TEN REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC
ABOUT ISRAEL'S FUTURE
By Avi Davis and Bennett Zimmerman
In the midst of suicide bombings that kill innocent citizens and sniper fire that takes the lives of pregnant mothers, it is difficult indeed to have hopeful thoughts. Yet despite the wave of pessimism that has washed over the country in recent months, there are nevertheless some very good reasons to believe that the State of Israel has a strong future, filled with promise. We would like to present a few of those reasons here.
1. The Intifada will terminate of its own accord.
History shows that Arab civil rebellions tend to exhaust themselves when the gains achieved from continued violence are no longer apparent. Both the Arab rebellion of 1936-39 and the first Intifada of 1987 1992 degenerated into bitter blood feuds and honor killings. In fact, in both prior instances, far more Arabs died by Arab hand than by the prevailing government at the time whether British or Israeli. Historically misled, exploited and extorted by successive regimes, the Palestinians have suffered devastation brought upon them by their own leaders. The first signs of cracking in the Palestinian veneer are now in evidence and internal collapse may be fast approaching.
2. Israel still holds Jerusalem and the majority of its territorial assets, intact.
With the final recognition that peace, at the level contemplated by the authors of the Oslo Accords, is not attainable, Israel still holds almost all its negotiating assets in hand. As great as the threat posed by terrorist groups with sanctuary inside Israeli borders, it must be remembered that Israel holds the majority of the territories including all borders and major access routes throughout the land. Therefore, the country does not face an existential threat from the PA and is in a position to eliminate the PA, if hostilities escalate. While no one can be happy with either the level of current hostilities, or the prospect of a war, Israelis should celebrate the fact that they arrived before any further withdrawals occurred, or any Israeli community was dismantled.
3. Understanding that history has not ended.
When Ariel Sharon took office he made a statement that the War of Independence had not yet ended and that Israel, despite its peace treaties was still in a struggle for its survival. This dose of realism, injected into a society that had become drunk on the vision of a New Middle East, was brought home by Arafat's murderous Intifada. And although very painful, it has given Israelis a sense that the ordeals of the past cannot be seen in isolation and that life must continue with a new reality. As difficult as this is to bear, its realization makes us stronger as a people and gives us strength to face the future with stoicism.
4. Israel has restored its unity.
Yasser Arafat and his mini-war have united Israelis in a way the Palestinian leader could not have imagined possible. Those who promoted Arafat as a peace partner are progressively being rendered irrelevant as the Palestinians' leader's true nature and intentions have been revealed. In this way, a national unity government, reflecting a broad consensus will continue in power until the danger to Israelis is removed. In short, Israel is standing up, together, to face its moment of truth. And the nation of Israel will come out of this period stronger, and better, for it.
5. A recognition that the other side, the P.A., is not invincible, either.
On the ground, 150,000 Palestinians have left the land for Jordan and beyond. Yasser Arafat can't leave Gaza for two days without riots and challenge to his authority. While the press always tips its hat to the supposed underdog, the Palestinian leaders are no closer to gathering international observers or achieving any concrete goal from months of conflict. Instead, they have brought death and devastation to their people. Reports from villagers all over the territories report disaffection with Arafat and an equal sense of despair. Sooner or later they will realize that their only path to a viable existence runs directly through the office of the Prime Minister of Israel.
6. Our fate is in our hands.
Whoever predicts that the future has been predetermined by current demographic trends or the concessions already made at Camp David is wrong. In 1987, during the first Intifada, who could have imagined that over one million immigrants would arrive from the former Soviet Union in a decade's time. Continued economic growth is likely to attract a stream of immigrants dedicated to Israel. Nor can we even predict the demographic shifts among our Arab neighbors. Already, a record number of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem are choosing to apply for Israeli citizenship, rather than risk entering the domain of the corrupt P.A. The corrupt administration that is the P.A. will have a tough time holding its own people loyal to a constant state of conflict and poverty.
7. The rescue of Zionism itself.
Rather than become a dirty word or a movement whose time has passed, we instead see a new embrace of the movement that has liberated the Jewish people. Israeli schools are once again alive with texts that celebrate and educate the nation's youth of Israeli remarkable history and the beauty of Israeli culture. There are other phenomena as well: the immense support enjoyed by the national unity government headed by Ariel Sharon; a dramatic lessening of religious, political, and ethnic tensions: the impressive endurance in the face of frequent suicide attacks, ceremonies, reserve soldiers demanding to be recruited, and even an attacks by stalwart founding fathers of the left wing academic establishment, such as professor Shlomo Avinery against Ha'aretz for being " post-Zionist."
8. We are all settlers.
Israelis living within the Green Line have learned that they can no longer make such stark distinctions between themselves and those living on the other side of it. When a bus traveling in the heart of Tel Aviv is as much a target as a minivan taking a family home from wedding in the territories, the borders - both physical and ideological have become blurred . In the meantime ,the new confrontation line communities have not weakened and new families have signed up to move in and strengthen those communities. No matter which side of the green line they inhabit, their painful struggles have gained respect and support from those who once vilified them.
9. Diaspora Jewry has rediscovered the value of a strong Israel.
For the first time in this generation, many Jewish communities are finding that their own position is challenged when Israel is under attack. Jewish communities in France, Argentina, South Africa, and even some in the USA, face new outbreaks of anti-Semitism. There is a new realization that a world which respects Israel, will also respect the Jewish people. Over the past decade Diaspora communities could choose whether to involve Israel in their own communal identity. Today, it is clear that the health of each community is tied to the fate of Israel. While many might have tried, there is no Jewish community in the world that sleeps easily while Israel is under attack.
10. The Israeli economy is strong.
Israel has absorbed multiple shocks at once: the uprising, the crisis in tourism, construction slowdown, a worldwide economic recession and a once-in-a-generation hi-tech meltdown. Yet this was not enough to destroy Israel's fundamentally strong economy. Economic indicators reflect the possibility of economic stability in the private sector this year. Exports from defense industries have never been greater, the currency has held its own, and long delayed infrastructure projects are issued out for tender. Israel has its own successful multi-national companies that have maintained both their leadership and their profitability. With the recovery in the world economy, Israel will also prosper.
Although Israel is still in the throes of a terrible confrontation and struggle, it should be recognized that Yasser Arafat began his war against the Jewish state because he sensed moral collapse. But in doing so he unlocked within the Jewish people their greatest asset and its most formidable weapon its hope. Hope is a commodity on which Jews have survived for millennia. It is the title of the national anthem. No one should believe that we do not have very good reasons for it today.
Avi Davis is a senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com
and a senior fellow at the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.
Bennett Zimmerman is the Managing General Partner of the Israel Emerging Growth Fund.