Will Israel Survive?
by Mitchell G. Bard
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 236 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by Moshe Dann
Middle East Quarterly
Bard, an articulate advocate for Israel, offers a thoughtful and spirited presentation of the many difficulties confronting the Jewish state, such as terrorism, relations with the Arab world, the threat from Iran, media bias, the U.N., and scientific and technological achievements. In answer to his provocative title, Bard concludes that with U.S. support, Israel will indeed survive.
Bard's political agenda, however—that Israel cannot retain ("occupy") the West Bank and remain a democratic and Jewish state—leads to a single goal: a Palestinian state, regardless of its orientation. To defend that position, he argues in favor of unilateral Israeli withdrawal. "Israel's withdrawal [from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon] was a wise strategic position that saved lives and ameliorated the demographic problem," he writes. Given the results, however, he adds that Israel will not make the same mistake a third time. But that is precisely what he proposes.
Acknowledging that Israel faces a variety of environmental problems (the scarcity of water being the most acute) that would destroy Israel's delicate ecological balance if millions of Arabs flood the West Bank, Bard turns inside-out to conclude that the dire warnings are inaccurate, and there is no danger. This he concludes because he needs to sustain the idea of a Palestinian state above anything else.
The notion of occupation haunts Bard, frightening him from dealing with the implications of realities that he himself acknowledges. This is what makes the book such a difficult read: He understands and yet refuses to accept any alternatives. This mind-set is evident in his chapter on "the demographic bomb" in which Bard presents the position of Arnon Sofer and Sergio DellaPergola that Arab growth rates are a demographic threat to Israel, ignoring its refutation by Bennett Zimmerman, et al.
Virtually every military and strategic expert in Israel has rejected Bard's goal of unilateral withdrawal, but one would never know this from his book. "Finish the fence and then evacuate all Israelis behind it," he advises. Admitting that the barrier will not stop rockets, Bard offers, "Israel has more powerful and accurate weapons." With Sderot under daily attack and with the occupation of southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, he acknowledges that although this solution is "another leftist delusion," Israel has no choice but to retreat.
Unable to recognize the right of Jews to live in the West Bank, he vilifies religious settlers as "the greatest threat to civil society." Compared to rampant government corruption, incompetence, animosity between religious and secular groups, and governmental irresponsibility, one wonders about Bard's perspective.
Linking Israel's survival to a Palestinian terrorist state is like trying to swim with cement shoes.
 Bennett Zimmerman, "Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million Person Gap," testimony before the Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia, U.S. House International Relations Committee, Mar 8, 2006.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy | Moshe Dann | Winter 2009 MEQ
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