Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Review: Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War

Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day WarCatch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War by Micah Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodman’s Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War is an excellent and important book. It lays out in concise and clear language the range of philosophical and political ideas that help to structure and frame the Israeli understanding of itself and the conflict with the Palestinians.

Goodman focuses on the core problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the way it is currently understood makes it impossible to make progress. Essentially, what Israel needs in a peace deal with the Palestinians is precisely what makes it impossible for the Palestinians to accept. Conversely, what the Palestinians need for a deal is precisely what the Israelis could never agree to. This is part of what Goodman means by “Catch 67;” a play on Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Another “catch” is that Israel faces an internal dilemma between its security needs in the disputed territories and a population problem. To keep the territories for security purposes, means having to rule over a substantial non-Jewish, non-Israel population. This threatens both the Jewish and democratic nation of the state. If the Palestinians in the territories were granted Israeli citizenship, it wouldn’t be long before the state would lose its distinctive Jewishness. But the alternative within this security paradigm, ruling over another people, would violate the democratic nature of the state. But, on the other hand, to relinquish these areas means a significant security threat to Israel. Hence, the Catch-67 nature of the conflict.

These catches make progress, both internally amongst Israelis and externally between Israelis and Palestinians, impossible. The solution to each problem is itself a problem whose solution is the original problem.

Goodman’s approach, then, is to stop trying for a solution and instead to look to reduce the conflicts. Thomas Sowell said about economics there are no solutions, only trade-offs. Goodman’s approach is analogous. There isn’t a solution to the conflict in the offing. But there are things to do to reduce the conflict. And in the last part of the book Goodman’s discusses various proposals that could help to do just that. I am skeptical about the effectiveness or feasibility of these, but I think he’s correct about the overall approach of focusing on more practical things to do that could shrink the conflict. I think real progress could be made on that front. In the wake of October 7, this is hard, even impossible, to imagine. But Goodman’s suggestions could be useful frameworks for thinking about the so-called ‘day after.’

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