By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (Nov. 15, 2017) – On the face of it, it doesn’t look good. Israel seems to be under threat from its neighbours, its friends in the Diaspora and its own politicians.
1A. In the South, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, with Hamas turning a blind eye, appears to be planning retaliation for the devastating blow it got when Israel unearthed a tunnel inside the country that originated in Gaza and destroyed it. In the process, terrorists, including some leaders, lost their lives. Israel has warned those who plan retaliation that its reaction will be swift and devastating. It has also taken defense measures deep in the country to protect the population from missiles.
1B. In the North, the unstable situation in Lebanon is not good news for Israel. The Iranian base that’s being built in Syria not many miles from Israel’s Golan Heights constitutes a considerable threat with ominous consequences. Through contact with the Russians, who have become the defenders of Syria’s President Assad and his Iranian allies, Israel is said to try to make sure that the Iranians don’t attack it. But in this volatile situation anything can happen.
Defense Minister Lieberman, sometimes described as the only adult member of the present government (which says a lot about his colleagues), seems to be in a sombre mood. Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, oozes confidence and at times even seems jovial. But this appearance may have less to do with the situation on the borders than with his determination to appear cheerful in the face of the allegations about the impending criminal charges against him and his wife emanating from the investigations that are currently conducted by the police. He tries to reassure us repeatedly that there’s no substance in the charges and that nothing will come of them.
It’s, therefore, difficult to know what he really thinks about the situation on Israel’s borders. But relying on the capability of the Israel Defense Forces may be a good reason not to be too alarmed, despite the obvious threats.
2. In view of the defense situation, the many representations by leaders of American Jewry – as usual, the rest of the Diaspora doesn’t count for much – about not getting equal access to the Western Wall don’t seem to amount to more than a lot of noise. To pacify non-Orthodox Jews in America, Israel sent its president to make nice. As usual, he has done well, but, alas, he doesn’t count for much. What matters is that the prime minister – the man with power – has reneged on a commitment.
I don’t believe Netanyahu loses much sleep over it, because, for better or worse, he seems to be convinced that President Trump will support Israel come what may. Therefore, the support of American Jewry is less critical at this point. This faulty calculation may cost Israel even more than the possible attacks from Gaza and the Golan Heights.
3. The above suggests that Israel is in dire need of fresh political thinking. We can’t expect it from the prime minister and, judging by the efforts of the new leader of the Labour Party to distance himself from its traditional platform, we can’t expect anything from him either. There’s no evidence that such thinking will come from other sources. Despite the many political noises, there’s little if any action.
Of the current threat to (1) Israel’s security and (2) the unity of the Jewish people, the (3) absence of a viable opposition in Israel may turn out to be even greater than the others put together.