No. 34: Is “Shrinking” the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict the Right Strategy?

The following is a transcript of Episode 34 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

Donniel Hartman:

My name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Today is Monday, October 11th, 2021 and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Our theme for today is “Shrinking the Conflict: a Step Forward or a Step Backward?” In each edition of For Heaven’s sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem, and myself discuss the current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain director of the Hartman faculty in North America explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue.

Donniel Hartman:

Let’s begin. A new idea currently being discussed and explored in Israeli and American circles regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entitled “shrinking the conflict” as outlined by our friend and colleague Micah Goodman, who is also playing a major role in the idea’s resurgence. Is that since we cannot solve the conflict and managing it is merely to sustain the problematic status quo for both Israelis and Palestinians, we need to begin to explore a third path. Instead of managing or sustaining, he suggested as he outlined in his article in the Atlantic that we begin to think about “shrinking the conflict” by dramatically increasing Palestinian sovereignty through building, as he suggests, a network of roadblock free roads controlled by the Palestinians, which will connect most Palestinian cities with each other, without the intervention of the Israeli army, by increasing construction of Palestinian homes and infrastructure which will dramatically increase and enhance both the economy and the sense of the vitality of their society and the opportunities there and pursuing Palestinian economic independence.

Donniel Hartman:

Given that the conflict today cannot be solved, given that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are not willing to engage in a process that they believe will demand an unacceptable compromise from them. And Israelis they believe it unacceptable to compromise security concerns. And Palestinians believe that a two-state solution or a peace process will compromise their nationalist aspirations. We have to stop merely managing the conflict, Micah says, and instead, shrink it by dramatically increasing the quality of life and most significantly as he argues the sovereignty of Palestinians. And at the same time decreasing the footprint of Israel’s role as an occupier. The ideas detractors believe that the end game of this direction will be to remove the aspiration of solving the conflict, removing it from the table. Efforts to shrink the conflict will only serve to delegitimize and whitewash the occupation and remove the moral stain from those who do not want the occupation to come to an end. Is shrinking the conflict a good idea? What does it mean and entail? Is it a step forward or backward? What are its moral benefits and what are its moral pitfalls? Is it a permanent solution or is it only a temporary one? Yossi, it’s wonderful to be with you.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Great to be with you.

Donniel Hartman:

This “shrinking conflict” language, first of all, what does it even mean? How do you understand the essence of what it means? And then we’ll get into what you think about it, positive, negative, or why, but let’s start with, what does shrinking conflict mean to you when you hear that line?

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Well, the essence for me is a practical way of dealing with an impasse, which is turning into a status quo, which is turning into a permanent non-solution. And it’s a way of unfreezing, a situation that has really become, I think, for most of the Israeli public, a tolerable status quo. And it is tolerable if it isn’t a prelude to eventual annexation. And so for me, what managing the conflict and shrinking the conflict means is, first of all, preventing this moment from turning into a permanent non-solution. And so it brings in a certain dynamism, which is opposite.

Donniel Hartman:

Beautiful. It creates some movement. And so it’s very interesting when you speak, you’re saying, I know that there’s dangerous, but we’re stuck somewhere and where we’re stuck, needs to be moved. And the terms that you use, it’s a practical methodology. And when Micah writes, that’s also a key part of it. And I want to argue that I think Micah is focusing also on the practical because he wants to unfreeze the status quo. And he knows that if you go to a moral language, we’re going to get stuck. I want to tell you what it means for me because I appreciate very much the practical, but for me shrinking the conflict, there’s a political status quo, and there’s a moral status. I feel what’s most cancerous today is not the political status quo, but the moral status. I accept that the political status quo is politically untenable, but there is a moral status quo that we’ve gotten into. You said yourself, most Israelis, they could tolerate it. Well, what are we tolerating? We are tolerating a core violation of the human rights of other people.

