Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books:
‘The problem with Israel,’ Tony Judt wrote in the New York Review of Books in 2003,
is not – as is sometimes suggested – that it is a European ‘enclave’ in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-19th-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a ‘Jewish state’ – a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are for ever excluded – is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.
Today, it is Judt’s liberal internationalist certainty that seems like an anachronism, while Israel – a ‘hybrid society of ancient phobias and high-tech hope, a combination of tribalism and globalism’, in the words of the journalist Anshel Pfeffer – looks increasingly like the embryo of a new world governed by atavistic fears, whose most malign symptom is the presidency of Donald Trump.
Pfeffer, a correspondent for Haaretz, has written a biography of Benjamin Netanyahu as a way of explaining today’s Israel – by no means an enviable task. Say what you will about Netanyahu’s predecessors, they had their fascination, from the monastic self-discipline of David Ben-Gurion to the gluttony of Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu comes across as a hollow figure: a ‘marketing man’, in the words of Max Hastings, who met him while writing a biography of his brother Jonathan. Yet Netanyahu can hardly be avoided, or his survival skills denied.