(This is Part Three of “Jim Webb for President” and Part Two of “An Open Letter to Senator Webb,” who recently announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. I’m dragging this out a bit because I’m researching some very peculiar, not to say delusional, developments in American national security policy, while everybody’s so focused on the Iranian debacle. That’s for next week. Anyway, do learn a bit about Senator Webb. You might be pleasantly surprised.)
So this, I believe, is what it comes down to.
Israel may end up a pariah among the nations. A surprising number of Israelis might even prefer it that way – “The Goyim will hate us no matter what we do, so let’s just do anything we please. And if the United States and Europe choose to go the BDS route, there’s always China to offer us solace and, shall we say, investment opportunities.”
This would be tragic, both for Israel and the world. For Israel will never be a “normal” nation, whatever that is. If Israel is to genuinely take its place among the nations, it must do so in a manner that both keeps faith with itself as a secular Jewish State and meets the needs of the world, as the world is.
Herzl got it right. There must be more than a Jewish State. There must be a Jewish State that contributes to the world. Herzl was no democrat. He favored, as he put it, “an aristocratic republic,” and probably would not be too upset at the economic oligarchies that have developed. But he would have had no use for the cronyism, corruption, criminality, chutzpah and arrogant bad manners that have characterized Israel since before the founding.
So what’s the Light unto the Nations to do?
How about, light up again?
First, Israel, decide whether you want to become one of the most important contributing countries of the 21st century. If you’re happy with things as they are, or just don’t care to make the effort, be honest. But if you’ve got at least an inkling of what Israel might and can and should be:
There has to be a completely new political force, whether via the evolution of a present party or bloc, or something created for the task. This won’t magically appear. It must be preceded by the development of a critical mass of citizens – middle-class, broadly defined, and confined to no particular ethnic or religious grouping – who are willing to take up the task. Forget about idealistic young people with their smart phones and social media. They accomplish little and often make things worse by their self-righteousness. This must be a genuinely mass movement of all ages, led by people with more to offer than attractive physiques and feel-good-about-yourself summer-time rage.
Israel needs a protracted Culture War to settle issues ranging from the role of the Rabbinate to housing to ethnic tensions and greater justice and opportunity for our loyal Arab citizens. But before any push for change, and empowering that drive, there must be one non-negotiable demand:
Without honesty, there is nothing. For far too long, from the greengrocer to the tycoon, from the cop to the MK and beyond, lying and cheating and treachery have been the political and economic norms. Call it cultural, or maybe regional. Call it whatever you want. But in the end, everyone pays a horrific price for regarding dishonesty as a game, and cheating the only way to do business. Or politics.
This is not about morality and we don’t need any lectures on Jewish Values. It’s about what works and what doesn’t. Honesty works far better than the alternatives.
That said, the first thing a newly honest, properly governed Israel might do is take on BDS in a particularly effective manner. Let the government announce that Israel has become the first nation on the planet to commit its scientific, technological and medical genius fully to dealing with the causes and consequences of climate change. Projects by the hundreds: some private, some governmental, some public-private, some in conjunction with other nations. Some for-profit, some not, some sold at reduced rates or given away.
Israel will not surrender the planet to the consequences of centuries of human profligacy, waste, negligence, don’t give a damn, and “My half of the boat ain’t sinkin’.”
Then do it. And keep letting the world know, not how great we are, but what we’ve come up with and are offering this month.
Those who wish to BDS, have at it.
More modestly, has Israel ever considered a “Buy American” Program? How much good will might have come about if, back in 2008 or so, the Israeli government had announced, “Our American friend is passing through a difficult period. Let’s do what we can. Let’s buy Made-in-America, especially from small producers. We’re setting up web sites in Hebrew and English and offering small companies free space and advertising, plus free translation services. We’re also temporarily waiving import taxes and other restrictions.”
Imagine an ad in the New York Times and everywhere else. “Israelis Saved Me from Bankruptcy.” Signed by a few dozen (or hundred) American small businessmen and farmers, artists and artisans.
Why not now?
All of this, however, won’t have much effect without some solution to the problem of the Palestinian people.
“Invented” or not, they’re here. And the world is taking an ever greater interest in their prospects and fate. Time to deal with it.
Next: A New Approach to the Territories.