Donniel Hartman:

Now, I share the narrative that we’re trying and Palestinians – I’m not talking about who’s to blame. That’s a separate conversation. Who’s to blame? There is a current status quo that I experienced as a cancer. Yes, we’re dying, not physically, we’re dying moral. And the fact that most Israelis could tolerate it and aren’t losing sleep at night. There’s something, something bad has happened to me, Yossi. I sleep too well. And for me, shrinking the conflict is not about principally practical solutions, even though I respect the need for it. What I’m hungering for is a shrinking of the conflict where we shrink away from the moral price of the conflict, that when you are dramatically occupying if we will do some of the practical things that you and Micah are talking about, it’s not going to be perfect, but the moral consequence of occupied them, the moral blindness that we’ve embraced that for me, I can’t get off of that right now?

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Yeah. I like that formulation very much. I would say it in a more personal, maybe in a literary way which is that most of us have learned not to see. You know, as you know, I live in French Hill, a neighborhood at the edge of Jerusalem, and literally outside my window is the wall, the security barrier. And for many years, I trained my eye not to see what was outside my window. I looked over the wall and the view beyond the wall is quite beautiful. It’s the Judean desert. I have the Dead Sea. I could see it as clear day from my porch. And so I trained my eye to see the expanse beyond the constriction and what shrinking the conflict means is forcing us to learn, to see. And again, you know, I do want to expand on what you said a moment ago as not being relevant to this discussion, because I think it actually is relevant in terms of who’s responsible.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

I believe that even if the far left in Israel, even if the Meretz party was running the government, we still wouldn’t be able to reach an agreement with the Palestinian leadership because their side is not yet prepared to offer our side the minimum of what we need in order to continue to exist as a Jewish majority state, which is no Palestinian right of return to the State of Israel. So until the Palestinian national movement, isn’t forthcoming on what is for almost all Israeli Jews, a minimum necessity, there’s no chance for a two state solution, but what are we doing in the interim? Do we allow the status quo to be dominated by the settlement movement? Now the problem here, and this is a problem with Micah’s position is that the strength of the concept is also its weakness. And that it means many things to different people. Anyone can take this idea of of managing the conflict and turning it

Donniel Hartman:

Shrinking. Of shrinking, not managing.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Ok, shrinking the conflict and it into the policy direction that’s most comfortable for them. So for example, Bennett, Prime Minister Bennett is enthusiastically endorsing shrinking the conflict because he sees that as a mediation between reducing the occupation and presenting a two-state solution. Now I want the two state solution. I don’t believe it’s possible now. So for me, shrinking the conflict is a way of trying to keep us on track toward a two state solution. What for example do we do as we’re shrinking the conflict? Are we expanding settlements? That for me is the weakness in the plan.

Donniel Hartman:

Great. So let’s analyze some of this. I want to come in on this, and I think you’re pointing to two different theories about the shrinking, but I want to go to the first thing that you said you wanted to say, which I said was irrelevant and you said is very important. I wanted to go there for a moment because you’re right and I’m aggravated by it. And you’re very helpful to me. See, I find that every time we do a prelude, we offer they’re saying go, it’s nothing we don’t have. They haven’t made their move. And then we talk about shrinking – we’re just talking about practical problems because you’re prelude, not that you meant to do it, basically removes moral culpability from the conversation. And I know that when I speak about shrinking the conflict about changing the moral status quo over and again, I’m pedagogically a failure, less so in America and more so in Israel. They don’t want to hear.

Donniel Hartman:

So I have to figure out a way to talk about the moral impetus for shrinking the conflict and still have Israelis to hear. And I know that I have to do the move you made. And that’s like, I am more complete because I live with you. But my problem is is that unlike you, in which your opening statement was a prelude to a point, it becomes a replacement. You can’t do both. So when I look at the shrinking, the conflict it’s, can we shrink it as a path to ending the occupation without putting the moral conversation on the table. This is what I’m frightened of. And if we can’t, you know, then you’ll get Bennett. You pointed to yourself, do I feel the weight of the moral challenge, the weight of the moral problematics or not? Do I feel them? Now, if it’s just, you know, it’s shrinking the conflict is a way for me to lower the political pressure on Israel, but we’re okay.

