NES ZIONA, ISRAEL: Israel witnessed many changes and different events in the passing year. Some in the economy, others in military/terrorism, political/diplomatic and some social. It is quite obvious that ignoring the “Arab Spring” will be a mistake but expecting it to change the involved Arab countries’ set of mind with regards to Israel would be a huge blunder and naïve approach.
Let us try and analyze the complex situation in and around Israel this fall:
The people’s revolution overthrew President Mubarak and brought a military rule that is supposed to be temporary and lead to free and democratic elections. So far, the military rule has succumbed to the whim of the people on the street, declared that the peace treaty with Israel is not holy and may be changed, supports Hamas and does nothing to stop incitement against Israel. If and when elections take place, the Muslim Brotherhood (the birth mother of Al Qaida), will win at least one third of the Egyptian Parliament seats and we know how they feel regarding the existence of the peace treaty with Israel at large and Israel’s existence in particular. Although we hear some moderate voices coming from Egypt, they are rare and far between.
Although Israel does not share a border with Turkey, Turkey is a major player in the region. Since Erduan took over Turkey, the very close and strong relationship between Israel and Turkey deteriorated. The deterioration was enhanced by the sad results of the Marmara Flotilla, and it looks like the relationship will never be the same. Turkey is refusing to accept the results of the Palmer Commission and demands Israel’s apology, compensation to the families of the people killed on the Marmara and cessation of the naval blockade around Gaza (which was accepted as legal by the Palmer Commission). Israel’s stubbornness in this matter did not help the situation. If Israel would have, publically and immediately, expressed sorrow for loss of life and agreed to pay compensation by the way of opening a special fund for the families, I believe that the situation today would have been different.
Turkey is paving the road to become a regional power (which might lead to a conflict with Iran who has the same ambitions), and thus is squinting to the more radical Muslim forces while trying to maintain a good relationship with the West (agreeing to put anti-missile radar systems on Turkish ground). Israel is of course carrying the brunt of it as always when political ambitions blind our neighbors’ leaders’ eyes.
Here we have several alternatives; some are bad and some slightly better. Syria is currently in turmoil and in a state of civil war. The people in Syria are rioting and Bashar Assad is slaughtering them, while the world protests with mighty words and some sanctions which do not seem to have any effect. I suspect that if Syria had the same oil reserves of Libya, the actions would be different.
What could be the results of the “Syrian Spring”?
1) Assad falls; Iran cannot afford to lose Syria as its front line regional “Muslim Revolution” ally and sends Iranian Revolutionary Army forces to Syria in larger numbers, including Hezbollah’s “fighters”. They install an Iranian sympathizer as a president and continue their infiltration into the region, Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and strengthening their influence in Egypt through the Muslim Brotherhood.
2) Assad’s regime falls, the Iranian stronghold in the region is weakened dramatically, the arms pipeline to Hezbollah is in jeopardy and as a result the Iranian influence in Lebanon weakens. Syria needs economic aid in order for its population not to starve and will turn to the West who would offer economic incentives should they abandon the “Axis of Evil.” Win-win situation for Israel, not likely to happen.
3) Assad is about to fall, he insists on remaining in power, he turns against Israel in order to draw the attention from his internal problems and unite the Syrian people behind him to face the “common enemy” Israel. Hezbollah is pushed by Iran and Syria to join the conflict, the Hamas (which is trained by Hezbollah) is joining from the south.
Now we have a regional conflict!
The third scenario is of course the worst for Israel. Although, Israel can militarily deal with the situation and win the conflict, its diplomatic isolation would very much determine the intensity of its reaction and its ability to end the war with a decisive victory. Since Israel is fully covered by missiles from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, the devastation in property and civilian casualties will be very high and will force Israel to use extreme means to put an end to it. We all pray that it will not come to it but it is a considered possibility by Israel.
All the above leads me to discuss our politics and status in the world and the region.
No doubt, the Palestinians will approach the UN with their demand for an independent State based on the ’67 borders, on September 20th. They will get the support of the automatic majority in the UN’s General Assembly (120 countries that call themselves the Non-Aligned countries) and at least 20 other countries that do not exactly like Israel. Israel’s strongest ally the US will not be able to stop it (it will veto it, should it be brought to the Security Council) and thus Israel’s isolation in the world will increase which will force Israel into situations it could have avoided in the past by negotiating with the Palestinians based on the Bar Ilan Speech given by Netanyahu suggesting and offering a two-state solution.
If negotiations will not resume and Israel will continue to build in the settlements, the likelihood of a one-state-for-two-people solution (which the Palestinians now preach for) is very high. This will be the end of a Jewish Democratic State and will either lead to a Jewish demographic annihilation or to an apartheid state.
The last eight weeks have trembled Israel’s society like never before. A long waited for, social protest swept Israel ending with over 400,000 people chanting: “the people demand Social Justice”. Although Israel has the lowest rate of unemployment in the world (less than 6%) and although Israel’s economy is in relatively good shape, all of the above never filtered to the “small man on the street”, who gets up in the morning and puts in a full day of work, only to find that the money he earns always ends before the end of the month. Unfortunately for all of the Israelis, the middle class has eroded dramatically. The gap between the rich and the poor is the largest in the western world (the OECD countries to which Israel belongs). Young non-haredi couples cannot care for their families and are afraid to bring children into to a world they cannot afford. Yet at the same time, the orthodox families grow beyond proportion; pay very little taxes, heavily subsidized by the different Government agencies and most do not serve in the army. Over 100 BILLION Shekels have been invested in the settlements, since 1967, at the direct expense of the weak population and young couples. Prices of real estate in Israel are beyond the reach of young couples and needy families. There is no Government social housing as there used to be in the 70’s and 80’s and thus the weak and poor populations find it very difficult, if not impossible, to find suitable housing.
It is predicted that if the same trends continue, in 20 years, over 60% of the population in Israel will be Ultra Orthodox and Israeli Arabs. This means that 40% of the population will have to carry on its back the economy and security needs of Israel!
Much of the Israeli economy is controlled by 20 families, which situation does not allow for real competition in the small Israeli economic market. Israel must decentralize its economy and allow for more competition.
All of the above was like a barrel of gunpowder waiting for the explosion: the match which caused the explosion was one young girl named Daphne Lif who was evicted from her apartment and could not find a reasonably-priced apartment to rent in Tel Aviv. She decided to build a tent in one of Tel Aviv’s main Boulevards and the rest is history. Her action was the long-awaited call to action and 80 tent cities were spread across Israel in no time to start the social protest that will change the face of Israel forever.
Nobody expects the change to be swift and radical but the change in the dialogue between Government and the public is already taking place, the sensitivity to the hardships of certain populations has increased and there is a feeling in the air that the next elections in Israel will revolve around the domestic economy and not only security as in past elections. Suffice it to say that a change of Government in Israel which will change this Government’s economic ideology will also bring a change in our foreign affairs and dialogue with the world which will not be based and biased by a right-wing ideology but will be based on a Social Liberal Government with more emphasis on social justice and compassion.