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Israel's Decline is a failure of the system of government and not the product solely of poor governors

Reader comment on item: Explaining Israel's Strategic Mistakes

Submitted by Richard Sackler (United States), Jan 28, 2009 at 12:37

Israel is beleaguered from both without and from within. The deligitimization of the State isn't only an Arab strategy, but is also a self-created Israeli reality. Israel founding was a miracle based on a tragedy of equal proportion, and she had 30 glorious years from 1948 until 1979, which was the high point. In '79, I believe, Israel's power and legitimacy were at its zenith and its sagacity and sustainability were never more likely than when the treaty was signed with Egypt. The much later signing with Jordan (1994) was also a high point, but the shape and substance of this document was also forged and implied by the Begin-Sedat deal struck 15 years earlier. Decline began in 1982, and it has been accelerating ever since. Will Israel reform in time? I don't know, but I don't see any hopeful signs.

The signs of decline are numerous and very ominous:

1. A fruitless invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which lead inexorably and incredibly to two mass murders of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila.

2. A hasty and ill-planned withdrawal from S. Lebanon two decades later leaving, in its wake, a huge and fierce Syrian menace.

3. When Hezbollah attacked, Israel was unable to defend its citizens in the north.

4. Another withdrawal, this time from Gaza, which didn't bring peace, but brought more civilians under heavier rocket file

5. In the north and the south, there is no sign that the State can protect its citizens. However bad it was before the Gaza withdrawal, it is as bad or worse now

6. A President indicted for multiple rapes

7. A PM soon to be indicted for high crimes and misdemeanors

8. The most vibrant and growing part of the population (the ultra-orthodox) are lawful parasites neither paying their share of taxes nor contributing to the army or the economy. They lawfully live off the largesse of a tiring, aging class who made Israel great in the years before the Great Decline.

9. Israeli parliamentary democracy was sadly built on the Italian model, not the US or UK model. And like the Continental countries that served as models, it isn't a secular state but it is a church state. This leads inexorably to societal fragmentation in a state with diverse views. [Where are there Jews without diverse views, not to mention the Arabs?] So we have separate and unequal educational systems and experiences that are further fragmenting the society and sub- optimizing the education of all the citizens of Israel.

10. A totally incoherent foreign policy building settlements one place and withdrawing from others. Is Israel pro-settlement or anti-settlement? Who knows! There is no consistent policy but only a conflation of short-term, expedient actions that contradict each other. Is this any way to run a country, or even a family?

11. An existential threat from Iran which pledges at various time to destroy Israel, decimate its Jewish population, and in its kindlier moments just force Israel to defer to Iran and its Arab neighbors and allow itself to cease being what it was and is, its non-Islam population reduced to the status of second or third-class citizens, taxed and exploited by its Moslem residents. The world reacts with a yawn because most don't much care if the threat is carried out.

12. The collapse of the primary and secondary education system is both symptom and disease. 20 years ago, Israeli education was among the best in the world. Now, in science and mathematics, it doesn't even rise into the ranks of the top 100! This means that in these two critical areas, Israel is now fallen into the middle of the ranks of the 3rd world! This in a country that absolutely requires technologic superiority for its economic sustenance and its existence and survival. I don't know whether it is more ominous than tragic or the other way around. [I'll leave it to the descendants of Freud to puzzle over the hypothesis – not believed by me – that his is an expression of an unconscious recognition that the country is doomed. Such a belief might easily lead to the collateral notion that investment in the knowledge and skills of the young doesn't matter anyway.]

13. And Israel's once famous university system is in decay, disarray, demoralization and decline. For example, while the government asks medical schools to increase the number of graduating doctors, the faculties have declined because of economic starvation by over 30% in less than six years, and more cuts are baked in. Major schools are facing the real possibility of not being able to maintain a minimal mass of knowledge to teach the future clinicians upon which the country will depend for health and survival.

Are these not the signs of internal deligitimization? Perhaps the Arab strategy to delegitimize[1] the State of Israel wasn't a brilliant Machiavellian invention, but rather a coolly conceived recognition of the internal state of affairs. Isreal has been depicted not as weak, but as overpoweringly strong, and interesting contrast to the Communist Chinese description of the USA as a ‘paper tiger.' The exploitation of the weakness of their Israeli adversary – its loss of legitimacy internally and externally – gains enormous strength by using the misguided and misdirected strengths of their Israeli adversary to topple their position, much as jujitsu subverts the strength and arms of the opponent to the attackers' purposes.[2] Since the Israelis themselves have more and more reason to doubt that their government is legitimate, why not pile on and amplify this fact to the world and conflate this with inflammatory descriptions and outright fabrications that will speed the process that might have occurred over a longer time. I do believe that the constant attacks on the probity, morality and legitimacy of Israel, which can be found daily in the median and public political forums such as the UN also damages the self-respect of Israelis and Jews throughout the world?

The situation isn't the fault of any single Administration; no new leader or regime or party will be able to substantially affect it or change the trajectory or reduce the peril unless and until the underlying constitution of the state is reformed and rebuilt. I've been told that there is no way the citizens can call for a constitutional convention as Americans in the US can. Further, the only people and organization with the power to make the necessary changes are those who have the greatest vested interest in the status quo. The epicenter of this group is the Knesset.

Sadly, I've had to embrace the awful truth that in 10-20 years, Israel may well be no more. The end might come in a nuclear explosion, but Iran doesn't need to risk annihilation by way of nuclear retaliation. Even now, the signs of centrifugal deconstruction are visible everywhere. Most significant is the "brain drain" which is growing every month. We can easily visualize this flow growing to a torrent, and then the declining economic and military reality on the ground will force a capitulation of those who remain. Lofty goals and noble ambitions and the sacrifices of three generations will be swept away in weeks or months in the end. Finally, there will be several million likely refugees who will have to flee for their lives. Will the US or Europe take them in? I don't know, but the historical record is too tragic and too well-known. Let us hope we in democracies in Europe, America and Asia do better than our forbearers.

I know this is a dire view, but it is one that surprising has been ratified by many people who love Israel. These people are both Jews and non-Jews, observant and secular, residents of the US and also citizens of Israel. In fact, I've shared it with about 20 people over the past few months and none have challenged this collection of facts; two of the 30 have challenged the notion that the Israel will perish, but they wave their hands at "Israelis ability to adapt." I too think that they have the capacity to adapt, but that doesn't mean that they will do so when it still might change the trajectory in time to avoid doom. Without constitutional change how else will this end but in tragedy? Einstein is often quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Through this lens, Israel looks like it is insane.


[1] The number of ways of exploring this line of attack are vast, but as of November, 2008, there were 367,000 Goggle hits on the search of "Isreal aparthide" alone at www.google.com . If you want to look at a recent line of attack in the UN, consider www.eyeontheun.org . Dozens of parliaments around the world have turned their sword to attacking Israel's actions at every turn.

[2] Jujutsu (柔術, jūjutsu?) listen (helpinfo), literally meaning the "art of softness", or "way of yielding" is a collective name for Japanese martial art styles including unarmed and armed techniques. Jujutsu evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent without weapons. Due to the ineffectiveness of striking against an armored opponent, the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it. [Skoss, Meik (1995). "Jujutsu and Taijutsu". Aikido Journal 103, http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=17. Retrieved on 9 September 2007.

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