A Lack of Vision Is Making Israel a Short-term State

Nobody is doing anything to stop democracy from rupturing, nobody is stopping Israel on its way to becoming a pariah, even more than it is already.

There's no country like Israel. The United States is uncertain how many Americans will be unemployed and have health insurance in a decade; Europe is asking how many more immigrants will enter and whether the euro will exist by 2022. In Israel, the existential issues are immeasurably more profound and wide-ranging, but no one bothers to address them.

The prime minister talks as if his problems were of the European kind (not including the Iranian nuclear hysteria ), yet much more fateful issues remain open and somehow nobody discusses them. Israel is 64 years old and the issues remain pending, as if the state had been established yesterday and there are no answers.

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Nobody can say what this country will look like in 10 years. Some people even doubt that it will exist by then, an issue not raised about any other country. But even the preoccupation with this groundless question is reduced to sowing fear and whining at Friday night dinner. All other issues, no less critical, don't even come up. Does anybody know whether Israel will be a democracy in a decade? Can anyone promise that it will be? Will it be a secular state or one based on Jewish law? Will it be a welfare state or a capitalist one? How many nations will live in it in a decade?

Who will be the majority in 10 years - another question you won't hear anywhere else - and what will the borders be? That question, too, is raised only in Israel, the only borderless state.

Everything is open, fluid and alarmingly fragile. The three future scenarios for Israel as an occupation state - continuing the status quo forever, two states or one - appear groundless, and people have stopped addressing them, as if the absence of discourse will produce a feasible solution. But all other critical questions have no real answer either and hardly appear on the agenda, even though Israelis should focus on them.

A state without a (clear ) future, wallowing in the past and focusing on the present, is tantamount to a short-term state. Even on the eve of our national days of pathos, nobody asks what Israel will be like in a decade, which is no time at all in historical terms.

Last week I joined the pilgrims to Hebron on Passover eve. In the bus, one of them, using a derogatory term for Arabs, said loudly: "All the Arabushim should be sent to the stone crushers straight from the hospital, as soon as they're born." The whole bus roared with laughter. Some passengers muttered at us, a reporter and a photographer, the only secular people on the bus: "Collaborators, there are collaborators on the bus." Nobody protested, naturally.

The thousands of pilgrims to Hebron, with their myriads of supporters, belong to another nation, with no connection or resemblance to the nation of Tel Aviv. Every society has an extreme right wing today, but in a small, fragile society like ours, this could become fatal. The United States can afford its dark Christian right and remain a democracy. Israel cannot. Can anyone guarantee that the hostile tone from the fortified bus to Hebron won't turn into the prevailing tone? Clearly things are heading in that direction and nobody is doing anything to stop it.

Nobody is doing anything to stop democracy from rupturing, nobody is stopping Israel on its way to becoming a pariah, even more than it is already. Today, when 650 police officers will bravely storm a handful of human rights activists and harshly turn them away from Ben-Gurion International Airport, solely for seeking to visit Bethlehem in a display of solidarity, few people will protest or stop them. Neither the mobilized media nor the flaccid justice system will do anything to stop the disgrace.

This is how things stand regarding several other events and developments shaping Israel's image, without any real discussion. The strong, not necessarily the many, triumph, battle by battle, and the majority, if it still is a majority, is silent. The question where we are heading remains unanswered.

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