With the revival of the peace process heralded by the visit of President Bush to Israel and the Palestinian territories last week, debates about the rights and wrongs of the issues at stake are revving up. As such, Israelis and American Jews are engaged in arguments about settlements, borders and the future of Jerusalem.
And those discussions will continue, whether an agreement with the Palestinians comes — as President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have promised — within a year or, as many cynics insist, some time after the Messiah arrives.
As riveting as those debates may be, Israelis and the pro-Israel community in this country need to remember that what's actually in question is not the terms of a theoretical peace treaty, but the legitimacy of Israel under any circumstances.
A reminder of that fact came this week from an unlikely source: Ms. magazine, the famous feminist quarterly co-founded by Jewish women. When the American Jewish Congress sought to place an ad in its pages promoting the fact that Israel is a country where the foreign minister, speaker of the Knesset and head of the Supreme Court are all women, Ms. rejected it as inappropriate. The publication has scrambled to justify its decision, which we hope they'll reverse. But the fact remains that in the eyes of the editors, any advocacy for Israel — even that which states clear-cut facts rather than argues for the justice of its cause — remains unacceptable.
This decision speaks volumes about the mindset of many intellectuals in this country. Like a good number of their counterparts in Western Europe, who have come to see the State of Israel as not merely wrong on specific issues but wrong in principle, such people show just how far gone the chattering classes are on Zionism.
What this means is that rather than engaging in loud debates about exactly what we think the right terms for a peace agreement would be, those of us who care about the Jewish state need to re-focus ourselves on support for the idea of Israel as a whole.
In this context, branding each other as being right or left — or hawks or doves — is meaningless. While we've squabbled over these labels and all that's associated with them, a new generation of thinkers is coming of age in this country who have completely lost sight of what's really at stake in this conflict.