By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It’s impossible to draw many conclusions from opinion polls about the next government of Israel as they’re being published three months before the elections. However, one question put to would-be voters in this week’s Ha’aretz poll seems to be saying something significant.
Responding to the question, “Who in your opinion is the main culprit in the growing international pressure on Israel?” 8% didn’t know, 24% blamed the Palestinians, 32% the Europeans and the Americans, and 36% (!) the policies of the government of Israel.
If we link this response to the 54% who believe that the government isn’t going in the right direction (with 19% who don’t know and only 27% who say that the government is doing fine) as well as the 53% who don’t want Netanyahu to be the next prime minister, we’re nevertheless getting something of a picture.
Significantly, more than a third of Israelis seem to think that it’s their own government that’s the major cause of the hostile reactions of the international community. There’s something prophetic in this. Though I may seem to preach again, I cannot but recall that the Hebrew Prophets very often blamed their own people for the misfortunes that befell them and their country.
Needless to say, that’s not how the prime minister and his entourage see the situation. It didn’t take Netanyahu very long to react to the allegedly technical glitch that caused the Europeans to cancel, at least temporarily, the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization to refer to the Holocaust in Europe with obvious inferences.
Though Israel cannot be blamed for the glitch, the growing recognition in the world of a Palestinian state should have brought about a serious re-assessment of the way Israel has reacted. Perhaps had Israel affirmed the Palestinian state, the claim that Israel is a Jewish state would get a better reception in the world, and Israel’s readiness not only to resume negotiations but to engage in added “confidence building measures” would have served Israel’s interests in ways that Holocaust rhetoric doesn’t.
Instead, what we’ve seen of late are blatant efforts by several cabinet ministers, notably the minister of defense who’s responsible for the territories, to promote and to extend the settlements. As much as the government of Israel may wish to style itself as seeking to prevent another Holocaust, the world is less and less convinced of it, even when it acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
The question is, of course, whether the next administration will take this into account. As things stand at the moment, there’s at least as much risk for it to be more reactionary than the current one, not less.
Politicians may not be in a position to engage in prophetic self-scrutiny that takes into account the 36% who blame Israel for the deterioration of its international standing. Though there’re groups of young and old Israelis who urge their fellow-citizens to look at themselves rather than always blame others and invoke the Holocaust, I don’t get the impression that most of the 36% tend to do anything about it.
Current opinion polls aren’t sufficiently conclusive to cure pessimism. The country is still waiting for indications that things are likely to change for the better.