Donniel Hartman:

I don’t have to worry about Israel because politically militarily, we could sustain it, and morally we’re fine. Then I’m okay. And then when you shrink it, you’re not creating the moral engagement that we need to engage. And I wonder what’s the best way to get an idea across. Now, it could be that shrinking the conflict and only talking in practical terms is the best way to get the broadest consensus. But I don’t know if that’s going to cause us to really engage with some of the serious issues that we have to talk about. And then as you said, shrinking the conflict, which you’re going to do, is going to be very different because the things that I want to shrink most significantly, it’s not that I want to give them more roads. I want to shrink the places where Israelis have to occupy another people, where defense policies degrade and other people, where in order to live where we live we are undermining our sensibilities to human rights.

Donniel Hartman:

Now there is a moral challenge here. And I think the example that you gave of when we shrink it do we expand settlement is a telling case, but isn’t the fact that Bennett could use the category, doesn’t that almost make the point of the critics of the shrinking of the conflict idea. And in many ways, the way they were just like, it’s not a moral move and you just want to get away with this for another 10, 15 years and until I forget and even Micah himself points to the fact that Micah says, I want to shrink the conflict so I could expand Palestinian sovereignty. So that you could have 90% sovereignty. Bennett speaks about shrinking the conflict, enhancing their economic well-being. And he points to the discrepancy between him and Bennett on that. But isn’t that proof that this category maybe by itself is morally problematic?

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Okay. I’m with you in principle and not in practice. In practice, we have a situation where the strong majority of Israeli Jews have learned to live with the conflict, including the moral dimensions because most of us believe that we really did try to make peace. And if we put another offer on the table, we would get most likely the same results. Now, where I differ from that consensus is that I believe that that doesn’t absolve us from the need to, as we’ve said in our discussions on this program in the past, bakesh shalom v’radfehu, you have to seek peace when it’s possible and you have to pursue peace when it’s not possible. I believe it’s not possible now. That’s the time when you have to pursue peace. So in that sense, I’m very much part of our Hartman Institute consensus, but that places us outside the emotional consensus of a majority of Israelis.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

So what do we do in that situation? Pragmatically, how do we start moving the Israeli public? And here I would appeal to you as a teacher. What do you do when your students don’t even share the same premise? Don’t even necessarily share the same language anymore? And so my starting point is, yes, I’m with you. I’m part of that consensus. I don’t blame us for this freeze. I don’t blame us for the status quo. I do blame us for moves that will undermine the status quo and undermine the possibility for a two state solution. So how do you speak to the Israeli public? If you make moral appeals, who’s going to listen to you? That language works for American Jews. It doesn’t work for Israelis, and this is part of the problem.

Donniel Hartman:

Could I stop you? You’re right. But I want to, I, you know, I’m about to do something in the Institute. I’m going to be making my life really difficult. And the life of the Institute really difficult because I feel that we can’t afford to not raise the moral issues. I want to see how can I raise the moral issue while recognizing that peace now is impossible? Can I accept that I’m not to blame and still raise the moral issue? The question psychologically is can I create a deep discomfort with the reality? For me, that’s the shrinking that we have to do? What we have to do is we have to shrink the moral comfort with the occupation. Not change – and here I buy your first part. And I don’t know if I’m going to be able to, but Yossi, you know what I feel when you said this line, is a very sad line.

Donniel Hartman:

You said you could talk morality to North Americans, you can’t talk to Israelis. If we digest that for a moment, Yossi, Houston, forget Houston, Jerusalem, forget Jerusalem, Judaism? We’re in trouble, Zionism? We’re in trouble. If the people who live in Israel, I can’t have a moral conversation with them. We have to push this, Yossi. And the only way we’re going to do it, I believe is we’re going to have to take real risks. I’m going to start taking those risks. And I’m going to try to find ways because – nope, the minute I start talking morality, everybody thinks I’m talking about a political solution. I don’t want to I’m with you that the political status quo is not my fault. I do believe the fact that we offered and they said, no, as I said before, it’s not enough. I think we have to keep on offering fair enough.

