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The Reason Israel Can't Stop Hamas, Make Peace or Mobilize for Change

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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Israelis on the beach in Tel Aviv, May 17, 2019.
Israelis on the beach in Tel Aviv, May 17, 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

Too many problems are presented to us as though they are intractable: the conflict with the Palestinians, the Shabbat dictates of the ultra-Orthodox, the plague of electric bikes on the sidewalks. It all seems like a plot to prove that it’s pointless to pursue change, because it won’t happen, and there’s no hope because it’s not needed. Some problems can’t be solved, like mosquitoes in the summer and flooding in the winter.

We accept this because that’s how it is, we don’t have a more convincing reason. We don’t try anymore, we don’t investigate or protest. We accept the non-solution as a natural phenomenon, like glaciers at the poles and volcanoes in Sicily. We’re convinced. More and more we’re convinced that the ultra-Orthodox are stronger than we are and the conflict with the Palestinians is too big for us and that we can do nothing about it.

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We have no complaints addressed to ourselves. After all, there is nothing that can be done. Why try if there is no point to it? Why stand up and shout if no one hears it? How did we become this way? Fifty times a day we’ve heard that “there’s no one to talk to”, that “the media is leftist” and about “our right to this country.” In the end, we grew accustomed to it, we stopped looking for evidence, ultimately asking whether maybe there was something to these claims. We’ve heard it so many times that we don’t remember if we saw it in Haaretz or on a satirical TV show.

We live with messages we know are false. We’ve developed an attitude of keeping our heads low. Only that way can we accept as fact the assumption that the ultra-Orthodox will never concede anything and that we’ll always have electric bikes on sidewalks, or that Hamas will fire rockets every three months, because that’s how it is and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

We’ve erased the problems that have no solution. We’ve made them irrelevant. A diplomatic solution has been taken off the table. It’s irrelevant and never was. “One doesn’t talk about it” they said in our home about cancer or divorce. “That’s something we don’t talk about” says our government about a million topics. In the absence of information there’s no problem. In the absence of wisdom there is no worry. It’s playing for time, hoping that something unexpected pops up and reshuffles the deck. Maybe Netanyahu’s attorney Navot Tel Zur will resign, maybe Hamas will go crazy. Maybe President Rivlin will rise up, maybe someone will erect a protest tent on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and the masses will join.

It’s clear that there are solutions, but the ones needing to execute them don’t like them. Separating religion and state horrifies them, two states for two peoples scares them – they can’t even enforce laws against electric bikes on sidewalks. The solutions are good, but coalitions have collapsed over more modest ones.

“Why look for solutions when you don’t have to solve anything?” asked former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Who needs to look for peace? After all, we have peace, yes, this is what it looks like. And if it’s already here one can “manage the conflict” without resolving it, and one can send factory workers from Yeruham home without sending the ultra-Orthodox packing. They don’t solve problems here; they only deal well with the consequences. They don’t look for a solution to the rockets but rush to hand out compensation to those hit by them.

With no solution there are no problems. For example, the Ministry of Tourism announced this week that the “Eurovision song contest proved that terror has stopped being a consideration in deciding whether to come to Israel.” Really?? OK, we’ve dealt with the terror and if it’s been marginalized, why can’t we also do the same with the exhausting and much-too-long conflict with the Palestinians?

Indeed, why not? Let’s take a big problem and make it tiny. MK Yoaz Hendel (Kahol Lavan) wrote here last week: “the old and pointless argument over solving the conflict will return to its marginal place” (Haaretz Hebrew edition, May 17). Why would the conflict be shoved into a corner? Because only 8 percent of Jewish voters believe there is a solution. And what about the Arabs? With them included, the Palestinian problem becomes one facing more than a quarter of the country’s population, but who counts the Arabs? Definitely not Hendel. The conflict, according to him, is an internal Jewish one. What can one do if that’s what our democracy looks like? A net Jewish one? More Likud than Likud? Leftists who voted for Kahol Lavan can now rend their clothes and tear out their hair but it won’t help them. Hendel’s democracy resembles that of (designated Likud cabinet member) Yariv Levin and (ultra-right wing Kahanist) Itamar Ben-Gvir. It’s a limited democracy with only one component: the majority decides, and the majority decided that a solution means change, and why change anything if everything’s so good?

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