Emanuel Shahaf

No Vision, no Future

Looking at recent Israeli history, it’s difficult to claim that the country has a clear vision of where it should be heading. While a general call to continue on a zionist path can be discerned, it’s not at all clear what that exactly means under the circumstances, not under the government of change before and not under the present government of radical change now, particularly because Zionism itself has undergone considerable changes over time, not necessarily for the better. Meantime we are muddling through.

None of the political movements/parties represented in Israel’s Knesset have a clearly articulated vision for the future – if they have anything at all it is more likely to be general blather covering the less important issues, or else proposals for the implementation of racist objectives like apartheid. In any case, these parties, with minor exceptions, don’t offer something Jews in Israel or anywhere else can be proud of nor a vision someone can follow and hope to get anywhere worth while.

So what’s the problem? How is it that the start-up nation which generates hundreds of amazing visions every year to maintain a bubbling hi-tech economy, is unable or unwilling to articulate a low single digit number of visions any of which could serve to guide the country to a safe, secure and united future?

Denial has a lot do do with it – the fact that we have been living a life of make believe disregarding for decades the single major issue that is part and parcel of the creation of the state, the presence of another people under our control, the Palestinians. We acknowledge this fact in a minimalist fashion, ususally when it blows up in our face in the form of terrorism or criminal conduct, never dealing with it in earnest, even after we occupied the West Bank and Gaza thereby hugely increasing the magnitude and scope of the problem. We’ve spent and are still spending enormous amounts of resources trying to avoid the issue to the extent that we’ve been conducting a belligerent occupation for 55+ years, keeping millions of Palestinians with limited civil rights without ever seriously discussing the issue except maybe once, in the 90ties of the previous century, at Oslo and Camp David.

And of course there is our strong desire not to fight within the tribe – everyone can see what happens to those among us who side with the weaker part in this conflict, we get disparaged, diminished and insulted at best if we don’t get physically attacked. Who wants to expose himself to that over time? So we keep the internal strife at a minimum, just enough to give us headlines in election campaigns and mobilize the vote but certainly not enough to ever resolve an issue all the way and clarify what is right and what is wrong. Fight it out. No siree, that won’t do. We have a huge pile of unresolved issues stacking up, not being dealt with, not even being discussed. Better to shut-up, after all, a Palestinian flag at a demonstration can ruin your whole day….

So not having a vision serves us rather well – we don’t ever have to check these unresolved issues and how they measure up against our non-existent vision. If we did, we’d have to resolve them or chuck them out.  But like this they are not an issue. No vision, no contradiction, no problem. We clearly fly by the seats of our pants and have abolutely no idea with regard to the big picture. And we’d rather not know.

Unfortunately, Leonard Cohen was right with his song “Everybody knows”. We all do know, deep down inside, that the Zionist project is doomed without a vision that can unite everyone living under its sovereignty. We can’t continue breaking up into smaller and smaller tribes who eke out less and less benefits from a government  that loves to divide and conquer and is on the verge of going autocratic. As long as no clear and rational vision that is implementable is presented, Israel is going down. For real.

But there is a vision. It’s just much too scary to contemplate. A vision without the trauma of separation from the West Bank and one without the occupation. A vision of a state with a constitution and equal rights. For everyone. A vision of a normal liberal democracy with an independent judiciary, a clear separation of powers and separation of religion and state. A vision all citizens can feel comfortable with even if not all of them will completely subscribe to all its terms and conditions. A Federation in Israel-Palestine could do that. We have to work on the details but there is no reason why what works for 40% of the world’s population, can’t work for us as well. A Federal Forum has been formed to discuss different federation models. Enquire and connect. It will give you hope.

Is that really too scary to contemplate ? Just wait how the situation develops, soon enough we’ll all be willing to take some risks to get out of the hell we are cooking up here…

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".