Erudite and outspoken, Steven Plaut is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press whose essays, many of which have appeared in this front-page space, always generate enthusiastic reader feedback.
A professor at the Graduate School of Business of Haifa University, Plaut brings a sharply analytical mind to any subject about which he writes, and one thing he doesn't believe in is pulling his punches. He was as combative as we expected him to be during our recent interview.
In addition to The Jewish Press, Plaut's articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Newsday, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Maariv, Fortune, Middle East Quarterly, National Review and Commentary, among others.
JEWISH PRESS: You seem to have emerged in the past few years as one of the most prolific writers around on Jewish subjects.
Plaut: Until Oslo, I kept a fairly low profile in the Israeli media, took no public stands on Right vs Left in Israel, and restricted myself to publishing articles about economic policy in Israel and abroad.
Oslo broke the camel's back. From that moment on, I have devoted myself to doing everything in my power — mainly through Op-Ed writing and Internet agitating — to help stop Oslo and rescue Israel from the mega-stupidity of its own leaders. I have also long been trying to protest and analyze Jewish self-obliteration through assimilationism in America. I regard Jewish political liberalism as the main avenue of Jewish assimilation in America.
What's your assessment of Prime Minister Sharon's performance?
They say that a people deserves the leaders it gets, but in the case of Israel such an assertion would border on being an anti-Semitic libel. Israel has produced a long stream of incompetent demagogues and cowardly lemming-like leaders, divorced from reality and pursuing national self-obliteration.
Sharon is marginally better than Netanyahu, Barak, Peres, and Rabin. But this is not the Sharon of 1973 or 1982. It is a tired, timid, and exhausted Sharon, unwilling to take the heat for pursuing a serious Israeli defense. Like his predecessors, he seems to think that Palestinian terrorism must be allowed to continue until the Palestinians feel they have reached catharsis and just get tired of murdering Jews.
It is true that Sharon has launched numerous half-hearted reprisal campaigns against the Palestinian savages, unlike the four prime ministers who immediately preceded him. But those reprisals consist of the Arik Sharon Hokey-Pokey: “You put your ground troops in, you take your ground troops out, and you move 'em all about.” Then you pull them out again until the next atrocity.
Where did Bibi Netanyahu go wrong?
By trying to be Shimon Peres II. Netanyahu was elected in 1996 for the sole purpose of ending Oslo. Upon his election, however, he turned about 180 degrees and pursued Oslo with all the same delusional vigor as Peres and Rabin before him. True, he scowled when hobnobbing with Arafat, in contrast to Peres's idiotic grins, but in fact he was simply pursuing Oslo — albeit Oslo Lite. He abandoned Hebron to the terrorists. He responded to Arafat's launching of the Tunnel Pogroms by turning the other cheek. He continued the face-to-face meetings with Arafat even as Arafat was mass murdering Jews. He signed the Wye appeasements, making him the Wye's Man of Chelm.
Netanyahu lost to Barak in 1999 for the same reason that New Coke failed — why have a pale imitation of an Oslo appeaser when you can elect the real thing?
Netanyahu tried to make a comeback and challenge Sharon this fall in the Likud primaries by posturing to the right of Sharon. But his wager that Israeli voters had forgotten his track record from 1996-99 proved incorrect.
You've written quite negatively of Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin.
I believe they should be indicted and prosecuted for a thousand counts of second-degree murder. Depraved indifference to human life and reckless endangerment are bases for charges of second-degree murder. First-degree murder — the actual pulling of triggers or detonating of bombs — is of course a worse crime, but second-degree murder is still murder.
What about Yitzhak Rabin?
It has become difficult to speak with any objectivity about Rabin because of the tragic ending of his life. But in reality, Rabin was a total disaster as prime minister and bears a lot of the blame for turning Israel into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. His policies were foolish and deadly. I like to think that had Rabin lived, he soon would have realized the foolishness of Oslo, reversed it, and tossed Peres and Beilin into a dungeon. But of course we will never know what he would have done.
How does one even try to explain the Oslo Debacle inflicted on Israel by its own leaders?
A facetious answer would be that Rabin and Peres had an ingenious master plan. You see, they figured out that much of anti-Semitism is based on the common stereotype of Jews being smarter than other people, and they figured that they could end anti-Semitism once and for all by proving how false this stereotype is.