The Failed Promise of Israel 2014

Summer was a warning siren, autumn a wake-up call, and the last six months tell us loudly that the past will not turn into the future, that the status quo is unsustainable.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014.
A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014.Credit: AFP
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The year began with a promise of peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was supposed to end by the spring of 2014. Less than 12 months ago, the American and Israeli champions of peace engaged in an ambitious effort to bring it about through comprehensive, thorough and unprecedented work. They were still optimistic in January, believing it was just around the corner. In February they were a bit less optimistic; there were difficulties and fears. And then in March, to their horrified amazement, everything crashed.

When the old peace collapsed, there was no new peace to take its place. Neither the Americans, the Israelis nor the Palestinians started a replacement process. The promise of peace that had prevailed during the first quarter of the year became the disappointment of peace of the second quarter, and then turned into a strategic sinkhole. The horrific Palestinian terror attack and the chilling Israeli terror attack that engendered the escalation took place in the darkness of that sinkhole.

The escalation turned into a war in which more than 70 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians were killed. What started as a promise of peace became a traumatic event of war that sowed terror among millions of Israelis and brought ruin upon hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The year 2014, which began as a year of hope, became an accursed year.

The curse is still with us. Israeli nationalism took advantage of the failure of peace and the dread of war to deepen the occupation and expand the settlements to bury the two-state solution. The curse also tried to overrun the core values of democracy and spread xenophobia and racism. Palestinian nationalism took advantage of the failure of peace and of the torments of war to take extreme positions and inflame emotions, and to wage a contemptible political attack on Israel. It even began denying the legitimacy of the democratic Jewish state and attempted to undermine its right to exist.

The inability of Israeli and Palestinian moderates to work together seriously and practically played into the hands of Palestinian and Israeli extremists. This is why the strategic sinkhole that opened up in the spring is still with us. Instead of launching a new two-state process that is creative and realistic, we continue to sink into the mud of binational hostility. The reality in which we live is becoming thicker, more toxic and more dangerous.

But within the curse, there is also a blessing. The decade preceding 2014 was one of sweet hibernation. The Israelis were, to a great extent, victims of their own success. The Air Force, the Shin Bet, the separation barrier and Iron Dome enabled us to live in a bubble of high-tech, natural gas and real estate, as if there were no Arab world, no Palestinian people, no settlements and no occupation around us. The security and economic success of those blind years made us ignore the fact that our prosperity rides on thin ice.

The summer of 2014 was a warning siren. The autumn of 2014 was a wake-up call. The past six months have told us loudly that the past will not turn into the future, that the status quo is unsustainable. So at the end of this accursed year, we must realize that the mud has reached our necks, that the curse is on our threshold. We have a little time left to save Zionism from those who are overrunning it, from within and without.

The year 2015 must provide new answers to the painful questions that 2014 raised. It is obvious that a deep, sharp political change is needed in the elections. The frightening phenomenon of a Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett-Lieberman government must not be allowed to repeat itself. But it is also obvious that a change on the personal level will not be enough. The outgoing year has proven that the Israeli crisis is multi-systemic, multi-dimensional and multi-level. The incoming year will have to deal with it in its entirety. There is no other way. The bubble has burst; the illusions have faded. The Israeli republic must be redefined and re-established, and the home rebuilt.

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