Benvenisti boasts impeccable credentials in both Israel and the United States, making him one of the Israeli interpreters of the Arab-Israeli conflict the liberal American establishment most esteems. On opening his book about "Jews and Arabs in a shared land," it therefore comes as a surprise to find not an authoritative and balanced essay but something quite different -- part political fantasy, part anti-Israel screed, and part dismaying revelation of ignorance.
The fantasy: Benvenisti's solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict is to establish a binational state, the Confederation of Israel/Palestine. He ignores the nearly universal repudiation of this idea by both sides.That's his privilege, but it raises doubts about his sensibleness.The screed: He displays impassioned anger against his country and its government for lacking the good sense to share his dream.Israeli rule over the West Bank and Gaza he variously deems "macabre," "absurd," "ludicrous," and "harsh." The ignorance:on virtually every subject -- world affairs, history, economics, diplomacy, Islam, even Israel -- he makes factual mistakes or displays strange judgement (the landing of Iraqi missiles in 1991 brought "a sense of relief" to Israelis?).
The failings of Intimate Enemies raises an interesting question: Why does the liberal American establishment so prize Benvenisti's work? Does it too dream of binationalism? Or does it overlook his foibles because it finds great utility in an Israeli who despises his own country? That's an unpleasant thought.