A Time for Peace (Extract)


Extract of an article in Issue 2, May 12, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. It is difficult to place Israel in perspective after 60 years of its existence. Compared to other states of similar age, and thanks a good deal to outside, primarily Diaspora, assistance, Israel relatively quickly achieved the status of a developed Western country. In virtually everything, from the economy to culture, from production and marketing to education and health, Israel became a modern, relatively efficient state, capable of sustaining a European standard of living, meeting the greater part of the demands of its people, and maintaining a democratic system of government. Yet there is no denying the decline that has taken place - to the point that Israeli society today is not the paragon that many envisioned in 1948: One third of Israeli children and one quarter of all Israelis live under the poverty line; there's a 30 percent gap between men's and women's wages; the religious establishment employs political black-mail; the education system is deteriorating; there is corruption in official circles, backsliding in the implementation of laws; and a threat to the independence of the judiciary. Add to these a culture of egoism and consumerism characteristic of globalization that has replaced the solidarity and caring of the late lamented welfare state, and the discrimination and racism suffered by Israel's Arab citizens. Some excuse these flaws as inevitable consequences of the security situation. True, security has taken precedence over all other considerations, and security does take a sizeable portion of the country's budget. But when millions upon millions of the state's resources are pumped into West Bank settlements and private religious institutions - neither of which contribute to our security - the security excuse is shown up for the "red herring" that it is. Even granting the overwhelming priority of security, one must ask if the huge investment in it has indeed delivered the goods. Israelis today feel no less vulnerable to attack than in the past, outside as well as inside the country, whether from terrorism or rockets. Not only border communities but cities in the heart of the country are insecure. And where once Israel enjoyed the sympathy of the world community in its struggle for survival, a recent BBC poll found the country to be among the three most hated nations in the world. The very legitimacy as well as physical security of Israel is threatened today. And this despite the peace with Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, more than ever, the main source of Israel's insecurity remains the Palestinian issue, even indirectly as a mobilizing force among Islamic extremists. Prof. Galia Golan, a Peace Now activist and professor of political science at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, is the author of "Israel and Palestine: Peace Plans and Proposals from Oslo to Disengagement." Extract of an article in Issue 2, May 12, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.