Donniel Hartman:

But I want to leave the political status quo aside and engage with the moral status quo. And here, do you know who the enemy is, Yossi? It’s both sides. One side says, you know, the minute you – I don’t want to hear that anymore. We ever entered into a space. We can’t even hear it anymore. Do you want to critique me? But I’ve also begun to hear it from the political left. That if you want to raise the moral question without changing the political status quo, you’re full of bleep. You’re not sincere. Now, like on both sides, I’m stuck. So I’m going to try now, I’m going to be working as hard as I can right now to be more and more lonely, but I believe we have to elevate our fight, Yossi. There’s something we have to crack here.

Donniel Hartman:

And I think part of the language, this is the question I want to put in front of you in front of our audience, shrinking the conflict. You know, there’s this Jewish principle of mitoch she lo lishma, ba lishma, that I don’t care what your reasons were, what your motivations, I’m a behaviorist. If you start doing the right thing, even for the wrong reasons at the end, you’ll do the right thing for the right reasons. And the challenge here is if we just do shrinking of the political status quo, will it lead to greater awareness of human rights, et cetera? I’m not sure if it will do it by itself. The way Micah speaks I’m with me, he himself said, I want Palestinians to have more sovereignty. That’s where he’s started. And he’s starting there because he cares about human rights. He cares about what Palestinians have, but I’m afraid that this process without the moral conversation, it won’t be that motivation here is really important. And I’m wondering, how do we change some of the motivations here? Yossi, where does this find you?

Yossi Klein Halevi:

So look, you know, I’m in a very ambivalent situation right now because I’ve just released the Hebrew version of my book Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor. Now the English and Arabic versions came out three years ago. The Hebrew version is coming out only. Now, now it’s true. I worked very hard with the translator. It was a slow process. You know a book comes out in translation in Finnish, there’s nothing I can do about it. When it comes out in Hebrew I breathe down the neck of the translator. So that’s one reason, but truthfully, it’s not the only reason it took so long. I was ambivalent. I was in no rush to come out as a starry-eyed utopian peacenik. It’s not the role that I want to play in Israeli society.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

And I was, frankly, I was in no rush to come out with this book. The book has now come out with a long epilogue of Palestinian responses, which I think in some ways is the most interesting section of the book for Israeli readers. You know, the book tells the story of Zionism to Palestinians. I think most Israeli Jews know that story. So what I really tried to do in this book is begin a conversation about how we start seeing the other side, how we start hearing the other side, but it’s trying to get to the same place that you’re talking about, but it’s a different move. I’m not lecturing to the Israeli public about morality. I’m not doing that in this book. I’m putting out our story and then I’m giving them the Palestinian story. And because I’m putting the Palestinian story in the context of an Israeli defending Zionism, I think that some Israelis at least will be able to read it in that way. In other words, we need to be the starting point, and here, I’m speaking to you as a fellow educator, the starting point has to be understanding your students, where are they coming from? What are their concerns? What are their needs? And that’s not pandering to them, but it is acknowledging where they are and then trying to move them.

Donniel Hartman:

See, that’s the point. I know you can’t lecture anybody about morality. You can’t. But you can teach morality. And I think Israeli society, Israeli educational institutions have to change some of their curriculum because I think for a long time now we have stopped talking about the moral challenges and the moral consequences and the moral responsibilities that come with the occupation. You can’t lecture. But if you’re going to be silent, I understand the methodology that you’re picking. I believe that the time for subtlety is over, but I have to find a way for subtlety not to be counterproductive that I share with you. I’m not interested in being a prophet. The prophets were the biggest educational failure in Jewish history. I don’t want to stand on the mountain and start talking about our moral – that doesn’t work, I’m there. But there’s a difference. The rabbis taught ethics. They did, they taught it. We have a huge challenge and I’m about to explore significantly changing a lot of the Hartman Institute curriculum in many programs that we’re running to put ethical discourse more at the center, but you’re challenging me on how do you do that? And I don’t know the answer. I just know that I have to do it, but could I ask you one question to conclude?

Yossi Klein Halevi:

I think just one – thing to me, I think that we need multiple strategies.

Donniel Hartman:

Fair enough.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

There’s not going to be any one answer.

