Opinion

The Secret to Israelis' Happiness: State of Perennial War

Why is Israel one of the happiest countries in the world? Jews in Israel are satisfied with the systematically and consistently growing fascist nature of their country, unity against a common enemy is happiness

Israeli gather on the beach in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv to watch a military show marking Israeli Independence Day on April 26, 2012.
AFP

Israelis are happy with their lives. Israel is consistently ranked eleventh in the UN’s world happiness report, above the U.S., Britain, France and Germany. During the second intifada, local politicians often declared that “it’s not Scandinavia here.” This statement was a catch-all phrase, used to explain the violent existence that shrouds Israeli society. It was particularly beloved by then-Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and by Shimon Peres, who would use this expression every time a microphone was shoved in their faces.

>> Low income, high prices and wars: So why is Israel one of the happiest countries in the world?

Indeed, the Scandinavian countries rank above Israel in the world happiness report, but the 11th place is high and surprising. It should be noted that this index does not include residents of the occupied territories who are under Israeli domination, and obviously not the residents of the Gaza Strip, whose daily lives are not directly managed by Israel, but for whom Israel still shapes the circumstances of their lives. The obvious conclusion is that Jews in Israel are satisfied with the systematically and consistently growing fascist nature of their country. They’re fine with living in the permanent present tense offered by Benjamin Netanyahu. This present has no political horizon, no future that would see a resolution of the conflict, only a perennial war with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu offers no reform, no evolution. He doesn’t, for example, suggest annexing the territories. He only suggests freezing the present and perpetuating it forever. The maintenance of the present order includes, needless to say, his remaining prime minister. Nothing will happen, since what we have now is all we’ll ever have. The future is actually impossible. One cannot escape the grip of the present.

It is therefore interesting to see how this perpetual present, based on a state of permanent war with the Palestinians, is the secret ingredient for attaining happiness. The world index shows that there is considerable solidarity among Israelis, great identification with the state and a tendency to unite – vital components for the presence of a sense of happiness in a population.

“It seems this coming together is related to the situation of a long-term, ongoing war; it is an instinctive unity against a common enemy,” said Prof. Richard Layard, one of the report’s editors, in an interview with Amir Mandel (Haaretz, 20.8).

“It increases the general feeling of belonging and the experience of happiness, or satisfaction, related to the Israeli experience,” he added.

In other words, a “long-term ongoing war” is a key to the great degree of happiness felt by Israelis in their country. War is good for happiness. “Instinctive unity against a common enemy” affords a key contribution to the sense of happiness. In contrast to the hackneyed cliché, Israelis don’t yearn for peace but for war. They pine for unity against a common enemy. The constant sense of crisis, of an external threat, that’s the happiness Netanyahu gives Israelis, which is why they love him and remain so loyal to him.

Netanyahu, who since 2012 has been a political pupil of Vladimir Putin, understands this. He provides bounteous happiness in the form of a perpetual conflict: with Iran, a conflict which will remain at a tense level of brinkmanship without ever crossing that threshold and without the Iranian threat ever being resolved in the foreseeable future, and with the Palestinians, who under his rule will always remain under occupation, without a state and without being annexed to Israel – a condition which ensures everlasting rounds of hostilities and intifadas.

The happiness index is also assisted by Hamas and Hezbollah’s murderousness and by Iran’s imperialism. What is perceived by liberals who oppose the occupation as fascism, as the muzzling of any criticism, as thought-police, racism and the demolition of democracy, is experienced by the majority as lovely Jewish solidarity, with a sense of belonging to a collective. It’s wonderful here.