Next Year in Jerusalem

by

Sixty years ago today, the new international organization called the United Nations voted to partition the land of Palestine, creating separate Jewish and Arab states.

Having spent some time in modern Israel in 2000 and again this past May, I can tell you that it is a fascinating, if potentially dangerous, place; full of historical, political, racial, religious, and cultural tension. It is also a land of huge contradictions – the ultra modern beside the ancient.

Any thoughts on modern Israel – it’s history up to now and how things might play out in the future?

4 Responses to “Next Year in Jerusalem”

  1. urbino Says:

    Both are interesting. It’s hard for me to see much future for Israel — at least as a Jewish, democratic state. They’ve got too many problems on too many fronts. Aside from all the external Arab problems, they’ve got serious internal problems.

    One of them is that they just have way too many religious fanatics with absolutist notions of what the state of Israel is destined to be. These people don’t want a two-state solution; they don’t even particularly want peace. They want Israel as it existed during David’s reign, and they’ll do most anything to get there (including killing their own political leaders). This makes it extremely difficult for any Israeli prime minister to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority: if it looks like you’re going to give anything up (which is sort of inherent in the notion of negotiating), these folks go nuts.

    That makes peace with the Arab world pretty much impossible, which doesn’t portend a long future.

    Meanwhile, their other big internal problem — if that’s the right word for it — is the Israeli Arab population, which is growing much faster than the Israeli Jewish population. I’ve forgotten the year, but IIRC the projections are that Israel will be predominantly Arab within a few generations. One would think that will change everything.

  2. captmidknight Says:

    JU said:
    Both are interesting. It’s hard for me to see much future for Israel — at least as a Jewish, democratic state. They’ve got too many problems on too many fronts. Aside from all the external Arab problems, they’ve got serious internal problems.
    One of them is that they just have way too many religious fanatics with absolutist notions of what the state of Israel is destined to be.
    ___________
    That’s certainly true. There are hard feelings from many of the Israelis toward some of the ultra-orthodox who get exemptions from military service and other things because of Rabbinical studies or other things.

    There is, of course, a flip side as well. There are many on the Palestinian side who are so “invested” in the struggle that any solution short of all the Israelis lining up and marching into the ocean would be unacceptable. Many of the leaders in organizations like Fatah, Hamas, Hezzballa and others – people like the late Yasir Arafat – actually need the conflict to continue. It is the armed struggle – even if it’s against another Arab faction – that gives them their power. Most of them wouldn’t have the aptitude or the inclination to lead in peacetime. It’s hard to negotiate with someone who sees the continuation of armed conflict to total victory as not only the will of God, but also in the best interest of their own ambition.
    _______
    Meanwhile, their other big internal problem — if that’s the right word for it — is the Israeli Arab population, which is growing much faster than the Israeli Jewish population. I’ve forgotten the year, but IIRC the projections are that Israel will be predominantly Arab within a few generations. One would think that will change everything.
    _______
    Very true. Before very many generations, the Jew will be a minority in their own country.

    One of the biggest changes I notice between my visit over there in the summer of 2000 and this last one six months ago is the Fence. It’s Israel’s version of the Berlin Wall. It’s meant to prevent suicide bombers from coming over from the West Bank and Gaza and blowing themselves up in a marketplace or mall in downtown Jerusalem. It has cut down a lot on the bombings, but it has also added to the resentment and put a lot of added stress on the regular Palestinians who have to cross the check points to go to work or to the doctors or any other dealings inside Israel.

    The differences on the two sides of the wall is stark, to say the least. Israel is a very modern, economically bustling place. Across the wall, the West Bank is desperately poor. Unless some way is found to get the Palestinian Authority on it’s feet with a functioning economy, things are never going to work. Unfortunately, for that to happen, Israel is going to have to relax it’s security much more that it will be willing to do. Make no mistake, Israel rules that place with a fairly heavy hand, as far as the Palestinians are concern, and it’s hard to see that changing much in the near future.

  3. urbino Says:

    There are many on the Palestinian side who are so “invested” in the struggle that any solution short of all the Israelis lining up and marching into the ocean would be unacceptable.

    True. The difference between them and the Israeli groups I referred to is that if a peaceful 2-state solution were reached, the Palestinians’ support from elsewhere in the Arab world would dry up. Whatever else the Arab world may be, it’s fractious as hell. Once the Palestinians are no longer under the thumb of Israel, they’ll be just another bunch of Not-Us Arabs to the rest of the Arab world. That being the case, it’s hard to see how they could continue any kind of armed struggle for the rest of what used to be their homeland.

    The Zionists in Israel, OTOH, would continue to have support for armed struggle from Jewish and Christian Zionists all over the world — especially here. (We have something of a history of this kind of thing. Throughout the 20th century, the world’s #1 sources of funding for IRA attacks on England were Boston and New York.) It’s a religious fight for the Zionists, whereas it’s just a land/state fight to most of the Arab world.

    Certainly there are Muslim extremists for whom the fight against Israel has become a religious fight, and there are Muslim states who might continue to use Palestinian terrorists as proxies to poke at Israel per se (Syria), or to poke at Israel as a low-level proxy war against us and our influence in the Middle East (Iran), but the widespread state support — and 90% of the popular support — for the Palestinian struggle in the Arab world would, I think, gradually dry up. Those people and states all have other problems they’d happily move on to.

    As for the Fence, ISTM it would’ve caused a lot less trouble if Israel hadn’t built it so it annexed land that legally belongs to the Palestinian state.

  4. captmidknight Says:

    JU said:
    As for the Fence, ISTM it would’ve caused a lot less trouble if Israel hadn’t built it so it annexed land that legally belongs to the Palestinian state
    ________
    We heard that very complaint from several Palestinians when we were there this last time. They basically said “If they had to build a wall, at least they could have built it on THEIR side of the line!”

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