Tipping points are well-known phenomena when it comes to epidemiology and public behavior regarding consumer trends, not to mention climate change. At one stage, suddenly and often without a clearly identifiable reason, a previously moderate trend starts to increase exponentially, wiping out all former predictions.
The same phenomenon not infrequently occurs in other environments as well, including in the political realm e.g. voters who on short notice change their mind and vote in droves for one candidate or party that earlier had barely made it into the polls. And of course there are dramatic historical developments few predicted would develop at the pace they did, like the final days of South Vietnam, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disassemblement of East Germany and the fall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
These and others are all events that had a relatively gradual run-up that suddenly took off confounding many if not most of the experts and definitely the public. Even in retrospect it’s often difficult to identify the exact event or point in time where the process started to go off the chart.
The fall of the Soviet Union started slow enough over years, predicted by very few. Then, inspired by Gorbachev’s leadership, it sped up and precipitated the demise of East Germany’s regime which was obliterated in a few exciting weeks. Others caught in the tsunami included South Africa’s Apartheid regime which had it coming for many years just like the Indonesian occupation regime in Timor-Este.
As long as the Cold War was on, no amount of international pressure could overcome the mantle of protection those regimes received from the West for chipping in against communism. Discrimination, injustice and massive crimes against humanity were studiously overlooked for decades. But when the Cold War wound down with the demise of the Soviet Union, the bottom dropped out and support for the illicit regimes in South Africa and Timor-Este faded away forced by public pressure, leaving them struggling.
South Africa’s Apartheid regime finally crumbled in 1993 and Timor Este started its path towards independence in 1999 after Suharto’s regime in Indonesia (which held Timor Este under a brutal occupation for 20 years) was swept away in the fallout of the Asian economic crisis in 1998. Needless to say, often enough the speed of developments catches both, governments and the public alike, off-guard and there is little or no preparation whatsoever for impending major change which can be brutal. The regimes about to come crumbling down and their country’s population are frequently the last to know.
Israel’s occupation regime in the West Bank and Gaza is similarly in dire danger of approaching such a tipping point. A steady flow of extra-judicial killings, mostly of civilians, including children, house demolitions, repeated retaliatory actions in Gaza and the continued massive disregard for the civil rights situation of the Palestinian civilian population are clear signs of impending danger ahead. The sensitivity of the situation is further exacerbated by the threat of more local unrest in Israel’s mixed cities where both Arabs and Jews went on the rampage in the wake of unrest on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the attacks on Gaza.
With our soldiers’ fingers easy on the trigger and continued brutalizing of the Palestinian population, even a major Hamas terror attack, G-d forbid, is unlikely to command the same international suport for Israel as it would in the past. With West Bank settlers on the loose, a massacre, G-d forbid, just might trip us up just like it did in 1994 when Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshipers in Hebron. Only then we had the Rabin government and the support of the world community for a burgeoning Oslo peace-process to mitigate the fallout. This time around, world public opinion including that of much of the Jewish diaspora will not be as supportive and likely will leave us high and dry.
Israel’s present eclectic government is unable and unwilling to formulate any move towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians without putting its own existence into question. At the same time the relations with Israel’s Arab population have tensed up in the wake of the recent strikes on Gaza and rioting in towns in Israel with a mixed Jewish-Arab population. All this is happening while the struggle with Iran is becoming more tangible by the day and our need for unequivocal US support becomes critical exposing us to political pressure.
The urgency of the situation, made even more problematic by the present Covid-19 epidemic, is probably unprecedented in its severity in Israel’s history. Nevertheless there are no signs at all that the government of Israel is preparing for the eventuality of an impending major change of the situation on the ground. We the public should be prepared because when it comes it won’t be pretty.