Thursday night will mark the end of a pretty awful year. There weren’t any wars for a change, leaving Israel free to deal with itself. There are times when launching a decent war, as Israel knows and loves, seems to be the best thing to do. Dealing with itself does Israel no good. When it cannot hide behind the routine “unavoidable war,” all its wounds and scars are revealed.
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According to the 2015 Democracy Index, published by the Israel Democracy Institute last month, Israelis have it good. That was the response of some three-quarters of them, up from the 66 percent who were happy in 2014.
What improved this year? Supermodel Bar Refaeli got married (and arrested); musician Ninet Tayeb (and news presenter Yonit Levi) had babies. Eighty percent of Israelis believe that the state of the nation is good, or at least so-so. Eighty-eight percent of the Jews feel that they belong.
But look what happened to the Arabs: Only 32 percent feel an affinity with the state, compared to 59 percent the previous year – the most dramatic and worrisome drop of the year. But who’s counting and who even cares?
What’s important is that 86 percent of the Jews say they are Zionists, 61 percent support a declaration of loyalty as a condition for the right to vote, 60 percent (more young people than older ones) believe the state should be allowed to monitor citizens’ Internet use and a majority believes that human rights organizations are pests.
According to numerology it was a special year – 67 years since the founding of the state in ‘48 and 48 years of occupation that began in ‘67. There are still many who ask, will it last another 50 years? Will the occupation last another 50? There is no other country in which such questions are asked.
Twenty-four Israelis and 128 Palestinians have been killed so far in the current mini-intifada. The demographic balance is preserved; more than five times more Palestinians have been killed than Jews, though it is a significant decrease from previous successes. One hundred Palestinians killed for every Israeli in Operation Cast Lead and 37 for every Israeli in Operation Protective Edge. But never before has an official order to kill been issued, as happened this year.
It was a year in which there wasn’t even a semblance of peace talks or a diplomatic process, but that’s probably a good thing; enough with the charade. It was also the year in which the United States gave Israel carte blanche to act as it wished, perhaps more than any other year. The most turbulent demonstrations were by those of Ethiopian origin, with the parents of “sardines” (children in crowded classrooms) also making their voices heard. That was the upper limit of protest in Israel.
The election in March led to the most right-wing government in history and the most nationalist Knesset ever, which is legislating accordingly. It was a year in which all shame was lost, One no longer has to explain why left-wing organizations must be ultra-transparent while right-wing groups are exempt, or why, at a time when only the right is violent, it’s the left that’s traitorous.
It was the year that heralded the start of blatant and unapologetic Israeli fascism. One could not say that before. But a year after Operation Protective Edge, a year in which citizens feared to protest, the fruit ripened. The battle for the regime was abandoned without a fight. It is still in full swing, but the results are in; there is no one left to stop the downward slide.
Israelis were preoccupied with lots of things this year, from Sara Netanyahu’s bottle deposits to the suicide of senior police commander Ephraim Bracha. Of the 30 most-read stories on Haaretz’s Hebrew website, not a single one had to do with the occupation or the cracks in Israeli democracy, other than a recent, sweet story about the little Jewish boy who insulted an Arab rider on a bus (“Do you have a knife?”) and ended up hugging her in a true Hollywood happy ending.
A nice end to a bad year. The next one looks to be even worse.