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The Challenges Facing Israel
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The Challenges Facing Israel

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Netanyahu Government has become such a polarizing force among many people in Israel that it is very hard to catch a breath.  Leaving totally aside at the moment—which is truly impossible–the entire question of whether Netanyahu himself will be indicted for bribery and assorted other illegal actions, rarely have there been so many seriously tense and diverging debates over such a variety of problems as there are now. On the outside life continues as normal as ever, but meetings, meals, and even casual small talk invariably return to these serious issues.

Israel always was a country of generals who never gave the alternative voice much latitude, but discussions here now are cutting to the values of the State and its future. The actual viability of two state solution; Israel’s future relations with the United States and with the Jews of America; the character of religious life and/or religious tolerance and openness; acceptance and fairness in treatment of the Arabs; and the character of the IDF.

To examine in brief two of the issues that have grabbed the public. The military court’s conviction of IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria of shooting a Palestinian laying prone on the ground has produced incredible outrage including from the Prime Minister, who called for him to be pardoned. Many people have rallied in support of defending his actions as justified. This response is somewhat analogous to the reaction in some circles when White police officers in the U.S. who killed individual Blacks were arrested on criminal charges or suspected of the same.  The Black Lives Matter movement was one of the responses to these events.  What is clear in both cases is that system of laws demands that soldiers—like police officers–cannot be exempt from using unnecessary force because the murderers are young, inexperienced, untrained, or scared.

The consequences to the Azaria conviction and the demand from some segments of Israeli society for his release were seen just this Sunday. A journalist fallaciously reported after the random tragic terrorist attack by an Arab truck driver killing four Israeli soldiers, that other soldiers on the scene ran from the incident rather than pursue the terrorist because they feared they would be subject to punishment as well, should they have killed someone!

Similarly, there are many Israelis who have such disdain or even hatred for Obama that they are unwilling to consider the facts concerning the U.S.’s abstention of UN resolution 2334 or some of actually correct observations within Kerry’s admittedly bloated and even gratuitous presentation of the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians.  These Israelis are so convinced that Trump will be their savior that they do not want to consider any of the legitimated problems created by the settlements or the consequences of a failed two state option or even the symbolic movement of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

The problem with these and many other issues is that they are intertwined, complex, and extremely polarizing. They require a much broader willingness on the part of Israelis to address these issues in a much more comprehensive was and not in a consistently knee-jerk manner. Israel’s safety and security from a psychological perspective may always appear to be at risk, but not in reality.  (More to follow soon.)

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