Photo credit: Felipe Palacio (Unsplash)
With the current celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary, we are reminded that the nation has always lived with challenges to its very existence. Despite being wildly outnumbered and poorly equipped, Israel successfully fought a defensive war against several neighbouring states immediately following its May 1948 declaration of statehood. Multiple wars were to follow, perhaps most notably the Six Day War of 1967 and the nearly calamitous 1973 Yom Kippur War. Other nations fight wars too, but for Israelis, war is part of ensuring its existence. Israel simply cannot afford to lose.
That Israel may soon be fighting another war is hardly novel. But Israel’s present predicament may be unique in its short (modern) history. It again faces existential threats but this time such threats coincide with powerful destructive forces from within.
The controversy over proposed judicial reform has torn at Israeli society in an unprecedented manner. Recent years have seen the willingness to engage in rational and civil discourse severely wane in western nations, and apparently that phenomenon has impacted Israel too. Both sides are able to cite credible experts in support of their position but it appears that lines have hardened according to existing political and ideological allegiances. The fact that Israel presently has a government with elements further to the right than any prior, contributes to a riling of the left that in some respects has embraced ideas further to the left than any prior.
Internal opposition to the government is arguably unified largely (perhaps even primarily) by its disdain for Netanyahu. Whatever the contributing factors, one can only hope that the use of the term “civil war” will prove to be only reckless hyperbole.
Meanwhile, the Iranian threat is coming to a head with uranium enrichment reaching critical levels. It seems increasingly likely that Israel will strike Iran, rather than there being a step back from the brink. Indeed, some commentators believe a multi front war has already begun.
All this is happening in a context which sees Israel’s relationship with the USA weakening. So soon after the most Israel-friendly administration in USA history, Israel now finds itself having to deal with a Biden administration that cannot be relied upon, and one that seems distracted and enamoured with green fantasies and wokeness.
Perhaps as a result of reports of direct involvement of USA soldiers in Ukraine, a Russian spy chief recently remarked that the war with USA has changed from a cold war to a hot war. In addition, China is positioning itself as a potential peace broker in Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The prospect that the USA may be further drawn into the conflict in Ukraine does not bode well. China’s political ascendency and its relationship with Russia further complicates a troubled northern hemisphere. Neither of these factors is without implications for Israel.
So, though Israel is used to “veering between miracle and catastrophe” – to quote Caroline Glick – the nation’s present predicament may be unlike any prior.
Years ago, an acquaintance made the remark that when Israel is at war, differences are put to one side and there is remarkable unity. If the situation deteriorates markedly, we will see if my acquaintance is proven right.