Categorized | Middle East, Sharkansky_Ira, USA

No solutions likely for Israeli Jews, Arabs

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — The label and the concept of Final Solution have no place in Israeli discourse.

What’s behind this column is not the Holocaust, nor any perception of dire threat, but the importance of continuity.

None should be more aware than Jews that history does not end. And none should be more wary of those who claim to know history, and are sure of the future or the return of something great or horrible.

We’ve been around for long enough, and concerned with ourselves and our history long enough to realize that stories from the past are not only unreliable, but are not going to repeat themselves. Details change. The elements influencing the present and near future are infinite, and are not going to be aligned as earlier parallels might have been.

This season tests our credibility with tales of an oil lamp that burned eight times longer than it should have, as well as virgin birth and resurrection.

And we’re surrounded by predictions of an end to our country as we know it if we do not find a way to deal with Palestinians, and contrary predictions that we must settle farther into the West Bank and annex it all in order to assure the delivery of God’s promise.

Realists should be aware that nothing imaginable can satisfy the fragile cluster of individuals claiming Palestinian leadership. And anyone who has read the Book of Judges should realize that the Almighty began fudging on the Promise of a Land, within a few centuries of making it.

Doomsayers remind us that Diaspora Jews are disappearing at rates of outmarriage approaching or exceeding 50 percent. However, Israel’s population growth, due both to immigration and reproduction, is one of the highest in the world, and not all of it is traceable to ultra-Orthodox who breed like rabbits and refuse to work or do their part in the IDF.

The vote in the UN General Assembly against the notion that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel might be viewed at least as much against Donald Trump as against Israel. His undiplomatic threat to withhold financial aid from countries voting against him led the Government of Canada to change its intentions from voting “Against,” (i.e., in agreement with Israel and the US) to “Abstain.”.

Jerusalem has been secure as Israel’s capital since 1949, and even moreso with its expansion in 1967, but it has never been entirely the city of any one group. There’s been a Jewish majority since the middle of the 19th century, but Israel recognizes the autonomy of Christian and Muslim holy sites, limited only to the extent that Israeli security personnel operate when deemed appropriate.

Currently the city’s population is a bit over 60 percent Jewish and a bit over 38 percent Arab, leaving aside the knotty problem of defining Jews, with the remainder being the tiny and shrinking communities of Christians.

Jewish enthusiasts are pondering yet another expansion of the borders to assure an even greater majority, while others calculate how to shrink the city by hiving off Arabs and maybe satisfying some of the Palestinians’ aspirations. Christian Churches, meanwhile, subsidize their members housing and education in order to maintain a foothold in their Holy City.

Palestinian leaders threaten Israel’s annihilation, and organize protests. Individuals are moved to kill, perhaps realizing the prospect of their own death, to assure personal salvation and a pension for their family, to revenge someone lost to the cause, or to scratch some other itch produced by who knows what. Some may be dreaming of mass uprisings, with hordes moving on Israel from East, North, and South, in the style of conquests that occurred in an heroic past.

Meanwhile, Israel’s economy on a per capita basis is three to nearly tens times greater than those of its neighbors, and the country has shown a capacity to defend itself, both politically and militarily.

Comfort in the slogan that never have the Jews been more secure or prosperous clanks badly over the memories of relatives who expressed the same in Weimar Germany.

We hear from highly educated people, Jews and others, who think that Donald and/or Bibi are the best things since the invention of chocolate milk. And from similar people who are sure that they are the worst since the evolution of western civilization.

Muddling through, coping, managing, or governing with one’s finger tips are various ways of describing what Israel has been doing. The Yom Kippur War (1973) was the last time an Arab leader sought to deal decisively with Israel, and the First Lebanon War (1982) was the last time an Israeli leader sought to do the same with respect to Palestinians and other Arabs.

Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north have amassed a enough rockets to cause major havoc, casualties, and destruction, and Iran may acquire an even more deadly capacity. However, Hamas and Hezbollah seem wary of trying yet again. We can hope for rationality among Iran’s leaders. For the time being, their problems with Saudi Arabia are more pressing. Iran and Saudi Arabia can be counted upon to join resolutions against Israel, even while they are fighting one another at the expense of Yemen and Syria, and the Saudis are cooperating quietly with Israel.

The list of Israel’s unresolved problems is as long as those in any western democracy. Health, education, and transportation are major competitors for added shares of the government budget, with cities and regions also claiming special needs.

The Arab minority demands greater benefits, and a solution for their Palestinian cousins. However, they rule themselves out of power by voting for extremist parties, who use their Knesset seats to mount shrill criticism, and remain outside of whatever government exists. Jerusalem’s Arabs who have not chosen Israeli citizenship exclude themselves even more so, by not exercising their residents’ right to vote in municipal elections.

There’s no end to this story. Indeed, that’s the point of this column. Both dire threat, beyond Israel’s capacity to defend itself, and final salvation, should neither worry nor excite us and our friends..

We’re managing, and seeing overall improvement in the national statistics. It’s better in many respects than where cousins think it’s the best. America’s declining measure of longevity indicates that not all is well in Trumpland, and puts Israel’s list of comparative disadvantages in perspective.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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