And yet America has slowly been becoming Israel, constantly on alert for terrorists, negotiating with terrorists, seeking ways to kill terrorists while minimizing collateral damage and trying to find a way out of the same trap that Israel has been caught in. The trap of how to be an ideal while fighting an enemy willing to do anything except make peace.
The books on America’s War on Terror increasingly echo the ones on Israel’s War on Terror. There are the denunciations of foreign policy, the exposure of abuses and proposals for negotiations. From the other side there are the embedded journalists accompanying the troops and defenses of America’s moral standing. There is no book on How to Make Peace with the Taliban in Six Months or Less; but that’s still coming.
America, like Israel, is magic. It operates as not just a country, but a set of ideals. And ideals make it hard to get your hands in dirty in places like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Countries aren’t meant to be magic; they’re meant to be places. Places full of houses, farms, factories and all the usual stuff. Fly a flag over the place, write an anthem and make sure that it means, “This is our place and we like it a lot, so please don’t put your feet up on the furniture or try to blow it up… or we’ll have to kill you.”
The national anthem of the United States, like most national anthems, is a long-winded way of expressing that set of thoughts. The Israeli national anthem is still expressing a longing to return to a homeland which it already has. A homeland that quite a few of its residents leave to vacation in Cyprus or run moving companies in New York. A homeland whose biggest problem isn’t getting there, but convincing its leaders not to give it away in the name of its ideals.
A sensible anthem for Israel wouldn’t remove ‘Zion’ or ‘Jewish Soul’, as the left would like it to, but it would have something in there about “Bombs bursting in air” from the Star-Spangled Banner, a little “O Lord, our God, arise, Scatter her enemies, And make them fall. Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks,” from God Save the Queen, and “To Arms Citizens” from La Marseillaise along with the usual listings of natural features, such as the “coral isle” and “blue lagoon” of Belize, the “salty eastern beaches” of Denmark, the “golden sands” of Fiji and the “luscious fruit” of Sri Lanka; and finally some mention about refusing to be ruled by tyrants ever again.
Such a set of ideals, which amount to, “We have some nice hills and beaches that we like very much, we’ve kicked out anyone who tried to take them from us before, and with God’s help, we’ll do it again if we have to”, are far more sensible and livable. The difference between them and Hatikvah is the difference between sitting on a couch from IKEA and living out of boxes. Dreamers live out of boxes. They also attracts thugs who think they can kick them out because of it.
The Two-State Solution talked up by politicians almost as often as the virtues of diversity, high taxes and filling out government forms, is a solution to the problem of Israel. And the problem of Israel is that it exists and a great many people would rather that it didn’t. There are two possible solutions to the problem. One is to go on existing and wait for them to change their minds while humming a tune about the last time someone tried to invade your golden hills with its luscious fruit and blue beaches. Or you can try to convince them to change their minds.
We have expended a great deal of land, lives, and dead trees on convincing them to change their minds. And it hasn’t worked. The one baseline treaty that Israel signed will be rolled back by Egypt’s new cheerfully Islamist government. And still next year there will be four more books arguing that Israel is committed to peace and would love to have peace next week if it were at all possible and four other books insisting that the Jewish Devil State has never wanted peace and only exploits the supposed unwillingness of its enemies to have peace with its vast army of lobbyists, who have thus far somehow failed to sway presidents to stop condemning it for building apartment buildings in its own capital or even convinced Mitt Romney to make the usual false pre-election pledge to move the embassy over to Jerusalem.