Donniel Hartman:

I accept that too, but can – I want to ask one question before we end our section, because this is the hardest question because I think the perfectionist who say, you know, it’s you whitewashed – I think we could handle that. How do we stop a language of shrinking the conflict from becoming, managing the conflict. You yourself mixed the language, but that was just Freudian. It wasn’t even Freudian it just doesn’t matter what the categories are, but here, how do we stop? Do you have a practical thing, a practical suggestion, just like the lines of what you said don’t expand settlements, for example, would be a practical suggestion. Do you have a practical suggestion of how shrinking language doesn’t become just one more managing because if it does the moral critics are absolutely correct.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

Well, again, I think that the great danger of shrinking the conflict is that you shrink aspects of the occupation even as you expand settlements, which is the ultimate expression of the occupation. And so any credible expression of shrinking the conflict, and here I would challenge those who are promoting this plan, which I agree with, but the big missing piece for me is what about settlement expansion? If you’re not going to insist on at least managing settlement expansion, no one is speaking at this place about shrinking the settlement, but not expanding the footprint of the settlements. Then I think the plan now lacks credibility. And so that’s my challenge to Bennet. It’s also my challenge to Micah, you know, what do we say about expanding the settlements?

Donniel Hartman:

Yeah, he doesn’t speak about that. You’re right. One other thing I would want to leave this as a question that I feel we have to put on the table, precisely because both you and I agree that the occupation can’t come to an end right now, no matter what we would do. I am wondering whether, and here I actually want to give Micah credit, is 90% sovereignty or 80% sovereignty, which is more or less what Micah is pushing for, is that morally sustainable? And I think part of what we have to ask yourself is if it is, is that a dayenu? I think it’s a legitimate point that I know it’s not perfect. So if Palestinians, basically they don’t have an independent state, but they control their own lives. They have their own institutions. At least they have their own economy. They have their ability to live without the military occupation, by and large, without coming to final status agreement.

Donniel Hartman:

I think one of the critical questions that we have to start talking about is we had an all or nothing moral discourse, and it could very well be that a certain point of such an expansive shrinking along the lines of what Micah is pushing and maybe looking even further because you’re right, he doesn’t speak about settlements. And I think you’re right, he would have to. But is there a point where we could say, you know, it’s not a perfect universe, but it’s 80%. and 80%, the moral consequences of that 80% we’ve already changed the moral status quo. So is it possible that some change of the political status quo will change the moral status quo? Let’s just leave that question up in the air and let’s take a short break. And then when we come back, Elana will join us.

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Donniel Hartman:

Elana, it’s great to be with you. And thank you for joining. How does this shrinking the conflict sometimes, by the way, I think initially was more prevalent in the press in North America. Now it’s very dominant also in Israel because Bennett is embracing or at least some, as Yossi, said some version of it, not Micah’s version. But when you hear this language, how can we think about it? And what do you think we could do?

Elana Stein Hain:

Well, the first thing I want to say is that I think it’s a misnomer. You can’t shrink a conflict unilaterally. You need two sides to shrink a conflict. And I think this speaks to the issue of Bennett versus Micah’s formulation, which is shrinking the occupation is what Micah seems to be talking about. And I believe in his Atlantic article and his eight points of how you shrink it he does talk about settlement expansion. But I think it’s interesting that the term that’s being used is shrinking the conflict. I actually think what you’re talking about is shrinking occupation, trying to the degree that’s possible to your point Donniel of having rulers and ruled change that dynamic. Right? So that’s the first thing that I want to say. And the second thing that I want to say before we get to the Torah Torah is that it’s just this conversation about facts on the ground versus talking about it, I guess it does kind of lead me to my first Torah that I wasn’t even planning to say before this conversation, but there’s a great aphorism among the rabbis, “who is wise, one who foresees the consequences of their actions.”

Elana Stein Hain:

And I’m listening to this conversation and that’s from Tractate Tamid 32a. I did not know that off the top of my head. I wish I did, but I didn’t. But I’m thinking to myself who is unwise, someone who guarantees the consequences of their actions, right? Meaning you want to see what your actions might, you know, what might be the pitfalls, what might be the positives, but I love this conversation of well, nothing’s for sure. But that leads me to the first way that I think about this, which is what is the impact for Palestinians and Israelis. If you get these new facts on the ground and you shrink the occupation to a degree, what’s the impact of that.

