By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Israel has come to France, Belgium, the United States and Britain. Terrorism inspired by the ISIS and its offshoots is spreading around the world. As a result, some critics of Israel have come to appreciate its defensive and punitive measures; they even seek to emulate the Israelis.
Perhaps because terrorism hasn’t reached Sweden (yet?) its foreign minister isn’t among Israel’s defenders. Instead, she castigates it for “neutralizing” (i.e., killing) those who attack soldiers and civilians in the name of Allah. We haven’t heard her expressing similar views about the terrorists killed in action elsewhere.
Israel’s minister of defense has criticized the US administration for not doing enough to help eradicate the menace of ISIS. In its place Russia has stepped into the Middle East with its own seemingly sinister agenda and its determination to save the skin of its ally Assad of Syria. Israel’s role in all that isn’t clear.
People in the know are saying that it may have benefited from some of it. Because those affected in other countries appear to understand better what Israel is doing, Israeli companies specializing in producing anti-terrorism devices are said to be currently in ever greater demand abroad.
Some of that may offer temporary relief to Israel and enable its present government to continue in office, perhaps by wooing back Avigdor Lieberman and his “Russian” party, despite his spate of damning criticisms of Prime Minister Netanyahu. The current coalition majority is very narrow and needs augmenting, even at the price of enabling Lieberman to rejoin it.
But all that is at best only a respite. The larger problem remains. US Secretary of State John Kerry articulated the obvious the other day when he said that Israel cannot be a Jewish and democratic state if it holds on to the territories. The impression left is that those in power in the Jewish state are ready to compromise, perhaps even abandon, its claim of being a democracy.
Remarkably – and people abroad find it difficult to fathom – life in Israel proceeds in its abnormal normality. Even the almost daily terrorist attacks are no longer front-page news, perhaps because the road casualties outnumber the death toll. As long as you don’t think of the future, it’s business as usual for virtually all Israelis and pleasant for most. The acts of terror are ominously near yet seemingly very far away.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the good news makes it possible for the government to do nothing about promoting peace while hiding behind the in itself not implausible argument that it only responds to the inactivity of the Palestinian Authority. Thus the stalemate and thus Kerry’s impatience.
Optimists believe that the situation can continue indefinitely. Surprisingly not counting myself among them I fear continued deterioration of Israel’s standing in the world and its morale at home. Perhaps that’s why in his My Promised Land Ari Shavit describes the later years of peace advocate and distinguished exponent of Israel’s political Left, Yossi Sarid (who died suddenly last Friday) as less than cheerful.
To end with the obvious: Israel needs a different government. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see it coming soon.
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By Rabbi Dow Marmur.