Israel’s External Concerns
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
For most Jews living in Diaspora it is the external threat(s) which causes them the greatest anxiety about Israel’s future. There is a fear of the military threat facing Israel from her immediate neighbors and the various terrorist groups within those States. In addition, there is the existential nuclear threat posed by Iran on the one hand and the persistent climate of international isolation, boycott, and sanctions on the other. Finally, there is a sense of terrorist threats ever present and emanating from the Palestinians.
Within Israel, however, one senses a very different reality from many Israelis–especially non-immigrant Israelis who represent the second and third generation—the core—of Israelis. Today’s Israeli accepts their reality with a true element of stoicism. They are obviously not happy and do not enjoy living under the current threatening conditions, but they go about their business. As rockets flare off in the South, they are quite literally of transitory interest. While everyone knows someone living close to Gaza or serving in the Army there, they express hardly more than a passing reflection to the news. Israelis know there will be a response, maybe another round or two, and then things will return to the status quo ante.
Israelis concerns about Iran’s nuclear threat exist, but most of them feel that they can do little or nothing about it. If and when the time comes for a serious Israeli response they are ready to respond. They understand that there will be casualties but Israel will survive. Like politics in general, Israelis have clear, distinct, and varied views on what, how, whether, and when to respond; but they are hardly consumed by it, regardless of any actual daily news. Some have more faith in the Government than others but all have a belief that the IDF—specifically the IAF– can handle things. (In a sense Iran is easier to deal with being there, rather than needing to project from afar on a situation of potentially cataclysmic proportion.)
Terrorist threats remain most recently along the Sinai-Negev border with Egypt. Now that there is a continuing, unstable situation in the South, the long, formerly secure, border with Egypt has been subjected to infiltrations and has required Israel to increase measurably its patrol. That having been said overall terror is down. From a management point of view on the West Bank that is due to heightened Israeli patrols and threats from the military, while indeed checkpoints have been reduced.)
Israelis will tell you generally they know that is not a good strategy, but it is successfully protecting Jews in the Territories. Certainly among those on the left and those who question the Government’s settlement policy, there is a sense that baring a breakthrough, this strategy is doomed to backfire and erupt into another intifada —at some point. Everyone is waiting to see how far the Government will go and then how successful it will be in confronting the settlers, beginning next week in Ulapana. As the dismantling and moving begins, what will happen to the Government coalition, to the settlers, to the troops, to rabbinic leadership as they interact to implement the orders of the High Court.
Not to minimize in any way the fact that the region remains very unfriendly for Israel, except for a possible Iranian attack they are confident they can handle the external threats; which is why the internal problems are so much more consuming to the future of Israel.