Elana Stein Hain:

And Proverbs 17:1 never disappoints, “better a dry piece of bread with peace than a house full of feasting with strife.” And I really like this verse. I really liked this pasuk. Not just because it’s telling you that you need to eat, you need something to eat. And you’re an idiot if you wait for a feast, if you’re hungry, you need to eat something. But it’s more than that. The focus of shrinking the occupation is trying to bring some measure of shalva, of peace. So Palestinians can go where they need to go to visit their families without having to encounter checkpoints. So that 18, 19, 20-year-old Israeli kids don’t have to encounter the moral decision-making and the questions of what am I doing here at this checkpoint, protecting our security? But also someone’s dignity is at stake here. But there’s something to what’s your end goal, right?

Elana Stein Hain:

And I think this plan or this suggestion is basically saying, as long as you recognize that this is still a dry crust, this is not the end goal, then you’re letting people eat and in peace. And let people eat in peace. And to a certain degree, it’s predicated upon the suggestion that having a house full of feasting would lead to strife, right? You both said that you think that there is no possibility for peace right now, we don’t take the blame as Israel and as Jews, we don’t take all of the blame for what’s going on here. There’s blame to be had on the Palestinian side. And I think a lot of detractors are not just moral purists, but they also see the whole conflict differently. Who’s to blame and why. So I want to name that also that our analysis of things also leads us to be able to say, look better, to have a dry crust with peace, let people have their lives, and better than fighting over something that nobody’s going to get to eat.

Elana Stein Hain:

Right? So that’s the first thing. The second thing that I want to say is that I think what you have here it’s not just a question of, are we going to hold out for the whole thing, whatever holding out looks like on both sides, or are we going to take what we can get now and give people some measure of respite, but it’s just the whole idea of this big paradigm shift. I think it’s very uncomfortable for people, right and left. The idea that something that you thought was foundational to who you were going to be to what Israel is, right? And on the Palestinian side, they have their own ideas of what their ultimate goal is. But what does it look like to say, well, actually, if we stick with that, we’re going to destroy ourselves? Like if we stick with that, we’re going to destroy ourselves.

Elana Stein Hain:

And I think that’s really, really hard. And for that, I want to bring in a passage from Exodus Rabba from Shemot Rabba 43:4. It’s a passage that’s in the aftermath of the golden calf. And Moses is trying to get God to forgive the people for having committed the golden calf. And that’s a big no-no. I mean, it’s pretty foundational to what this covenant was, is that you’re not supposed to worship other gods. So let’s see how Moses plays it. It goes like this. “When Israel committed the golden calf, Moses tried to appease God to forgive them. God said, but Moses, I already swore whoever sacrifices to a God, other than me, that person shall be put to death. And I won’t renege on an oath that comes from my mouth.” Right. Just, just hearing that before we even get to what Moses says to God, just hearing that, how many of us have this sense of, but this was the underpinning of everything I thought was supposed to be.

Elana Stein Hain:

And therefore I can’t renege, even if it means destroying this whole thing. Right? And by the way, I see a lot that in American Jewish discourse of all right, so then let’s tear it up. Let’s either tear up the Jewish side of let’s tear up the democratic side. Sorry. If we can’t do it the way we thought we were going to be able to do it, we’re going to just undo it. And obviously, as an incrementalist and as somebody who prides themselves on being a student of the rabbis, I just can’t go in that direction. And so the conversation continues like this and the Midrash: “Moses said, Master the Universe, didn’t you teach me that we can nullify vows? A person can’t nullify their own vow and just say, oh, you know what? My promise, forget about that. But they can go to a Sage and ask for the vow to be nullified.

Elana Stein Hain:

And so Moses wrapped himself in a talit, sat like an elder. And God stood before Moses, like someone who asks to nullify their vow.” And I want to say for a minute, vow nullification, right, as dry as it sounds is a radical idea. It’s the idea that Yossi said he was going to do something. And then he realizes that if he goes through with it, everything’s going to be ruined. And so he goes in front of a Sage and he says, had I known, this is what this would end up as I never would have done it in the first place. Can you get me out of that original vow? Right. God could have said, can you get me out of the vow of being involved with the Jewish people? That’s not what God says. God says, I clearly – the guidelines just aren’t working.

