There’s one simple reason why Netanyahu will be Israel’s next prime minister – a majority of Israelis are “educated” to live in existential fear. They resort to their most basic needs – survival, food, shelter – and they don’t stop for a second to wonder what’s the point of it all, what direction is this country headed in, is it worth the price? They are all self centered and concerned only about the here and now. And in doing so they sacrifice the chance rest of us have for a better future in this country.
Netanyahu said on many occasions he believes that it’s his role and destiny to save Jews from a second holocaust, and that’s what has been driving him through out his entire diplomatic and political career. Without questioning whether or not it’s true, one must at least applaud him for being consistent and doing what he sees as most fit to accomplish that goal. But we must also be able to critique and question the validity and rationale behind his strategy, and of course the overall outcome.
And on the looks of it – by his own standards Netanyahu failed miserably.
Netanyahu praised himself on many occasions for being the first one to warn the dangers of an Iranian nuclear plan as early as mid 90’s. But by his own words “Iran is about to have nuclear breakout capabilities”. So what good did that do?
He has spent these last six years as prime minister not dealing with anything other than the Iranian nuclear threat, adding billions to the defense budget to develop plans and train for a preemptive strike, using the corpse known as the Palestinian peace process as a negotiation tool for more sanctions on Iran, kidnapping the entire public discourse and steering it away from social issue to not even security issues, but only to the “existential Iranian nuclear threat”.
And what’s the result of all these efforts, you ask? The world’s largest housing bubble, the OECD’s third-to-last highest poverty rate, an increase in the number of malnourished children, a public transportation infrustructre that’s 20 years behind the average European one and a decrease in financial purchasing power to be one of the lowest in the OECD. Oh, and two prolonged armed conflicts with Hamas that caused the lives of 50 Israeli soldiers and citizens.
And Iran is about to sign a deal with the west that wouldn’t come close to meet Netanyahu’s demands. Nor should it. They were unrealistic to begin with. Iran has long ago signed the NPT (Israel didn’t), and under that they are allowed to have nuclear power plants for civilian purposes. They are also allowed to have centrifuges. Under the new agreement Iran is willing to give up on advanced centrifuges, which will make it impossible for them to enrich uranium for military purposes, and they are willing to hand over all their current enriched uranium to Russia. What else can we demand from a NPT member country?
But we were not told all of this by Netanyahu or members of his government. We were expected to believe that it’s all or nothing, and we should brace ourselves for a nuclear winter. And that sort of paternalism from our politicians is almost the norm. Israeli politics aren’t revolving around hope, dreams and aspirations. They revolve around fear, panic and depression. And the public goes for it. Mizrahi people from the periphery will continue voting Likud because they believe that Netanyahu will save them from annihilation, but until armageddon comes Netanyahu is voting to cut their social benefits, lower corporate tax and standing still while banks, retailers and health care providers exploit loopholes in the current system to have record high profits.
Established immigrants from former USSR will vote for Liberman because he promises to be firm and strong with the Palestinians, but actually has done very little to fulfill any of his other campaign promises regarding social issues like transportation on saturday and civil marriage.
When trying to raise this issue with conservative, right wing leaning Israelis, they normally reply by asking back – how can we talk about the standard of living, when everyone is trying to kill us? We have no one to trust. We must do it all ourselves. Never again. But is that really the case, or were we just brought up to believe that because it keeps our minds off the things that actually matter on a daily basis?
These people, who politically operate against their best interest, are in denial. They are in denial that things don’t have to be this way forever. We are not alone. Our number one ally is the strongest country in the world. 80% of our economy is based on imports and exports. And as history shows this country managed to advance itself only when we were cooperating with others.
The Israeli economy started as an Autarkien market. And for the first decade or so, the economy was barely growing enough to support itself, not at all close to a rate a developing economy should be growing. That changed when Israel got the reparations money from Germany in the late 50’s. Then Israel’s economy started booming. Our technological and military advancements in the 60’s came from cooperation with the French. In the 70’s it was Iran and the USA that guaranteed our oil and weapons supplies. In the 80’s the US government vouched for Israel’s debt, thus saving us from defaulting following the banking crisis.
In the 90’s and and 00’s things have hauled. The immigration wave from the former USSR has brought many skilled workers to Israel, and that definitely helped raise demands and boost the economy, but accounting for that, the economy grew just at a high enough rate to support population growth. And while there were periods in those two decades of extensive growth, they normally came at times after a period of stagnation or recession and would only catch up to the rest of the world, never pass it.
Not surprisingly, it’s also the period when terror started striking close to home more often than not. With the first intifada in the late 80’s leading to a reality of suicide bombers blowing up in busses all through out the 90’s, then second intifada, the second Lebanon war and a string of prolonged military operations against Hamas every couple of years.
People have started losing hope. And our politicians abused it. And instead of offering one, they just made everything bleaker. They turned each attempt to change the discourse, to raise a social issue, to offer a different perspective into an act of betrayal and labeled it as a disaster of historical magnitude for the Jewish people. And the people bought it.
I believe we deserve better. I believer this isn’t predestination. I believe this country can thrive without sacrificing its’ security needs also retaining a social and moral backbone. We cannot achieve it with fear mongering or turning our heads the other way and pretend the issues aren’t there. They are. And we need to address them. We are part of the international community of nations and people, and it’s time we start acting as one.