Israeli nationalism

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Audio Transcript:

KATY CLARK: Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute of Strategic Studies in Israel. He's also the Israel correspondent for The New Republic magazine. Halevi says Israel's shift to the right is especially evident among younger voters, but it's not a move toward growing nationalism.

YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: The new Israeli right that's emerged in this election is much more of a mood than an ideology.

CLARK: What is the difference between the two?

HALEVI: Well, an ideology for example, would be something like the Israeli right of the 1970's and �80s, which envisioned expanding the borders to the Jordan River, the settlement movement with an outgrowth and expression of that ideology. The Israeli right-wing voter of today tends to be responding to security fears rather than to the old greater Israel ideology. And most of Israeli right-wing voters today are not ideologically committed to settlements and to the vision of the settlement movement.

CLARK: What do they want?

HALEVI: They want safety. They want missiles to stop flowing on Israeli towns. You know, when 70 percent of the Israeli public supported the withdrawal from Gaza, and there was a sense of rage � outrage � when the missiles followed the Israelis across the border. So they want a sense of basic security.

CLARK: So if we're talking here more about a mood as opposed to an ideology, I'm wondering if that suggests it's a harder-line stance that's less entrenched?

HALEVI: Oh absolutely. That's, I think, the potential good news here. It's much easier to change a mood than it is to change an ideology, let alone a theology. If Israelis ever felt that there was a credible partner on the Palestinian side willing and able to make a deal, the hawkish majority of today would � and I'm convinced of this � be transformed overnight into a dovish majority. And we've seen that happen in Israel before. We saw that happen when the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem in 1977, and he stood in the Israeli Parliament and he welcomed Israel into the Middle East. He understood that the key to transforming the Israeli public is psychological. The Israeli public needs to feel that in exchange for territory it will get genuine peace. Sadat offered genuine peace, and literally overnight, the Israeli public went from being hawkish on withdrawal from the Sinai desert. And I think the Israeli public, if anything, is even more fluid today. And the bad news here is that I see no Arab leader at this point, certainly capable of reaching out and addressing Israeli fears under siege. When Israelis view the conflict, we tend to have a split screen in our brain. And on the one side of that screen, we're the Israeli Goliath against the Palestinian David. On the other side of that screen, we're the Israeli David against the Arab world and the Muslim world's Goliath. And in order to break through this right-wing mood, this hardening in Israeli society, will require the wisdom, on the part of Arab leaders, to reach out and reassure Israelis that after we withdraw from territory, we will not get an intensification of the siege, but really have a chance of peace and recognition.

CLARK: So as you're describing it, the onus is on Arab leaders to take the initiative here or to take this step. What kind of responsibility is there on Israel?

HALEVI: Israel's responsibility needs to be, first of all, to control settlement building. And that's something that the Israeli government needs to be called on. In terms of the Palestinians, I feel that I need some sign on the Palestinian side that there is a willingness to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in any borders. And when I look at the Palestinian media today � and that's true for Fatah as well as Hamas � what I see is a relentless campaign of de-legitimizing Israel in the most basic way.

CLARK: Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute of Strategic Studies in Israel. Thank you for speaking with us.

HALEVI: Oh, it's a pleasure. Thank you.

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