Elana Stein Hain:

They’re not going to work in this instance. And so sometimes a little bit of a paradigm shift, whether you’re on the right, and this is too much of a paradigm shift for you to say, shrinking the occupation. What does that – even, even the o-word, if you’re on the right, that might be an uncomfortable word for you. Or if you’re on the left to see, but I thought that this was going to be something else. Well, look at what your alternative is. To me, it’s the question of what is your alternative? And if we’re right, that the alternative is that we can’t actually get anywhere if we don’t do something dramatic, then do something dramatic.

Donniel Hartman:

Thank you. Let me ask you a question on that. I love those texts. Let’s go to the idea where you say to someone, I need you to change your paradigm, but does that mean that God has to accept now idolatry?

Elana Stein Hain:

So I think that’s exactly the point. The point is that God won’t accept idolatry. That’s the cognitive dissonance that you are now asking people to live with in saying shrink the occupation. Want to end it right? The same way I would say does that mean that I accept terror attacks? Because I have a peace process that means I think terror is okay? No, that’s really what I think. Educationally Donniel and Yossi, that’s what you’re talking about. If you want to have a moral conversation, the moral conversation is how do you allow people to live, force them, to live with cognitive dissonance, saying I’m not going to pretend everything is lost. And I’m not going to pretend that everything is found, but I’m willing to live in the imperfect realities of today because that’s what adaptive change requires.

Donniel Hartman:

Elana, you use this phenomenal term and you notice something that the language is shrinking the conflict and the language is not shrinking the occupation. That’s not an accident. Since occupation is already considered a loaded term. Everybody could agree there’s a conflict. And I think part of what Micah was pushing for, and I think part of what we’re putting on the conversation is are there unilateral moves? You need two sides to shrink the occupation. You don’t need two sides to shrink the conflict. Can we in a time that we don’t have two sides doing anything together, are there unilateral moves that can make a significant difference? The question we’re raising and you’re raising and I, all of us is shrinking the conflict enough, or do we have to shrink the occupation?

Elana Stein Hain:

It’s so funny. I see it as the opposite.

Donniel Hartman:

It’s fine. It’s just linguistics.

Elana Stein Hain:

I think shrinking the occupation can be done unilaterally. Ending the occupation can’t be because you need a partner, but shrinking, it can be. But conflict to me, it’s like, okay, so I stopped pushing you, but you keep pushing me have we just shrunk the conflict?

Donniel Hartman:

No, but I’ve resolved that because on the military side is I can handle you’re pushing. You’re pushing, I could deal with. Anyway, it doesn’t, but you know what? Fair enough. That doesn’t matter. I’m with you. It doesn’t matter. The thing is, is for me when I look at shrinking conflict or shrinking occupation is to what extent there’s even a moral discourse. Maybe I’m putting it all through my lenses, but Elana, thank you. Yossi, last thoughts? Framing? Where are you right now? And take us home.

Yossi Klein Halevi:

I’m just thinking about how grateful I am to Micah for giving us the first practical way out of this impasse. So that’s my first takeaway. And the second is that the great challenge to Micah’s paradigm is whether shrinking the conflict can be a way of moving us forward and not as a way of shrinking the possibility for a two-state solution.

Donniel Hartman:

And maybe coming back to: could shrinking the conflict also shrink the occupation? Beautiful. And again, let me join you in thanking Micah for enriching our paradigms, the frames, or as Elana says, what are the fixed commitments that we’ve defined as these other groundworks and are the ways for us to relinquish some of those definitive narratives that are getting us nowhere.

Donniel Hartman:

For Heaven Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute, it was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by Louis Gordon. Transcripts of our show are now available on our website typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online shalomhartman.org. We want to know what you think about the show you can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected] Subscribe to our show in the Apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, audible, and everywhere else podcasts are available. See you in two weeks and thank you all for listening. And Yossi and Elana, thank you for being thought partners about these very, very challenging issues.