In the 2013 elections I voted for ‘Yesh Atid’ (There is a Future), but I was wrong. I was suffering from SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem) with my head buried in the sand. I think that many of you were too.
I was voting idealistically and to some extent, with my pocket. I liked the promises Yesh Atid made about sharing the burden, about stopping the erosion of the middle classes, about helping young couples with affordable housing and about overhauling the education system. I liked the people Yair Lapid collected into his party; the strong female presence, the mix of religious and secular, Ethiopians, Russians. Actually, I still agree with the party platform and I don’t include myself amongst the many who have become totally disillusioned with Lapid or his performance to date as Finance Minister.
But whilst I was thinking of my own and my children’s economic and societal future in January 2013, I had forgotten that all of those problems are inconsequential in comparison to the one humungous elephant in the room that was not even a key voting issue in the last elections – that of the peace process.
I, and many others, allowed ourselves to ignore the fact that less than an hour away from our comfortable homes, more than 24,000 fellow Israelis in Sderot, were living in constant bombardment from Hamas rockets, 2,248 of them in pre-election 2012 – 1,456 alone in November during Operation Pillar of Defense just 2 months before the elections.
How could I have allowed myself to put aside the suffering and security needs of Israel’s southern residents and ignored the necessity to guarantee long-term quiet and normalcy? Looking back, it was not a luxury that I should have afforded myself.
If anything really good came from Operation Protective Edge, it was the fact that many of us SEP sufferers were rudely woken up to the reality of living under the constant threat of attack; the psychological cost to our children, to our own well-being and to the economy.
The experience of seeing my child traumatized and imagining how both Israeli and Palestinian children (and adults) could live like that in an on-going situation, brought priorities sharply into focus; first peace, then the rest.
While I don’t believe that foreign pressure, the growing momentum of the BDS movement, or rising anti-Semitism should force us into making rash agreements that do not protect our long-term security needs; making peace should once again top the agenda when it comes to the next elections, which could come sooner than we think. That’s why I agree with the general direction, if not the specifics of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opening speech in the Knesset; security first.
For me though security means peace, not buildings. It means two independent nations within defined borders. It means two peoples agreeing to recognize each other’s right to exist. On the wave of peace will come economic opportunities; a ‘peace dividend’ as Yadin Kaufmann called it in his article ‘The Economic Case for Peace’ in Ha’Aretz newspaper in July, which will help solve the other issues that deserve the full attention of our brightest minds. In our tiny country, SEP is always our problem too.