Doesn’t time fly? In these tough times we all enjoyed the end-of-year festivals of light, whether Hanukkah or Christmas, to take our minds off the ongoing restrictions. Now the old year is behind us and we have, with some apprehension entered 2021. Looking back, 2020 would have been an excellent year for Israel had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, which hit us as hard as it did most of the world.
In the field of foreign relations, Israel has made tremendous strides in concluding normalization agreements with four Arab countries – the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – which have all realized the importance of Israel as a power in the Middle East and its close relationship with the US. They came to the conclusion that their interests are better served by an alliance with the Jewish state, particularly in the face of the Iranian threat to the area, rather than be held back by maintaining solidarity with the corrupt Palestinian Authority and their pretense of statehood. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis.Our political situation is unfortunately a roundabout with neither beginning nor end. It is beset by corruption on both sides of the political divide and accepted as a means of influence by the commercial establishment. Israelis have a word for it: protectsia. I have a stronger word, which I’ll keep to myself. The constant emergence of new parties, only to fade away again after a year, as well as the repeated party hopping of some members of Knesset is a sign of – and contributes to – the continuing instability of our government. The fact that every politician wants to be a leader is the cause of the conflict that leads to frequent elections. Unless and until the electoral system will be completely changed, we shall forever be in this political limbo. Because any such changes require to be voted on by a large percentage of Knesset, it is unlikely to happen while the current mentality of the members prevails. Why should they vote for more work, for genuine accountability, for the possibility to be voted out the next time if the constituents are not satisfied, when the current system protects their comfortable lifestyle? Would turkeys vote for Thanksgiving? As for COVID-19, Israel’s population is far to undisciplined to maintain a package of restrictions for any length of time, and so the on-off cycle will continue for another year or more, until the vaccines have taken effect. And that only if everybody accepts the vaccination. I believe that it will be necessary to issue certificates, without which entry to maybe even shopping malls will not be possible. Israelis need biting laws to comply. Were it not for heavy fines, fewer people would wear a face mask. Let us hope that 2021 will be a better year all round. It is probable that at least Israel’s foreign relations will further improve. However, there are also other matters that impinge on our life. Today, Jews face three great challenges, all beginning with “A” – antisemitism, assimilation and apathy. The first two are obvious, but apathy is equally important because it allows assimilation to happen. It is extremely sad that today Jews themselves are attempting to complete what rulers through the ages failed to achieve. Their innocuously appearing weapon is more dangerous than any gun. Intermarriage is happening throughout the western world, having reached a reported 70% in the US. The Knesset Information and Research Center recently presented figures to the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee of the Knesset showing that 60% of European Jewry have been lost to assimilation since World War II. Russia, where Jews seem to have a weak Jewish background, topped the chart with 75%. The European Court of Justice recently upheld the ban on non-stunning slaughter in Belgium, which will adversely affect Jewish life across Europe. The ostensible rationale is animal welfare. The nonsensical motive cited in some European states is to curtail Muslim immigration. There is, however, only one reason: antisemitism. If they really want to act against Muslim immigration, there are more effective ways to deal with that question. ■The writer, at 97, is the world’s oldest active journalist and radio host. He presents ‘Walter’s World’ on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) and ‘The Walter Bingham File’ on Israel Newstalk Radio. Both are in English