Tel Aviv (CNN)The new Israeli government that toppled long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this summer is full of contradictions. There's pro-peace leftists, pro-settlement right-wingers, pragmatic centrists and even for the first time an Arab Islamist party, all sitting together in one governing coalition. On the most divisive issue -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- there is almost no consensus, which is just how Micah Goodman likes it.
Israel's new plan is to 'shrink,' not solve, the Palestinian conflict. Here's what that looks like
Goodman, a political philosopher, has rocketed to public prominence in Israel and beyond for his contrarian thesis on how not to solve the long-running conflict.
Many have taken to calling him the court philosopher of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, an ultra-nationalist former settlement leader, who has publicly embraced Goodman's paradigm of "shrinking the conflict." But other centrist and leftist ministers have also come calling. Even the Biden administration has seemingly taken on what Goodman calls his pragmatic and less ideological approach. While the White House remains committed to a two-state solution, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in May that the immediate priority was to "rebuild some trust" between Israelis and Palestinians.
Goodman himself is bemused by all the newfound interest from politicians, diplomats and generals. Earlier in his career he wrote books analyzing ancient Jewish texts, which he says was exactly the right training for tackling an issue as contentious as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The foundational idea of the Talmud is to always listen to two sides of the argument," Goodman tells CNN. "The Talmud admires people who ask 'why are we wrong?' Thinking only one side, or only your side, is correct is anti-intellectual."
Goodman deployed this approach in his 2017 book, "Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War," which wrestled with the internal Israeli debate about the conflict with the Palestinians and the fate of the territory Israel captured during the 1967 war.
"I showed both sides' argument, just like in the Talmud: If Israel stays in the territories [like the right wants] it threatens its future as a Jewish and democratic state. If it leaves the territories [like the left wants] it threatens its future due to security concerns."
The book, Goodman says, "caught fire," becoming a surprise bestseller in Israel that was quickly translated into English.
In Goodman's telling, the older approaches by the Israeli left and right only put forward ideologically pure ideas about how to end the conflict with the Palestinians. This is a "false dichotomy," he adds, that led to paralysis and the perpetuation of the status quo in the occupied West Bank. According to Goodman -- who himself lives in a West Bank settlement, although he describes that as irrelevant to his work -- the left wants an immediate end to the military occupation of the territory, while the right wants to continue Israeli settlement construction and the simple "management" of the conflict in perpetuity.
"We can make things much better [in the West Bank] even if it doesn't end the conflict," Goodman said -- hence "shrinking" the conflict. Goodman focuses solely on the West Bank in his analysis and leaves out the thornier issue of the Gaza Strip, which Israel unilaterally withdrew from in 2005 -- and has fought four wars since against the Hamas militant group that controls it. "It's a muc