It’s a while since I had cause to blog about Sir Mick Davis because he has been quiet. There is some history here: in 2011 he threatened to sue me over a petition to remove him as UJIA and JLC Chair because of some comments of his that included a warning that Israel risked becoming an ‘apartheid state’ if the world no longer believed that a ‘two state solution’ was possible. He had previously disgracefully referred to the estimable legendary Jewish hero Isi Leibler as “that mad Australian who seems to be against everybody” and was then rebuked by the then Israel Ambassador to the UK.
However that Omerta has come abruptly to an end with the front page of this week’s Jewish News.
Let’s examine the piece. Sir Mick does make some good points. The income gap between the haves and the have-nots in Israel is far too wide and I am fully on board with his plea for more in the Diaspora to learn Hebrew. Benny Gantz – due to become Prime Minister in 18 months time – made a fantastic speech at the Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) celebration on Tuesday night but unless you speak reasonable Hebrew it would have been lost on you.
But when it comes to Davis’ apocalyptic pronouncements about ‘Diaspora Zionism’ disappearing along with ‘Israel’s liberal democratic values’, he is simply howling in the wind. He has been making similar forecasts for some years but there is so sign of them being accurate. Israel is stronger economically than ever and the flow of immigration and property purchase continues, partly prompted by the resurgence of antisemitism elsewhere. Before Covid hit, tourism was running at record levels, proved by the eye-watering price of hotels and services for foreigners, on the back of the ever-rising shekel.
Davis has two reasons for his pessimism about ‘Diaspora Zionism’, both ill-founded. The first is frustration with Israel’s ‘dysfunctional’ political system which – he says – has delivered a government the public didn’t vote for. But that’s Proportional Representation for you. On the other hand, smaller parties win seats –unlike with UK-style First Past the Post. PR is more reflective of how people actually vote. And how about the fact that Israel’s ‘dysfunctional’ political system has delivered a government which has kept Covid deaths to 22 per million population versus 287 for the UK? What electoral system does Davis want for Israel instead? He doesn’t say.
The second reason for his pessimism is his frustration with the failure of the two sides to deliver a Palestinian State (‘As large swathes of the Diaspora see Israel’s liberal democratic values under threat …’). But there is zero evidence that Diaspora Zionism needs a Palestinian State in order to survive. He speaks of ‘annexation’ being a genuine existential threat to Israel. First it would not be ‘annexation’. Israel has the right to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria by the San Remo declarations of 1920, the centenary of which occurred just five days ago. And what kind of ‘Diaspora Zionist’ takes issue with the policy of a Unity government that commands more than two-thirds of the seats in the Knesset?
Davis must have forgotten Yitzhak Rabin’s final Knesset speech (5 Oct 1995): “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the June, 4 1967 lines….. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the ‘Green Line,’ prior to the Six-Day War…. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term…. First and foremost a united Jerusalem … as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty.”
Israel’s reassertion of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria should satisfy those critics – no doubt including Davis – who say that there should not be a separate military law there.
And reassertion satisfies UN Resolution 181 which specifies that Arabs living in the Jewish State and Jews living in the Arab State can opt for citizenship of the other State.
Furthermore Davis – and the other critics of reassertion – fail to recognise over 50 years of unprecedented Palestinian/Arab refusal to accept peace deals that included states, including more than 90% of what was demanded, at Camp David. The fate of Judea and Samaria’s Jewish inhabitants must not any longer be held hostage to Palestinian intransigence.
Finally Davis makes the strange argument that the MKs of the Joint List Party (the alliance of the Arab-majority parties) ‘are still considered governmentally treif’. Even the far Left Meretz Party gave up on negotiations with the List, saying that it had chosen nationalism and separatism over Jewish–Arab solidarity. Maybe Davis can tell us how a Party which speaks of ‘half a century of illegal colonial-settler occupation’ could possibly be a member of the Unity government?
Sir Mick Davis clearly still feels that Israel’s government is making life hard for him (‘When they do good things it is good for me, when they do bad things, it’s bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel…’).
You might have thought that by now he would have moved from London to Israel in order to vote ……….
Postscript: In the article Davis says ‘Jewish Israelis need more and better education in Arabic and Arab culture.’ Lyn Julius and Hadar Sela point out that 50%+ of Israelis are Mizrachi (that is, they are from Arab countries or are children or grandchildren of immigrants from Arab countries) and they know Arabic culture very well.