In the movie A Few Good Men (1992), Jack Nicholson is the Marine colonel commanding the U.S. base at Guantanamo. He famously tells a court martial, “You can’t handle the truth.” Given Tuesday’s election in Israel, last November’s American Congressional election and the state of the world, a number of regrettable truths confront us.

Truth #1: The victory of Israel’s Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, is scary. Likud won 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats—hardly a mandate. The problem? Trailing in the polls, Bibi played to the worst fears and prejudices of the rabid right, warning that Israeli Arabs were voting (legally) in big numbers. He also said that he would never allow a Palestinian state—after long accepting a two-state solution given a partner on the other side. (Frustrating truth: Mahmoud Abbas was never that partner.) Yesterday, Bibi backtracked. He’s been misunderstood. He favors a Palestinian state under conditions that guarantee Israeli security. I do, too. But can anyone believe Bibi? His campaign rhetoric sent a statement to Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, as well as to the world community: “We can hate as much as they do.” Oh wait. Just kidding.

Truth #2: The American political system isn’t working on the national scale—and needs an overhaul. President Obama seems out of touch to too many Americans. (Age-old truth: you can’t please all of the people all of the time.) His vaunted communications skills are way overrated. Worse, Congress makes a mockery of our democracy. Republicans detoured around the president and welcomed Netanyahu to speak before Congress in great part because they, like Bibi, pander to the far right. Allied truth: Money talks. Says who? The Supreme Court. Corporations have as much right to speak out as people. Only lots more cash. (Do I hear the Koch brothers wheezing in approval or is that Sheldon Adelson?) Grating truth: Many Republicans oppose the president because a Black man (defined in the U.S.A. as anyone with a drop of Black blood) sits in the White House. Mr. Obama can change his policies. He can never change his genetics.

Truth #3: Democracy may not always be the answer. How has it done in Iraq? Shiites continue to suppress Sunnis in a continuation of a religious conflict going back 13 centuries. Turkey’s Islamist president Tayyip Recep Erdogan has turned democracy into a sham. Iran’s elected officials, including the president, fall under the thumb of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. And would you really praise democracy in Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood? Nasty truth: enlightened autocracy might work better in some cases. That’s the position of the noted journalist/scholar Robert Kaplan in his recent book, Asia’s Cauldron. Kaplan cites the incredible flowering of Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew and Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad (whom Kaplan nonetheless recognizes as an anti-Semite). And no, I’m not a fan of Vladimir Putin, elected by, but hardly accountable to, the Russian people. By the way, he’s wonderfully satirized (and wonderfully played by Lars Mikkelsen) in this season’s Netflix hit House of Cards.

Truth #4: The Giants will not win the World Series. It’s 2015, people—an odd numbered year. The Giants just don’t do that. Joyful truth: they’ll still help take our minds off Truths 1–3.

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To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.


  1. Carolyn Perlstein on March 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Oy veh! What a mess. But better the truth than a lie. Wait, in this case
    the truth was a lie.

  2. Maxine on March 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    David- I understand your perspective, but as a voting citizen of Israel, I felt I had no other choice but to vote for a right wing government. I didn’t see any realistic solutions offered by Herzog and the left wing. Every time Israel has given up land, disaster followed. I know people here that are devastated by Bibi’s win too, but I don’t believe what he said was a lie. He has had to make some difficult concessions to the Palestinian authority that were made in good faith. I don’t agree that he intended the message that we can hate as much as they do. I’d say that until we have some indication that they accept the existence of a Jewish state- there can be no 2 state solution

    • David on March 22, 2015 at 3:43 am

      Maxine, so glad to get a comment from Israel! [Full disclosure: Maxine is my cousin.] Not being an Israeli citizen, I would not presume to tell Israelis whom to vote for. But I can’t see how Bibi’s pre-election remarks did not constitute pandering to the far right. (I have no problems with the center-right, the operative word being center.) Bibi told them what they wanted to hear. His suggesting that the far right—or we—have misinterpreted him doesn’t hold water. Of course, he then backed off his statements about rejecting a two-state solution and the threat of Arab Israelis casting their legal votes. The problem: what about Bibi can we believe? That being said, Israel remains a vibrant democracy—the only true democracy in the region in which ballots and not bullets elect and maintain political leaders. To be clear, my support for Israel and its security remains total.

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