A new book called “Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face – and What to Do About It” (by Richard Tedlow, a Harvard Business School professor) tells the fascinating tale of the decline of the Ford Motor company in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and in particular the debacle of the Model-T. How did that best-selling vehicle suddenly lose its popularity and send Ford into a tailspin ? Tedlow explains that Henry Ford (also a famous Jew-hater) refused to offer any variety of color to the consumer, saying: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, as long as it is black.” Instead, the customer went elsewhere. Ford was so convinced he knew best that he ignored explicit and obvious warning signs of impending doom, and the Model-T became a symbol of corporate mismanagement and Ford edged toward bankruptcy.
Fast forward ninety years to the continued, stubborn mismanagement of Israel’s diplomatic affairs due to the persistent refusal of its leaders to assert a claim to the land of Israel based on divine right and historic justice. The latest travesty involves the contrived imbroglio over new “settlements in East Jerusalem,” not only a canard but reflective of Western intellectual laziness of the highest order. The apartments soon to be constructed in Ramat Shlomo, a Haredi neighborhood located in northern Jerusalem. It is bizarre how Ramat Shlomo [north], Gilo [south] and Maaleh Zeitim [east] are all construed to be in “East Jerusalem.” That is because “East Jerusalem” is shorthand for Arab and not Jewish. But even that is intellectually lazy: Ramat Shlomo was not occupied by Jordan before 1967 but was located in no-man’s land. But now that there is a man there, and the man is a Jew, the world is abuzz.
Place much of the blame for this at the feet of Israel’s leaders. The announcement during Biden’s visit was foolish, but not for the standard reasons. Rather, since there are no – and can be no – serious negotiations in Israel’s best interests but rather each side jockeys for position in an inane PR contest, the announcement provided a useful pretext to Israel’s enemies – American and elsewhere – to criticize it for “obstructing peace.” That Israel breached no agreement in this announcement, tacit or otherwise, nor even in building in this part of its capital (which it had explicitly said it would continue to do), does not matter at all in the game as it is played today. Israel imprudently agreed to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria for “ten” months (sure) while retaining the right to build in Jerusalem. So why the uproar ?
Because every concession Israel makes is simply pocketed and then ignored, leading to this week’s newspaper reports that – after Oslo, and Oslo II, and withdrawals from Sinai, Lebanon, Gaza, parts of the Golan, and much of Judea and Samaria – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is demanding that Israel prove its “commitment to peace” by new concessions. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZprVPKi-W6s&annotation_id=annotation_252323&feature=iv, for another perspective, even if I find the glorification of our victimhood in this video distasteful.) This followed by a few days her telephone tongue-lashing of Israel’s prime minister, who listened to the 45 minute diatribe and said little, taking it like a … well, not like a man, or a proud leader of an eternal nation. He should have cut her off, and said he had another call. (In any event, protocol should have dictated that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman take the call from the Secretary of State, not the Prime Minister; likely, Lieberman would not have been as phlegmatic.) Instead, Netanyahu sighed and apologized, defusing a momentary diplomatic crisis to be sure but planting the seeds for the next one. Weakness breeds weakness.
Remember Jewish strength and pride ? In December 1981, the Knesset passed the Golan Heights bill, effectively annexing that northern territory. When the American government announced that it was suspending its newly-signed memorandum of understanding with Israel, Menachem Begin called in US Ambassador Sam Lewis, and gave him a tongue-lashing: “A week ago, at the instance of the Government, the Knesset passed on all three readings by an overwhelming majority of two-thirds, the “Golan Heights Law.” Now you once again declare that you are punishing Israel. What kind of expression is this – “punishing Israel”? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don’t behave properly, are slapped across the fingers?… The people of Israel has lived 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America – and it will continue to live for another 3,700.” And then Begin asked Lewis to leave his office, without allowing him to respond. Strength breeds strength, and President Reagan – who, like most real leaders – respected strength and leaders who act in their national interests – soon resumed his customary support for Israel.
Like Henry Ford (and other corporate failures), Israel’s leaders continue to pursue negotiations that will never lead to peace but can only weaken Israel both internally and externally. Netanyahu must realize on some level that the US administration is interested in his political demise, and Israel’s political decline, and its policies reflect that. The Americans have embarked on a naïve diplomatic course that distances its friends and cozies up to its enemies, with the obvious result that America’s position in the world will deteriorate during the Obama years – as America’s enemies are America’s enemies because of their national interests and aspirations and will remain so despite Obama smooth smile and glib words, even as America’s friends and allies will lie low and wait out this cosmopolitan. But Israel’s leaders stubbornly continue to engage in policies that run counter to its long term interests.
American Jews are equally obstinate – and thoughtless – in their slavish obsequiousness to the Democratic Party. There are host of domestic reasons why the Democrat agenda is hostile to Jews and traditional values, and several related to foreign policy. Here’s one, Jews: Gallup reported a few months ago that 85% of Republicans pronounce themselves supporters of Israel, but only 48% (!) of Democrats so describe themselves. The Democrats are the home base of the far-left for whom Israel is anathema, and to which Jews are blinded. How blinded ? Jews, overwhelming Obama supporters, completely ignored Obama’s membership in a church whose preacher is a rabid Jew hater – twenty years of sermons about Israel, racism, the devil and other such sublime thoughts. Could it be there is a link between Obama’s current policies and his spiritual background ? Gee, who would’ve thought that ? No one could see that train wreck coming. Sure. Odd, indeed, how a Republican hostile to Israel (think Pat Buchanan) is tarred and feathered, while Jews routinely whitewash Democrats who are hostile to Israel. And that 48% of Democrats supportive of Israel is likely to diminish, not increase.
It is fascinating still that the Torah provided us with all the lines, arguments and policy positions needed to sustain Jewish possession of the land of Israel. That we refrain from articulating them is counter-productive and self-defeating, and undermines that very objective. We are there for reasons that transcend Obama, the European Union, the UN and any other unsympathetic entity – and for Jews not to make the claim is a sorry indication that that same claim does not yet resonate in Jewish life. We cannot assert a divine mission and mandate if too many of us do not believe it.
There are pseudo-intellectuals, journalists and diplomats, who constantly declare that “everyone knows what the solution is,” and it is just a question of will and time. They assume a Palestinian state alongside Israel, living in peace and harmony and prosperity. And the evidence for that rosy scenario ? Non-existent. The evidence that Obama will actively engage Iran to thwart its nuclear ambitions ? Non-existent. Rather, they (and we) would do well to heed Tedlow’s definition of denial: “the unwillingness to see or admit a truth that ought to be apparent and is in fact apparent to many others.” For Netanyahu (and Olmert, Livni, Sharon, Barak, Peres, Netantyahu (!), Rabin, etc.) not to recognize this and base their policies accordingly is a dramatic failure of leadership. Eventually life in denial crashes into reality, as Henry Ford learned. So when will we learn ?