Divide and conquer

History has taught us that revolutions occur when a nation suffers from the juxtaposition of two circumstances: a weak government and a failing economy.

Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
History has taught us that revolutions occur when a nation suffers from the juxtaposition of two circumstances: a weak government and a failing economy. Just such a situation occurred in Florence in 1378, which resulted in the “Wooden Shoes Revolution” (an allusion to the shoes worn by the artisans who took part in it) due to the resentment of the lower-class artisans toward the controlling power of the wealthy and the major guild members.
The French Revolution broke out at the end of the 18th century, amid a financial crisis and as popular resentment grew of the clergy and the aristocracy for the privileges they enjoyed. And in the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, Lenin led the workers in overthrowing the government, which was weakened and had stopped caring for the people. And for these same reasons Mussolini was able to take over Italy in 1922, Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and Franco in Spain in 1939.
And now here at home, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority should be preparing to deal with a social revolution or even the takeover of the government by extremist groups. When a country’s leadership fails to be strong, courageous and determined in the war against terrorism and extremism, and does not employ a sound economic policy that offers the people hope for a brighter future, this creates fertile ground for a revolution.
First, I will analyze Israel’s political condition. Both the Israelis and Palestinians have shown incredible weakness in the way they deal with terrorist organizations and extremist groups. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are driven by a fundamentalist and murderous vision and they will not rest until their goal has been achieved: the destruction of the State of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority in its current formation and the creation of a radical Islamic entity that will encompass the entire Middle East.
Hamas has already succeeded in taking control over and establishing a terrorist state in the Gaza Strip. The Shin Bet recently uncovered incontrovertible evidence that Hamas is doing everything in its power to take control of the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, including assassinating Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel and Abbas both understand this reality well, and yet they do nothing to rectify the situation. The Palestinian Authority has showed incredible weakness in its dealings with Hamas members and has failed to prevent any of Hamas’s actions in the West Bank. The Israeli government has also not implemented a strategy with which to fight Hamas.
Militarily, we are enabling Hamas to rearm and prepare for the next round of war, which no doubt will arrive sooner than later. We are not treating the root of the problem – the true threats in Gaza: the tunnels, rockets and smuggling. Nor has any progress been seen on the political front. No efforts have been made to put together an international pact that could put pressure on Hamas.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the US could all function as full partners in the process of cutting Hamas off from its sources of funding, imposing a financial and political blockade on the organization without any collateral humanitarian damage on residents of Gaza. The longer the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority refuse to take any active measures to root out terrorism, the more Hamas benefits, since this gives it time to strengthen its forces, organize, and carry out terrorist attacks against Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And then we’re upset because the Palestinian Authority does not even condemn the Hamas for carrying out terrorist activity.
Now I would like to focus on economics. The economic situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority will only worsen as they squabble over how to deal with the situation. The Palestinian Authority is investing most of its resources in diplomatic struggles against Israel and what’s left over finds its way into the deep pockets of its corrupt leadership as the people look on discouraged, wondering if they would have been better off choosing Hamas.
Here in Israel, the situation is not any more encouraging.
Economic growth has declined dramatically, the budget deficit is swelling, and salaries are being eroded while at the same time the cost of living soars. According to the latest OECD report, Israel invests less in social welfare than almost all the other countries surveyed.
Billions of shekels are allocated every year to the Defense Ministry and there is no real system in place to verify accountability and to make sure these funds are being used wisely.
Huge amounts are wasted on blackmailer sectoral political organizations and workers unions at the expense of the taxpayers. State companies are managed by the workers and dividends are not paid to the state since they’re so poorly run they couldn’t turn a profit. NIS 25 billion is wasted every year on superfluous expenses such as security, failure to implement tax reform, investment in Judea and Samaria and political payoffs.
If this money were instead used to build more classrooms, fund afternoon activities and programs for gifted children, we would be in a much better situation. We could use these funds to add hospital beds and long-term care health insurance and to widen the number of medications available through the health funds. We could hire more policemen, build more homes and roads and maybe make an effort to reduce poverty.
Wouldn’t this be a better use of our money? Both sides need strong, courageous leaders who are determined, honest and willing to deal with security issues, root out terrorism and take care of our social and economic problems.
Only long-term strategic planning can provide the stability and security we need to survive.
The writer is a former brigadier- general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.