For anyone inclined to think of the Jews as inordinately concerned about their past and future, Israel is currently providing all the reinforcement necessary.


It''s not quite the case that the country is in full panic. There are two items--quite different from one another--that are taking large shares of media time with personalities treating them as fateful opportunities or dangers.


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My own inclination is that the country will still be here next month, most likely for years to come, and most likely not much changed. But optimism verging on apathy is something that requires some effort at explanation.


The twin threats/dangers/preoccupations are the social protests that may have brought as many as 400,000 demonstrators to the streets in recent weeks (the numbers may reflect the exaggeration of activists and their media friends), and the Palestinian campaign to emerge from the United Nations with a state whose capital is Jerusalem and whose boundaries are those from before the 1967 war.


The first line of defense for those who think that nothing fateful will happen is the nature of those pushing for change.


On the social front, the activists are so varied, and demanding so much, that their appetites and lack of discipline are likely to overcome their enthusiasm, and whatever justice is associated with their claims. The instant rejection of proposals coming from a government appointed committee of distinguished individuals expresses both the political inclinations of many protesters (nothing from this government could possibly be any good) as well as the inability of a crowd (especially one so large and diverse) to agree about the priorities of their demands and keeping them within a reasonable cost that would not endanger economic stability.


On the international front, the Palestinians are in no better shape than domestic protesters. While the domestic folks show their weakness by unlimited and unprioritized demands, the Palestinians show theirs by an amateurish inability to decide on goals or tactics less than a week before the calendar requires them to be serious. The status of the Palestinians as the miserable darlings of Muslims and politically correct others provide their leadership entry to inner political circles throughout the world. Jet lag may add to the fuzziness brought on by exposure to so many opportunities and suggestions from the high and mighty. It is not yet clear whether they will present their case to the General Assembly or the Security Council, whether they will demand a state with or without a specific capital and boundaries, or whether they will trade some degree of increased status (less than full statehood) and accept yet another effort at negotiations with Israel under the coddling of great powers who hint that they will pressure Israelis to be even more forthcoming than they have been in the past.


As is usually the case, I am more fascinated with the process than I am with the justice of one claimant or another.


On the social front, I''m all in favor of upper-middle class Israeli activists having a better life at less personal expense. Some of them are my children, and others close friends, relatives and colleagues. Lots of the protesters seem to be the people who were unsuccessful in making their choices at the last election, and many of them do not seem to share my sense that a well functioning economy is at least as important as giving them the kind of dwelling they want, in a desirable location, at a price they are willing to pay, or free child care for the kids they have decided to create. My guess is that the large defense budget can stand some trimming for the sake of improvements in domestic programs, but the Defense Minister will not give in quickly. I can agree with many protesters that the Haredim are getting a free ride on their trip to nowhere useful, but I''m not supportive of a political revolution of the kind that may put the Haredim in their place at who knows what cost to the rest of us.


On the Palestinian front, I am not happy with all those governments supporting the idea of a new state with who knows what boundaries, especially one that seems insistent that it contain no Israelis (or Jews, depending on who says what). I do not employ the Holocaust to excuse everything that every Israel does, but I also know Jewish history. It is clear to me that the Palestinians leadership is corrupt and unlikely to govern in anything close to what a western democrat expects from a state. However, the same is true of many (most?) governments that already have all the trappings of a state. There hardly seems to be a country in Africa, among the former republics of the Soviet Union, or with a Muslim majority deserving of the status, and not too many south of the Rio Grande. And it is their governments likely to support the Palestinian petitiion, no matter what it is.


The world manages to deal with lots of faux states, and some of them are even worth a visit. One more is not likely to do all that much damage. I expect that the important places in the world accept what Israel will continue to do in order to keep itself as it wishes. That will probably mean Jewish settlements throughout what the Palestinians claim is their own, and certainly the ocntinued presence of Israel in what many of the Palestinians would claim as their own.


As I indicate above, however, I am not yet convinced that the Palestinian leadership is capable of doing what is necessary to get anything more than another political fig leaf from the international community. The politically correct of the powerful countries are not likely to say such things out loud and in public. However, one senses that they recognize their own tenuous future, and will not sacrifice a stable and successful Israel to something that may await them if those tides of humanity continue to move in recent directions.


More worrying than what the great powers will decide is what Palestinians will do. Their leadership is urging peaceful demonstrations. Israel''s security forces are anticipating that individuals will go beyond what the formal leadership is saying in public. Remember the Mavi Marmara. Nine deaths of violent activists are still rocking a world willing to repeat the slogans of what the drum beaters say about Israel.


Jews and others have some reason to be concerned about the future, but just as many reasons to avoid obsessive worry or panic.



 

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