Israel Will Be Better Off When My Generation Is Dead

Someday, a new generation will arise in Israel, look at what we've been doing, and say to my generation: You had your chance. You blew it. You're done.

Emil Salman

Generations eventually pass. Thank God.

Someday, a new generation will arise in Israel, look at what we've been doing for the last 18 years or so, and say to my generation: You had your chance. You blew it. You're done.

And not a moment too soon. Israel will be better off when my generation is dead.

We had our chance. In the early 1990s, when Israel held its fire in the face of Iraqi ballistic missile strikes on Tel Aviv, the Shamir government went to a landmark peace conference in Madrid which brought it face to face, for the first time, with Arab adversaries like Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians.

Then, two years later, in order to preserve democracy in Israel, and mindful of the precedent that gave birth to the state, a successor coalition began the process of partition and recognition of the concept of a people and a state of Palestine living alongside Israel.

This was not my generation. This was the already aging generation of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who had been young leaders in 1948. But within a few years, a combination of assassination, terrorism, left-center complacency and religious rightist election meddling would put the once-boy wonder Netanyahu into power. And later, with the best of intentions, Israel voted in the once-boy wonder Barak. And that, as it turned out, would be that.

The people wanted partition. They voted for it overwhelmingly in 1992 and again in 1999. What they got was the veiled, knowingly illegal government enterprise that made partition impossible: settlements. And all because of a dominant minority of powerful members of my generation, and their vision of a revolutionary change in the shape of a Jewish state, and a revolutionary change in the nature of Judaism.

My generation commandeered Judaism itself, inculcating the idea that Torah-true religion is not a system of allegiance to law and ethical ways to live with others. Rather, the new Torah-true Judaism is overwhelmingly about the conquest of land, the primacy of the rights of the Jews over all others, the flouting of all law, all authority, all ownership, all opinion that stands in opposition to the permanent conquest of land.

My generation is the era of state-paid, indictment-immune rabbis counseling hatred, preaching racism, inciting bloodshed, exalting war, degrading democracy, sanctifying inequality, forbidding compromise, undermining solutions.

My generation is the era of the blockhead genius, of leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu (MIT, '77), and Ehud Barak (Stanford, '78), whose borderline pathological lack of basic social skills, coupled with superhuman egos, translate into grand promises of peacemaking, followed by down-in-flames failures to deliver.

In running this country, my generation has sinned, we have transgressed, we have done perversely. Look no farther than the self-cast curse that is the siege of Gaza, Israel's standout wrong call of the entire last decade.

The siege made the entire population of Gaza dependent on Hamas. And, as a direct result: It made Hamas rich, it made Hamas indispensable, dominant, the sole arbiter of which materials would go for sorely needed home construction, and which would be diverted for use in the manufacture of rockets and tunnels.

It made Hamas the efficient weapons importer and manufacturer that it quickly became, allowing it to securely stockpile thousands of missiles and their launchers, as well as build a network of tunnels which to this day baffles and eludes the best minds and means of one of the world's premier intelligence communities.

When my generation fails, it fails big. We can't make peace. At this point, we cannot even successfully make war. We have tainted Israel's reputation abroad, we have endangered Israel's ties with its most important allies, we have jeopardized our bonds with Jews abroad, particularly in the United States.

But for the leaders of my generation, failure begins at home. Mine was the generation of leaders which blazed the trail of privatization, taking much of what was good about Israel, and systematically junking it.

These were the visionaries who took one of the world's best public healthcare systems, and bombarded it, starved it, and crushed it to the very brink of collapse. This was the generation of leaders who took deadly and unflinching aim at public education, social work, affordable housing, all the while sending the public an unmistakable message:

If you're not rich, you will sink. Your children will sink further. There will be no one left to catch you. No social net. And if you happen to be neither rich nor Jewish, you will sink faster, and much farther.

We've shown the younger generation what we can do. And, like all younger generations, they already know, all too well, what we cannot, what we are truly awful at.

In failing ourselves, we have failed them. It's time for a new generation to take over.

May they kick us out soon.