On the eve of the 63rd anniversary of its independence, more than ever Israel ostensibly appears like the "villa in the jungle" that Defense Minister Ehud Barak referred to. It enjoys stable governance, strong democracy, economic power and relative quiet on the security front. In the region, on the other hand, the ground is shaking under Israel's neighbors and altering the geopolitical situation, with regimes being toppled and leaders slaughtering their own citizens, and with the adversaries of yesterday closing ranks in advance of major diplomatic concessions, including a real Palestinian state on our doorstep.
Anyone getting heady from the quiet in the eye of the storm should not ignore its transient nature and its fragility. Israel is not located on a different planet than its neighbors. It cannot cut itself off from the storms raging in the Middle East, from the spirit of the times or from its growing isolation.
That is apparently not the Israeli government's line of thinking, however, in that it is acting as if the image of the villa in the jungle does not represent unfortunate constraints, devoid of a bright future, but rather an ideal worth promoting and perpetuating. Led by a prime minister who instinctively deflects any initiative or change, who sows fear and foils any positive prospects, pouncing on any proof that there is no partner for diplomatic dialogue, the country in its 63rd year looks like someone on whom old age has suddenly crept up: withdrawn and shut-in, paralyzed with fear, repressing what it sees out the window, entrenched in its views. Its initiatives reflect a steadfast embrace of every status quo, casting aspersions at every change, complaining to the world and frightening its own citizens over the dangers lurking in the jungle and the ostensibly unavoidable "next war."
Deeds carried out just for the sake of doing them have no special value, and sometimes there is also wisdom in waiting. The changes in the region, however, including the demise of autocratic regimes and efforts at unity among the Palestinians, present not only risks but also new possibilities for creative leadership.
Does Israel have such a leadership? Beyond any specific diplomatic step one wonders, particularly on Independence Day, where that creative, optimistic, peace-seeking spirit that reverberated in Israel in the past has gone, and how it was supplanted by a passive and introverted mentality, evading reality - particularly the reality of positive prospects and opportunities.
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