Optimism is the new fear

Netanyahu is just giving us more of the same – just in a different cloak.

By
November 24, 2016 21:21
3 minute read.
JPost Diplomatic Conference 2016

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

With nothing left to scare us, the prime minister is engaged in hype The prime minister is happy as a clam. He is on cloud nine, grinning from ear-to-ear. And why has Benjamin Netanyahu been struck down all-of-a-sudden with incurable optimism. Apparently it’s all down to technology.

No, the prime minister hasn’t been treated with some hi-tech cure for the existential fears that plagued him over the Iran nuclear deal. Nothing less than an historical revolution is what jolted the prime minister from the gloom and doldrums that afflicted him in recent years, and in particular during his most recent reelection campaign.

Speaking to an assembly of diplomats and dignitaries at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in the capital on Wednesday, the prime minister told his audience, “I am supremely optimistic. In fact, I’ve never been more hopeful. I’m hopeful about Israel, I’m hopeful about our region, I’m hopeful about peace.

I’m even hopeful about the UN, can you imagine that?” And how did he account for that supreme optimism? Israel, he explained, is in the midst of an “historic revolution in its place among the nations” and that revolution is “borne about by a fundamental change of global economics.”

“Nothing remains un-technologized, nothing, nothing,” continued the prime minister. “Everything is being technologized. There’s no more hi-tech, middle-tech, low-tech.

Technology seeps everywhere into every field possible.... Everything is changing. And we’re right in the center of it. And the future belongs to those who innovate. We are the innovation nation.”

I actually couldn’t agree more. The prime minister is absolutely right, we are the innovation nation and innovation and technology are increasingly becoming a means of soft power – the term coined by Harvard scholar Joseph Nye as the ability to affect others by attraction and persuasion rather than just coercion and payment.

Netanyahu likes to talk of “T&T” or terrorism and technology. Israel’s abilities in those fields he correctly says provides us with “security, prosperity and opportunity” and this “changes fundamentally the way that we engage with other nations and the way they engage with us.”

All of that is very true, but it has been for a long time. So what has changed? With Iran having signed a deal with the world powers that kicks its nuclear ambitions down the road, Netanyahu can’t sell the threat of a “second Holocaust.”

On the northern front, Syria’s army has been decimated by five years of civil war and the country is fragmented along sectarian lines. Hezbollah, too, has been bogged down in Syria and can hardly afford a conflict with Israel.

On the southern front, Hamas is still reeling from the blows it received in the 2014 war, and while it could initiate hostilities, it is nothing more than a minor danger.

With no “existential threats” on the horizon, after years of hyping fears the prime minister is now pumping the positive. But optimism and pessimism are merely two sides of the same coin – their antithesis is realism.

Netanyahu is just giving us more of the same – just in a different cloak.

Peace isn’t around the corner and it probably wouldn’t be even if the prime minister chased it tirelessly, which he doesn’t. The member nations at the UN aren’t about to give Israel an automatic majority.

The region is falling apart and while there are certainly reasons to be optimistic about Israel, the prime minister might do better to concentrate on taking the steps necessary to maintain its competitive edge and widen the tech sector to be more inclusive.

Like a starry-eyed tech dreamer, Netanyahu told his audience that “young people understand that if the Middle East is to change, if it’s to undergo fundamental reforms, if they want energy, if they want health, if they want professions and skills, then Israel is a fountainhead of innovation that can help their lives.”

Meanwhile, low-tech terrorism has engulfed the country in flames and the top-trending hashtag on Arab social media platforms on Thursday was #IsraelIsBurning.


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