawr.