It may be the hottest read in the country right now, but it is not a cheery one. Its prognosis is that there is no possibility of any comprehensive final peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“The reality now is that wars are not decisive,” Mr. Goodman said in an interview. “Peace is not, either. There are no more 1967 victories. There is no ultimate peace.”
The book’s argument centers on a paradox that Mr. Goodman says poses an existential threat to Israel.
For years, polls have shown that a majority of Israelis would opt to leave the West Bank and end military control over the lives of millions of Palestinians in order to ensure Israel’s future as an internationally accepted state with a clear enough Jewish majority to prevent its becoming a binational country.
Yet the same majority of Israelis believe they cannot withdraw from the highlands of the West Bank, the heartland of any future Palestinian state. They distrust Palestinian intentions and fear for the security of a slimmed-down Israel in what many describe as indefensible borders. So, Mr. Goodman argues, both remaining in the West Bank and leaving it could spell the end of the Zionist project.
The Israeli right and left have long been defined, and increasingly polarized, by their hawkish and dovish stances on the Palestinian issue. But the author says he is giving voice to a growing body of confused Israeli centrists, each involved in a deeply personal struggle, and most appearing to have given up both on the dream of peace and on the dream of a Greater Israel.
“The Israelis in the center are not between the right and left,” Mr. Goodman said. “They are both right and left. That’s why we are so perplexed.”
Born in Jerusalem in 1974 to parents who had emigrated a year before from the United States, Mr. Goodman was embarrassed as a teenager by his family’s diversity, but has come to embrace it.
His mother, who converted to Judaism, came from a pious Roman Catholic family. One uncle was a priest, another a personal adviser to Pope John Paul II. Still, Mr. Goodman grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household — but being a kind of an accidental Jew, as he put it, he began his own odyssey in search of meaning.
Now he is a researcher at the Hartman Institute, a center for Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, and the director of Ein Prat, a pluralistic beit midrash, or center of Jewish study for young adults from all backgrounds, in the desert near Jericho in the West Bank.
Mr. Goodman lives nearby with his wife and twin 8-year-old daughters in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim, but he said: “I would rather not be called a settler. It’s where I live, not who I am.”
He regularly speaks to audiences in the settlements, but he is just as comfortable being part of the entertainment at bars in Tel Aviv.
His three previous Israeli best sellers, including the Hebrew version of “Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism,” dealt with ancient canonical texts. In “Catch 67,” he gives the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a kind of Talmudic treatment, where everything and its opposite are true.
The treatise charts the main, competing ideological movements of Zionism — supporting the establishment and defense of a Jewish state — and how they have reached deadlock.
The Zionist Revisionist right once combined nationalism with liberal values, promising an Israel that would grant all its residents the vote and equal rights, regardless of nationality. But most now acknowledge that the demographics of occupation have made that aspiration untenable — Palestinians are close to outnumbering Jewish Israelis between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
After the military victory of 1967, which gave Jews full command of Jerusalem for the first time in two millenniums and was seen by many here as miraculous, the Israeli right became increasingly religious and Messianic.
But the vision of Messianic redemption suffered a blow with Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Mr. Goodman argues. Rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza became more intense, and the right’s arguments for remaining in the West Bank have focused increasingly on security.
The Israeli left, for its part, swapped its original socialist agenda for land-for-peace after the conquests of 1967. But the peace camp dwindled after the suicide bombings of the second Palestinian intifada, and because of what many Israelis perceive as the Palestinians’ inability to deliver a deal.
Examining the political, ethical, religious and security aspects of the conundrum, Mr. Goodman’s book gives equal weight to arguments on all sides. But while he allows that there is a dispute over the legal status of the West Bank land and whether it is truly occupied, he takes a clear stand when it comes to robbing the Palestinians of their freedom.
“The occupation does not lead to a lack of morality,” he wrote. “The occupation itself is immoral.”
Rejecting the paralysis of political deadlock, he suggests two models for a partial peace based on partial withdrawal or partial statehood, in order, he said, to “shrink the amount of occupation without dramatically shrinking the amount of security for Israelis.”
Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, wrote in a Facebook post that he did not agree with everything in Mr. Goodman’s book. But he added, “The truth be told, over the 50 years since the great victory in the war, we have sunk into a war of ideas in which we basically triumph over ourselves.”
Leftist critics say the book seems more concerned with finding internal peace for an Israel at war with itself than peace with the Palestinians.
Mr. Barak, who seems to be angling for a political comeback, wrote a scathing critique in the liberal Haaretz newspaper. Rejecting the symmetry Mr. Goodman creates in his book, Mr. Barak said the left’s concerns over demography and the future of Israeli democracy were based on definite fact, while the right-wing security argument that withdrawal would be catastrophic for Israel was bogus supposition.
Mr. Barak noted that a smaller Israel had embarked on one of its greatest victories in 1967. Nobody on the left was suggesting dismantling the Israeli military, he added, suggesting that Mr. Goodman was out of his depth and not qualified to speak for the generals.
Mr. Goodman fired back a week later, noting that some right-wing generals oppose withdrawal. Of Mr. Barak, who failed to end the conflict at talks in Camp David in 2000 and then presided over the eruption of the bloody second intifada, he wrote: “It is a fascinating twist for one of the story’s heroes to offer his critique of its narrator.”
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