Israel Mustn't Wait for the Tsunami to Hit

Once every few years, a wave hits the beach and floods the streets and the happy country stands on the brink of disaster.

Israel is a tsunami country. On most days of most years, life here is wonderful. The sky is blue, the economy is thriving, the society is fascinating. Israelis are instinct-driven with creative drive, an extraordinary life expectancy and quality of life. But once every few years, a wave hits the beach and floods the streets and the happy country stands on the brink of disaster. The danger facing it is unlike that facing any other country in the world.

A tsunami country has to act like a tsunami country. It has to maintain precise internal balance: neither live anxiously nor become complacent. Neither turn itself into a dour fortress, nor allow itself to be wide open in every direction. The country on the shore has to make sure its systems are sophisticated enough and its dams high enough so that its inhabitants can work, love and live normal lives.

In the first 30 years of its existence, Israel was an impressive tsunami country. It had excellent intelligence, a superior air force, reserves at full force and a strictly run emergency system that allowed it to maintain a high state of preparedness while living its life. The government and the national ethos also suited the Israeli condition. They allowed Israel to win the Six-Day War and even to withstand the blow of the war in 1973.

However, in the past 30 years, the internal balance has been thrown off. The occupation, the overthrow of Labor and its hegemony, privatization and globalization have confounded the Israelis.

The deep understanding of the challenge of the tsunami has been lost. The elites have absconded, the country has whithered, public systems have collapsed. The illusion has been created that market forces will solve any problem, that the post-modern shopping mall is reality.

It has been forgotten that in this place, preparedness, vigilance and self-disciple are needed, that to exist, Israel must be a country of quality and excellence.

The Second Lebanon War exposed the failure. It made clear that Israel's deep-seated problem is not a matter of right versus left. An incapable country cannot deal with Iran, but neither can it end the occupation. Therefore, the national agenda demands that the state become capable again, that it again become the sovereign body that can deal with the inevitable monster wave.

The huge fire on the Carmel was a heart-rending human tragedy and a terrible ecological disaster. However, its national importance is that it taught us that we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is as if the Second Lebanon War never happened. We have wasted the past four years on for-or-against Ehud Olmert, for-or-against Benjamin Netanyahu, for-or-against Eli Yishai.

Another committee of inquiry, another comptroller's report, another momentary media blitz. But we are not dealing with the fundamental problem. We have not re-founded the Israeli republic. The Carmel failure is mainly a failure to extinguish the fire from above.

The political world is in turmoil: Who is responsible for the failure to extinguish the fire from above? Likud, Kadima, Labor or Shas? The truth is that they are all responsible - Likud, Kadima, Labor and Shas, along with the feebleness of the government, the pettiness of politics and the superficiality of the media.

Also responsible is the mood of complacence, which has caused us to forget where we live. And so, the new political witch hunt renews nothing and contributes nothing. The Carmel failure is only the tip of the iceberg. What is now needed is neither an investigation nor dismissals, but to set things right.

The Netanyahu government was elected to strengthen and empower Israel. In important areas, far from the public eye, it has indeed done so. However, to the naked eye, it has done nothing. It has not changed the system of government, it has not improved governance, it has not brought about social solidarity.

In those areas, the Netanyahu government has failed hugely. Neither Netanyahu, Barak nor Yishai have to go because the Carmel burned. But because the state conducts itself as it does, Netanyahu, Barak and Yishai will have to go in the end. The tsumani country cannot wait for the next tidal wave. It needs to set things right now.