Commentary

State of Israel Turns 64 Amid Uncertainty

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

Looking forward to the 64th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, many Israeli commentators and newspaper editorials have begun reflecting on the what they view as Israel’s achievements during the last six decades as well as on the challenges facing the country in the years ahead. Meanwhile, other regional commentators paint a less-than-rosy future for Tel Aviv if it does not change course on the Palestinian issue.

The Jerusalem Post editorial leads the way by outlining reasons for which the Israelis should be appreciative, not least of which being the ability to fend off any threats from would be attackers: “As Israel turns 64, we have much to be proud of. But we do not always appreciate our many achievements. We agonize over the Iranian nuclear threat, endlessly debating the pros and cons of a preemptive military strike against an Islamic Republic run by apocalyptic mullahs who have expressed their desire to wipe Israel ‘off the map.’ But we, a people who just last week commemorated the Holocaust — the ultimate price paid for Jewish powerlessness — forget to appreciate having the option of launching such a strike single-handedly if we need to. And while we are the strongest military might in the region, we are also the most restrained and most moral.”

Haaretz’s Noah Efron and Nazier Magally are also optimistic about their country’s future, noting, “At 64, Israel's future is brighter than you might think…. Sixty-four years after it was established, Israel is a place of stark contradictions. For most Jews, Israel is a dream fulfilled: a national home and a place of their own. It is also a homeland for Palestinians who also seek a state of their own. Israel is a boisterous democracy, with courts committed to humane, liberal values and a contentious watchdog press. It is also a country where discrimination, especially against Arabs, is commonplace....For those able to look with a careful eye, a future is unfolding that is more decent than we usually allow ourselves to see. The truth is, it takes no great act of imagination to envision an Israel at 100 that is decent and sustaining for all Israelis, at peace with its neighbors and at home in the world. In fact, it takes little more than a bus pass and an open heart.”

Ron Jager makes an even stronger case for Israel, asserting: “No country in the history of the world has ever contributed more to humankind and accomplished more for its own people in so brief a period of time as Israel has done....As Israel celebrates its 64th Independence Day, all of us can take a step back and view Israel from a different perspective than is usually depicted daily by the global media and internet.....Reaching out to the world, attempting to close the enormous gap between the complex realities here in Israel and the biased and false narrative that is so commonly portrayed — and with exceeding effectiveness — is no easy job. Many will claim that Israel is failing on the public relations battleground, leading to an increasing anti-Israel sentiment that nurtures cultural, academic and commercial boycotts. How better to counter this sentiment than by broadcasting a pure, unadulterated, positive message about Israel.”

In an op-ed for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Michael Steinhardt states: “Rejection of skepticism a big part of what makes State of Israel so successful and unique…. As Israel prepares to begin its 65th year of modern-day independence, there can be no disputing that this nation remains confronted with a myriad of challenges and threats to its very existence. But despite the perceived pall of fear and tension which seem to hang eternally over Israel, I can confidently say, as someone who has been blessed to contribute to its modern renaissance, that Israel’s daily reality is one of hope and promise for a brighter future — a reality in which most Israelis live....Israel gives us many reasons to look forward to another year of our beloved nation’s independence. But most of all we need to remember that now is the time to embrace a new outlook on the Jewish State and ensure that we begin to view her for what she truly is — a nation of remarkable progress, innovation and the very best of downright chutzpah.”

Despite all the optimistic long-term views, there are some who look at the current situation and worry about what the near-to-medium-term future holds for Israel and the region. For example, Alan Philps cautions on the pages of The National that “The political reality may be grim, but that does not mean that the ground is stable. In fact, the hopelessness of the situation is changing the terms of the debate about Palestinian statehood.....And if there is no chance of a two-state solution, what should be done in September, the first anniversary of Mr. Abbas’s bid for Palestinian membership at the UN? Under pressure from the Americans, Mr. Abbas quietly dropped the bid, but he still has the option of seeking a vote in the UN General Assembly this year....Professor Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian who now lives in Britain, said only a campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions would have any effect on the Israeli political class. What Mr. Netanyahu denounces as the ‘delegitimization campaign’ against Israel was a powerful tool, he said.”

Even more ominously, not seeing any viable way forward on the question of Palestine, Gulf News’ Abdel Bari Atwan warns: “Neither Obama nor Abbas will be able to hold back the tide of a third intifada by the oppressed people….As U.S. elections loom, President Barack Obama is loath to antagonize Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and with him the powerful American pro-Israel lobby....The present stalemate may suit those who want to buy time, but it does not suit the Palestinian people. The Palestinians were the pioneers of revolution and uprisings against injustice, the denial of their rights and the theft of their land. Are the Palestinians going to remain silent when throughout the Arab world thousands have fought so valiantly against their corrupt and oppressive leaders? No amount of buying time, by Obama or Abbas, will be able to hold back the tide of a third intifada.”


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